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I’ve followed both meal plans and counting macros, but only one of them didn’t drive me crazy.
Meal plans are very common in the online fitness coaching world. In the past, I’ve been directed to eat rice cakes (hate rice cakes), consume 6 small meals a day (totally undoable in my world) and have broccoli and chicken or fish for dinner every single night. This might work for someone who never leaves the house, or happens to love boiled fish and limp veggies, but it doesn’t work for me. like, at all.
Meal plans aren’t a solution. They’re a food dictation that will last as long as your patience will permit (and I have zero patience).
Macros on the other hand, are awesome. It’s a guideline that you can trust (or adjust) and whatever you wish to eat within the confines of your allotted daily macros is your business. Sure, you can eat ALL THE CRAP as long as it fits in your macros, but that’s not a smart strategy as you’ll end up eating very little, feeling like shit, feeding your cravings and not moving the proverbial scale at all.
OR, you can use your macro allotment to eat mostly good food, but leave room for the stuff you LOVE that isn’t going to be found on a fitness meal plan, like waffles and wine.
This is the value of counting macros which is a little more in-depth than just counting calories, but less maniacal than following a rigid food prescription that doesn’t teach you anything about how to figure out how much food works for you, and what your personal macro balance should be.
Meal plans can be great for food inspiration. I may look at one and say – oh! Here’s something I can make for dinner tonight and then I can use the printed paper as a placemat or write my goals out on the back of it, for it’s not useful for much else.
If you’re curious about how to count macros or figure out what the right balance is for you, you can find the basics here. However, if you really want to immerse yourself in the idea of having a certain set of calories, and a prescribed amount of grams of protein, fats and carbs with no further restriction, then flexible dieting (or counting macros aka #IIFIYM) might just be for you!
Tips for Succeeding on a Macro Diet
- Have something that will help you count your food easily. I recommend MyFitnessPal.com because it’s free.
- Have your meals prepped and portioned every Sunday so that there’s no guesswork in terms of what you’re eating. Write down the macro breakdown on each meal so you can record it when you’re eating it.
- Use stackable meal containers. You have no idea how much this helps me. I love this brand because it’s microwave/freezer/dishwasher safe.
- Shop smart for quality food. I’m finding I have better luck buying my food online and having it delivered as it is so much easier to resist junk food! I recommend Thrive Market for lower-cost health food items, but Amazon Fresh works well, too.
- Have patience! This may seem like a lot of work, but it becomes second nature sooner than you think.
Caren is a certified yoga teacher, fitness instructor and author of The Fit Habit. Here she shares simple, healthy recipes, home workout ideas and practical ways to foster mind + body wellness.