These thoughts are very similar to the ones I shared in my Macro-phobia post, but I think it’s very important. I just have one REALLY vital piece of information for you all who are on your journey to become happy and healthy:
The fitness industry on social media should not be your #goals.
Not only has social media completely distorted and made so complex the idea of being healthy & fit, but it has and will continue to put out unattainable, unsustainable, unrealistic standards of #fitness. The definition of fitness that Instagram embodies, is truly unhealthy, and I think the sooner we realize this and tell Instagram to go fuck itself, the better off we will be.
Fitness is NOT tracking every single macronutrient you consume, weighing yourself and measuring your body fat compulsively and feeling guilty for thinking about eating a slice of pizza. It isn’t working out to punish yourself for slipping up on your normal routine, or working out extra hard and starving yourself for skipping the gym a couple of times to hangout with your friends. Fitness is not OBSESSIVE. I would not be writing this and sharing this message if I have not personally been a victim of this. I have too many amazing friends who are going through this right now, and I am currently trying to get my own mind back to the true definition of healthy.
What does it mean to track macros, anyway?
Macros, i.e. macronutrients, are simply proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. If you check the label of any food item (except for whole foods, like fruits and veggies in their natural state in the produce aisle, usually), you will see a nutrition label. The nutrition label will list the total fats, proteins, carbohydrates (including sugars) in grams. You have to pay attention to serving size, though. Some people look quickly and think that the entire bag or box or whatever they just bought only has x amount of calories, etc., when in reality, there are multiple servings in that package (just multiply the listed proteins, fats and carbs by the total servings in the package to see how much is in there total). To track your macros is not only tedious and grueling, it is so unnecessary. Okay, maybe not entirely unnecessary, as it is important to learn these basics and get an idea about portion sizes by eyeballing them. By no means should tracking macros be a lifestyle, and this is for a couple of reasons:
- It is obsessive: You will find your thoughts are constantly revolving around how many grams of protein and carbs and fats are in everything you want to eat. You will also find you will begin to restrict yourself from a lot of foods that your body craves and needs.
- It will (often) lead you to make unhealthy food choices: As long as the foods you eat “fit your macros”, hence IIFYM, you will want to eat it. If you can fit Ben & Jerry’s in there daily, you probably will try to. You will also find yourself looking for “macro-friendly” substitutes in place of whole foods because they are lower in fats, sugars, carbs, etc. These subs include sugar-free and fat-free alternatives, basically chemical filled, fake foods. This is not a good habit if you’re goal is to be HEALTHY.
- It is time consuming: You will need a food scale, measuring cups & spoons, and a lot of time and discipline. You will need to do math and you will need to set a lot of time aside so that you can properly prep your meals and portions ahead of time. It gets really annoying really fast. It is a good idea, however, if you want to completely despise eating “healthy” and “getting in shape”. 🙂
- It is a stepping stone to an eating disorder: Point blank, this method of eating leads you to develop an unhealthy relationship with food. You will feel guilty if you don’t hit your macros, or if you are under on protein and too high on carbs. You will obsessively think about foods and what you can eat that will help you reach your macro goal each day. You will feel anxious when your friends ask you to go out for dinner or an ice cream, panic, try to find the restaurant on MyFitnessPal, and then decline because you aren’t sure it’ll even be accurate, so it isn’t worth the risk…
This may not be applicable to everyone, but it is applicable to ALMOST everyone, and most will lie anyway. I did for a long time. I told everyone who was worried about my obsession that they just didn’t understand how to get fit or be healthy. I made an ass out of myself and assumed those who loved me the most were just JEALOUS that I had WILLPOWER and they didn’t. Can you imagine? Insanity. Not only that, but I’ve witnessed this from the outside, too.
I am not, by any means, saying you should not worry about your portions or your intake of specific macronutrients and micronutrients, and I am not saying you should not meal prep. You should 100% be mindful that you are eating enough protein and not too many processed carbs. Meal prep is KEY. That is not to say you need to measure every single ounce. You just need to prepare your foods in a healthful way, prepare your snacks for each day, so you don’t mindlessly reach for a bag of Fritos because you’re starving and lazy and don’t know what to eat. Meal prepping makes this mindless and easy and HEALTHY. It ensures you will have access to the yummy, healthy foods you crave and need, because they will be just as easy to grab and eat as a bag of Skittles would have been. You should also get a feel for your own body and its cravings and how your progress is effected by higher fats or higher carbs, since everyone is different. This depends on your GOAL. You will 110% be able to get leaner and feel amazing by paying attention to your food choices and having a good idea of your daily nutrition. You do NOT need to log into MyFitnessPal, get a food scale, and spend your life obsessing over this. You will likely have abs sooner and lose your sanity in the process. And you will also be utterly lost on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, since you never had one in the first place.
Long story short, tracking your macros is nice to learn as it teaches you about portions. Many people tend to underestimate their servings and overestimate how many calories they burn. Handy little tool, but definitely not a lifestyle!
Eating clean & “cheat meals”
Ahhh, my next favorite topic. Cheat meals. Who the fuck decided that eating an ice cream with your friends should be coined a “cheat meal”, anyway? (Currently housing some munchkins from Dunks – actual footage of me below:)
Throwing foods in categories of clean foods and cheat foods is also a nice way to find yourself struggling with an eating disorder. This is another method (thanks to Instagram), that leads us to develop an unhealthy relationship with food. Before I started obsessing over “eating clean” Monday through Friday and having a cheat meal/day on Saturday, I was perfectly capable of eating foods in moderation. Today? No way. It’s either the entire package of Oreos or none. It’s either an XL ice cream sundae and brownies and pizza or nothing. It’s either I eat PERFECTLY all day or eat like a disgusting slob with zero willpower, and skip the gym, because, what’s the point of going now anyway?
Luckily, I have realized the unhealthy habits I developed thanks to IG and their #IGFITSPOS…. (VOM) and I’ve been healing myself every day for the last year or so. I feel amazing. I can now casually fill my craving of a froyo in the middle of the week, while still getting my workout and veggies in. This would have spiraled into guilt and consumed me a couple of years ago. God forbid I ate off my diet plan before the Almighty Cheat Day has arrived.
It all started with “cheat meals” and “cheat days” and “tracking macros”. It’s a viscous cycle and many people suffer from binge-eating disorder and don’t even realize it, because they are so convinced that they are HEALTHY. They eat HEALTHY foods and hit the gym consistently. But they forget that HEALTH is more than just what you eat and what you do… it’s about how you FEEL. I’ve seen at least 10 memes today on fitness accounts making jokes about binge-eating without actually stating the phrase. We’ve covered up this eating disorder on Instagram and in the fitness industry for too long. Eating clean to the degree I’ve described IS a disorder, and I can see that now. But can you?
So what should you do?
You should start with only following people who INSPIRE you. People who aren’t just on IG for the fame and to show off their photoshopped or “enhanced” physiques to make some money from selling a bullshit plan you can get for free on Bodybuilding.com. You need to figure out the difference between looking at an IG celebs account and feeling motivated and good about yourself, and feeling guilty and inadequate and like you need to go through extreme measures to punish yourself for your slip ups. A lot of these IG fitness people will suggest that you track your macros. To a degree, fine. It will definitely get you the results you want in a faster way, but some people have addictive personalities (Guilty) and will take this to an extreme level (Guilty again). This is why I am against this method.
What you need to do is eat whole foods. Google creative, delicious recipes made with whole foods and make them. Bake some healthy treats to curb your sweet tooth. Trial and error with how your body reacts to higher fats or higher carbs, etc. It will be a long journey, there is no magic pill or plan available to get you your dream bod in a month. It is all about being consistent and determined. Develop a healthy relationship with food. Go out for pizza with your friends. Use those carbs for fuel and kill the gym. Eat that ice cream. Skip the gym for a walk if that’s what you’re feeling that day. Lift heavier. Take a new spin class. Eat that kale salad. Eat those cupcakes. Drink LOTS of water. Drink way less alcohol. Stay active. Stay positive. FIND A HEALTHY, HAPPY BALANCE. Ignore what social media tells you you have to do/be/eat/look like. You are only as beautiful as you think you are. You have to love yourself right now on day #1, or you never will. No matter how many slices of cake you deprive yourself. No matter how many hours of the stairmaster you put yourself through. No matter how much plastic surgery or photoshop you use. You only have one body. Love it, nourish it. Hit the gym because it makes you feel good, not because you feel guilty and don’t like yourself.
Everyone is going to have a different journey and a different definition of wellness and health. That is how it should be. If you don’t feel excited to do your workout or eat your meals through the day, you are doing it wrong. That is your cue that something needs to change. I’ve had to delete my IG for a while because I was so consumed with comparing my progress to fake IG models, feeling guilty about the Oreo I just ate when so-and-so just made a Skinny Tea and didn’t even CRAVE sugar anymore (I call BS).
I may never be as lean as I was last summer and the summer before, and I may always have cellulite on my ass, but at least I’m stronger and my well being is now my number one priority. My workouts are FUN and they relieve my stress and I always enjoy the foods I’m eating. I also look pretty good for someone who eats all the ice cream, pizza, and Oreos that I do. So I think I’ll take it and live freely and unapologetically. I will also make sure to ALWAYS love myself. I hope you do, too.