The Journey From Calorie Counting To Discovering Integrative Health
If you're trying to lose weight, calorie counting or macro counting is surely the science-based proven way to do so. But the question is, what's the right way to do it? There are many ways to hit that weight loss goal and a route I took was the macro counting route before I discovered holistic health.
The Start of Macro Counting / Calorie Counting
Let me tell you a bit of my weight loss story. I wanted to be healthier and of course, be more fit in general which to me, means losing the body fat I have on my belly, arms, and be confident especially on a beach trip. The first thing that comes to mind, I have to be more consistent in going to the gym at least 3x a week starting tomorrow! Sound familiar? But let's be real, it's really a struggle at first. Even if I liked moving my body, fitting it in my schedule and waking up an hour or 2 earlier just to go wasn't easy at all.
Weight lifting can be daunting especially for women alone at the gym. But thanks to Kayla Itsines' BBG Program and then Kelsey Wells' PWR Program, I gained confidence quickly and enjoyed my workouts. Eventually, I made it. I reached consistency but wanted something more. I realized consistency may be there but I don't really see much changes. The next key step I decided to jump on is to change my diet. I tried following the recipes found in the BBG app but found it hard due to ingredient access in the Philippines. Next I tried was minimizing my rice and meals but then I noticed that I got weaker and got sick often.
"I must be doing this wrong," I thought to myself and I was! I searched more and more until I found this thing called IIFYM (If It Fits Your Marcos). In IIFYM, I bought the blueprint to my personalized macros and this led me to my macro-counting journey. It's an amazing tool to have. But after a while, I decided to get myself a coach to do it even better because I'm no longer sure if my progress was good. I was learning so many terms like cutting, reverse dieting, bulking, and so on. When do I even do these? Am I doing this right? I wanted to know the exact steps already so I decided to get a virtual coach. I've been a fan of this coach's workout videos on Instagram for the longest time and now wanted to learn more.
Getting a coach indeed gave me so much clarity. Honestly, I was expecting far more calories or macros to eat than 1500 as I struggled with it back in IIFYM but my coach recommended almost the same calculations. But this time, I had someone guiding and supporting me. Still, I failed in reaching my macros for several weeks. I tried as much to fit what I eat but failed because I didn't want to change my meals from what my family has. So I was at the crossroads of, do I change my meals to fit my macros? Or do I just lessen my meals to fit it? I realized the latter would lead me to getting sick again for not eating enough so I decided to try the former.
How I got my macros right
Things got better. I was hitting my macros by weekdays but the next challenge came-- my macros would be botched when weekends came. I did this my doing simple meals on weekdays like having rice, chicken breast, and broccoli on weekdays and missing all the delicious food so I'd eat out on weekends. How can I fit restaurant food with family and friends? Thankfully, my coach taught me techniques on how to do it. I'd hit my macros little by little, see more and more improvements in my body. I was finally seeing results in my physique, fitting in my clothes, and lifting heavier weights!
Why I found macro counting to be unsustainable
But when vacations came, retreats, or birthday celebrations happen, I found it hard to be present. I found myself internally stressing how I could still fit the right protein with a spaghetti dish or how I could keep the fats low despite eating that tasty barbecue rib. I appreciate my coach telling me to be present or to give myself grace but then I felt stuck not knowing how I can be present and yet do this whole macro calculating right. In order for me to be present and enjoy the weekends, I'd have to deprive myself on weekdays by eating the bland chicken or tuna so I'd have enough for the weekends.
I felt like I was in a hole with the super knowledge of getting the right physique but then I was struggling with my relationship with food. I see every dish in numbers like rice = 80 calories, egg = 72 calories, or banana = 90 calories. I couldn't even have breakfast smoothie bowls on weekdays thinking this would total 200-300 calories and I might not have enough space for my other meals. But then the problem was I can't just reverse, be in denial of the science, and un-know all these.
Benefits of Calorie/Macro Counting
To be fair, I loved the progress I made that made me drop several inches and go from 30% to 25% body fat. I knew my numbers, it kept me in check, and it brought results.
1. Knowing your numbers and being in control
I like numbers, being in control and calorie counting helped ensure I was on track. I know if I missed it this week or if I made it work. If you're a person who's into numbers, and wouldn't mind counting either on your app or in your head the rest of your life then this approach may be for your. Athletes also heavily benefit in macro counting as they aim to improve muscle mass or performance.
2. It can help you be more mindful of food
For someone new in the weight loss/gain journey, calorie counting also helps in enabling them to be more mindful. Whenever I had the urge to reach for that extra cookie, I know I can have some but not the whole bucket.
3. You'll learn the macro food groups and see where each food may belong
They'd be more conscious about what protein, carbohydrates, and fats are. They'd know where each food belong in the macro food group. I learned that fats has x2 the calories that carbs and protein has. While I also found out which food sources are rich in protein.
4. It can be a good stepping stone for someone looking to lose weight for the first time
In fact, macro counting can be a spring board or stepping stone to anyone looking to have body transformation such as losing weight or even gaining. It gave me a good sense of what makes some food more caloric dense or not and why eating that whole chocolate bar may not be worth the whole meal I can eat instead.
Fit but sickly-- is that really healthy?
But for me, the question was, can I go on with this my whole life? While there was this internal struggle with my relationship with food, I know my body wasn't in its healthiest state despite being fit too because I'd still get sick, catch colds, and sore throats. This went on for a few months and I eventually realized why health is more than just losing weight.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think the principle of macro or calorie counting is wrong. I can definitely go back to it anytime if I have a specific goal in mind, but it's not for my lifestyle 24/7.
Wrong way to do Calorie Counting
One can definitely still lose weight eating all your favorite sugars and preserved foods by eating less and staying within your calorie range. Weight loss, check. But health? I don't think so.
In my journey, I'd stick with simple food, deprive myself on weekdays so I can enjoy what I want on weekends. But still, the thought of needing to deprive myself wasn't good on my relationship with food. Plus, I wasn't eating a colorful plate because I don’t want to invest time in preparing food. I'd only eat the same round of bland meats, some sautéd vegetables, and a 1/2 cup of rice.
Focus on this instead of calories
So I may have gotten the principle of being in a calorie-deficit right, but there was a major part missing-- the micronutrients. The micronutrients we get from food is as important as the macros. We can hit our macros but not have enough micronutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, iron, and so on. Without enough micronutrients, our body will not be able to fight off viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens that may attack.
By having the same round of meals 80% of the time, my body wasn't getting enough variety of micronutrients. For someone who aims to do calorie counting but fills their caloric intake of the day with refined sugar or processed food, there would be a lot of micronutrient deficiencies.
Besides this, I missed the importance of having a rainbow meal. I thought that reaching the right caloric intake was all it matters and I'd be fit and healthy. Yes, I was but definitely not healthy. I realized this when I got very sick one day that I was weak to even do simple tasks such as walk around or talk for minutes.
Discovering Health as Holistic
That experience brought me to seek answers in how I can get well. Thankfully, Tine pointed me to the right direction and that's what eventually brought NutriEssencia to life. She showed me that our body is a beautiful interconnected system and one part affects the other. Apart from this, I began to understand that health is more than being exercise and diet.
By enrolling myself to be a certified Integrative Health Practitioner, I gained so much more insight on seeing health in the holistic perspective. As I use what I learned to heal myself, I now seek to share with others who want to be healthier.
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