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What To Do When You Mess Up

Consider this analogy:

This morning you slept through your alarm, hit traffic on the way to work, and end up 30 minutes late to work. What do you do?

Do you beat yourself up for being so weak and decide that since you already missed 30 minutes of work you might as well just go home?

NO WAY!

Most of us would respond like a grown-up; we would look at what contributed to being late and commit to being on time for work the next day.

Why are we able to be adult about being late but are childish about making a mistake with our food choices?

Why when we eat a slice of cake that wasn't planned do we feel extreme guilt, berate ourselves for lacking willpower, and throw in the towel for the rest of the day?

Here's the truth – you are going to mess up. You are going to eat things you wished you hadn't. It's NORMAL.

What really matter is what happens next. People who are successful are ones who can learn from their decision and improve.

The first step is taking ownership of your decisions.

If there is a cookie or a slice of pizza that is tempting I make a choice about whether to eat it or not. So often we try and justify what we ate by saying “I ate it because _________” Whatever comes next is your justification and it allows you to stop taking responsibility for your actions.

Instead I want you to hold onto your power of choice and wield it daily. If you are offered a piece of cake decide if you really want to eat it. Is it worth it to you? If you do choose to eat it, will you own your choice without guilt? If the answer is yes then enjoy that bad boy! Savor the heck out of it! You chose it thoughtfully, taking full responsibility for the decision.

However – maybe you ate the cake when you had previously told yourself that you weren't going to let it pass your lips. You let yourself down. Now you handle the choice like an adult.

1. Own the decision
2. Look at what contributed
3. Create a strategy to avoid messing up again
4. Get right back on track and MOVE ON

You are an adult, you made a choice, and that's it.

The more you can look at the slip-up as a learning experience and one that defines your worth the more successful you are going to be getting to the place where you can hit your fitness goals and find peace with your food.

5 Tips For Finding Your Motivation

I posted this quote on my Instagram page:

There was a great discussion in the comments and also in my stories about how to form habits and how long that process takes. Many of you said that while you feel like you have made exercise a habit, finding the same success with your diet is much harder.

 

I hear you! I've found that exercise habits are often quicker to master than eating habits – but it does happen over time!

So what do you do if you aren't feeling any motivation right now? Remember motivation that leads to habits creates awesome long-term results, but it does often start with sparking that motivation. So what if you just aren't feeling it right now? Here's 5 ways to spark some life into your goals that have eluded you:

1) Know your WHY. There is a reason you want to change your body or your eating habits. Get really crystal clear on what that is. Why are you doing this? If your why is important enough you will find a way to accomplish it.

2) Try something new. Attend a new group fitness class. Search for new recipes on Pinterest. Implement a new morning routine. Switching things up you can breath new life into your health and fitness routine and resurrect those feeling of novelty that you experienced at the beginning of your journey.

3) Create a vision board  Create a board with inspirational sayings, pump-you-up words, and photos that depict what you are working towards. If you don't want to create an entire board change your phone lockscreen to display your goal or a motivational saying. Keeping your goal front and center helps to re-invigorate you when things get hard.

4) Be grateful. Don't compare yourself to others. I know, I KNOW this is hard. Especially in this age of social media. Go through your social media accounts right now and unfollow or unfriend anyone who causes you to slip into the comparison game. Be grateful for your body, your family, your friends, and any progress you have already made.

5) Reward yourself. Set small milestone along the way and plan a reward when you hit those milestones. Lose 5 lbs? Get a pedicure. String a week of consecutive tracking together? Time for a new sports bra. Setting small goals with rewards can help the process to feel like several sprints rather than a marathon.

How can you combat stress and increased cortisol levels?

We live in a fast-paced, high stress world. So telling someone to “relax” or “manage their stress” can almost seem laughable.

But what if I told you that your stress was making it hard for you to lose weight, or even was causing you to gain it? Would that make stress management seem more urgent?

Chronic stress not only disrupts sleep but also increases blood sugar levels. These both lead to increased hunger and and increase in preference for high-calorie comfort foods (ever eaten a whole pint of Ben and Jerry's because of a break-up?). Stress-eating is real and is can cause some serious weight gain through those stressful periods of life.

In addition, chronically high levels of the stress hormone cortisol cause water retention, which can cause big swings in the number you see on the scale. It's not unusual for the body to retain 2 to even 6 lbs of extra water while going through a stressful period. It can be very frustrating to see the number on the scale stay the same, or even to go up, despite diet and exercise.

All in all, stress and increased cortisol levels aren't good for fat loss. So how should you combat it?

1. Get more sleep
Lack of sleep signals to the body that stress is all around, triggering the body's self-preservation mode. This results in increased quantities of cortisol in the bloodstream. Try to sleep at least 7 hours a night.

2. Don’t over-train
More isn’t always better. When you’re working out, you should bust your butt—then give your body a rest. Muscle is torn down while we work out, but it rebuilds and grows when we rest. Take rest days, don't go balls-to-the-wall exercising seven days a week. I promise that doing more exercise isn’t going to guarantee faster weight-loss. For maximal fat loss, I recommend that you workout 4 to 5 days each week, with 3 days including HIIT training, for a total of 1 hour per day on workout days.

3. Quit caffeine
Many clients ask me about diet soda. It doesn't contain macros that we measure, so it SEEMS like you could drink a gallon a day, but as with most things, I suggest moderation. And once a day isn't moderation—I’m talking about maybe a handful of sodas each month. Also, 200 mg of caffeine (a can of diet coke has about 46 mg) can increase blood cortisol levels by 30 percent in an hour. Is it worth it? Regularly drinking multiple cups of coffee or taking large amounts of pre-workout will also push up your cortisol levels because of the caffeine they contain.

4. Reduce stress
It isn’t always easy to let things go. We put pressure on ourselves to meet the demands in our lives, to take care of our families, to excel in all our activities, and to make everyone around us happy. But when we forget about taking care of ourselves, the stress can start to appear in extra pounds or other things that impede our health and our ability to function. Take time for yourself and eliminate things that cause unnecessary stress in your life.

5. Gratitude
Being grateful for the things you do have, rather than focusing on what you don't have can help you better manage stress. Start a gratitude journal. Include gratitude in your prayers or meditation. Verbalize gratitude to those who support you. The more you express and focus on gratitude, the lower your stress levels will become.

The two most frequently asked questions that pop up in my inbox

Today I'm taking two questions that frequently pop up in my DM's and inbox and answering them for you, once and for all.

Q: What should I do if I get to the end of the night and I haven't finished my macros and I'm not hungry? Should I force myself to finish them?

In general you do want to eat all your macros. First, it's helpful for you because by keeping your intake consistent you (or your coach) are able to adjust your numbers more accurately. If you are eating 1500 calories one day and only 1300 the next it can be hard to tweeze out which macros are the ones that are actually getting you results.

But even more than giving you accurate feedback, eating enough makes sure you stay in the optimal fat burning deficit. You have to be in a caloric deficit to lose fat, which means you have to eat less calories than you burn, but too large of a deficit actually isn't productive because your body won't burn fat as efficiently. Our bodies are able to burn fat the most efficiently in a moderate caloric deficit, not a severe one.

Chronically underfeeding your body can also slow your metabolism overtime, which (ironically) makes it even harder to lose fat as you have to keep eating less and less to see results.

A better way? Keep your calories and macros as high as possible while still seeing results, and only drop your macros if your weight loss actually plateaus. That means 2 weeks consistently hitting your numbers with no change in your weight or any of your measurements.

Some days I totally understand that for whatever reason you may have not finished your macros come bed time and at that point no, I don't want you forcing food down. What I do want you to do is to plan your next day a little better and try to eat more earlier in the day so that it doesn't become a habit of finishing the day short on macros.

Q: Is there a BEST time to eat for fat loss? 

The short answer: No. When it comes to losing fat, total calorie intake is the most important factor and your macro breakdown is the second most important factor.

The long answer: When you are talking about pounds lost, it doesn’t matter if you eat 1 or 12 meals in a day, if you end the day eating less calories than you burn, you will lose the same amount of weight.

However, there can be a psychological impact with meal frequency, and that’s not to be ignored.

Personal preference is really important – some people enjoy fewer, larger meals in a day (hey hey to those who like intermittent fasting!) and others (like me) prefer 5-6 smaller meals. It really comes down to your life and your schedule and the way that you prefer to eat.

I also highly suggest you do some experimentation. Try out eating more or less frequently with bigger and smaller meals and pay attention to how you feel, your hunger when you do so, and your energy levels. Chances are you will be able to easily identify the schedule that works best for you.

Should I Focus On Losing Fat Or Building Muscle?

Should I focus on losing fat or building muscle?

In fitness-speak “bulking” is the process which someone goes through to gain muscle. It means you are eating a caloric surplus while lifting weights allowing your body to use the excess calories to build muscle.

“Cutting” is the process of trying to lose fat. It means you are eating in a caloric deficit which requires your body to use fat storages for fuel and energy.

Ideally when bulking you want to gain muscle while minimizing fat gain. With cutting the opposite is true – you want to lose fat without losing muscle.

Seems pretty straight forward, right?

Hold on a minute! I get emails all the time that go something like this, “Hi Amber! I have tried macro counting for a couple months but I’m not really making any progress. I really would like to lose fat and gain some muscle, can you help?”

Maybe you can relate to this conundrum. You want to add muscle AND lose fat, so, what should you do? Should you bulk? Should you cut? Should you do something entirely different? The answer, of course, depends on the person. Let’s walk through the process.

 

What is your current body fat percentage?
There are many ways to measure your body fat percentage and many of them aren’t as accurate as they claim. However, most will give you at least a general idea of your current body fat percentage. I like to use calipers because they are cheap and fairly accurate, but you can also rely on a body scale, Dexa scan, or handheld device. Even cheaper than any of those options is just a simple mirror. That’s right – you can actually get fairly close to determining your body fat percentage by just taking off your shirt and looking in the mirror and comparing yourself to this chart:

 

The higher your current body fat percentage is, the less you should be thinking about bulking. Going into a caloric surplus when you are above 25% body fat (for women, and around 15% for guys) is not smart. You will find that because you already have a surplus of fat your “gains” during a bulk will end up being a lot more fat for not a lot more muscle.

Because of this I don’t suggest starting a bulk until you are at least fairly lean – ideally around 20-23% BF for women and 10-13% BF for men.

 

I’m Already Fairly Lean

If you are already at least fairly lean then you have more options and you should spend some time thinking which matters more to you right now. If your biggest long term goal is to build more muscle then my suggestion would be to set your calories in a 5% surplus and go for the bulk!

If, instead, getting leaner is really most important to you because you have a trip coming up or you have a goal of having visible abs or whatever, then set a concrete period of time to cut and then plan to bulk after the cut is over.

You can cycle bulking and cutting as many times as you need to in order to get the muscle mass that you desire.

Recomposition

There is a third option, and it’s called body recomposition which is a fancy phrase for adding muscle and losing fat simultaneously. Sounds like the perfect scenario, right? But before you think of this as the magical solution to achieving fat loss and muscle gains together, this process comes with a few caveats.

It works best for the inexperienced
If you take an untrained person and stick them in a gym lifting weights they are going to add muscle regardless of what program they are doing or what they are eating. The body responds very well to adding the first amount of muscle to it’s frame. For those who are inexperienced in the gym, many can get away with eating around maintenance and losing fat and gaining muscle simultaneously. During this process there likely won't be huge changes in the scale over time but they will notice their clothes getting loser as they are adding muscle and losing fat. Unfortunately, our bodies adapt fairly quickly and if you have been weight training for over 6-12 months you are no longer a beginner and likely won’t be able to milk the recomposition process. That being said it's not a bad idea to at least try eating at maintenance for a couple months to see how your body responds before going into a bulk.

It takes time
I’ve worked with hundreds of clients, and one thing I have learned about human psychology is that if something is hard and it’s not making a difference, most people have a hard time sticking with it. Body recomposition takes a long time. And specifically it takes a long time without much change on the scale. It can be hard for people to trust that changes are happening when they step on the scale day after day and it says the same thing. Your measurements will probably go down and your clothes will likely be looser, but many people lack motivation if the scale isn’t changing. So yes, recomposition is cool, but it’s not fast and you have to be patient over a period of months to see the changes

To focus on recomposition you would set your macros at maintenance levels and continue to lift weights. Over a 3-6 month period you should see changes in your measurements and the way clothes fit, although the scale may not change significantly because you are adding muscle simultaneously with fat loss. Hopefully you are clear on whether your personal goal should be to cut, bulk or recompose.

The next step is setting your macros appropriately. If you feel lost and just want someone knowledgeable to walk you through the entire cutting or bulking process and give you quicker results than messing with it yourself that's exactly what I do with custom coaching. You can sign up for that here.

5 Rookie Mistakes Beginning Macro-Trackers Make

If you are new to the macro-counting scene here's 5 common mistakes I don't want you to make.

1. Overshooting calorie goals to hit macro goals

What happens when you go over your carb goal? Or you overshoot your protein macros? Should you still aim to hit your other macros as well?

The answer is no. There’s a hierarchy of importance to macro counting.

Assuming your are aiming to lose fat, keeping your calories in a deficit is most important.

On those days that you end up going over in one of the macro categories instead of hitting your two other macros, default to simply hitting your overall calories and letting your macros fall where they may.

2. Giving up too soon

Remember this video about the paper towels? You aren't going to look overwhelmingly different one, two, or even three weeks into the process. You may not even see the scale move much the first couple weeks.

HANG WITH IT.

Sometimes people tell me, “tracking macros didn't work for me.” And when I asked them how long they stuck to their numbers the response is, “Oh, like a week and I didn't see any change.”

Face palm

Be patient. Fat loss is a slow process. Give your numbers at least 2 entire weeks to work before adjusting anything. If after two weeks of consistency (meaning hitting your numbers spot on every day) there is no change on the scale, in measurements, or in your progress photos, then it may be time to try a small macro drop. But please, for the love of carbs, give your macros a diligent effort before declaring you need new numbers. Which leads me to…..

3. Trying to adjust macro goals too frequently

Your macros are not like your bed sheets. You don't need to change them weekly.

Instead, set your numbers appropriately for your body, stick to them and continue with the same goals for as long as you are getting results. If you reach a weigh loss plateau (definition: 2 weeks of consistency without any change in the scale, measurements, or photos) then you can slightly lower your macros and keep going. But let's stop it with tweaking numbers just for kicks, mmmkay?

4. Logging workouts in MyFitnessPal

I know, I know, it feels so good to log that run you finished. You are darn proud of it and logging it in MFP gives you the dopamine release of checking a task off your list (it's not only me who sometimes will write something on my to-do list after the fact just so I can immediately mark it off, right?).

Here's the problem. MFP doesn't understand that you (or your coach) took your current workouts into account when setting your macros. So when MFP sees that you've burned 400 calories by doing a bazillion deadlifts it will automatically allot you more calories for the day and increase your macro goals.

While it may seem like, “SWEET, more dessert” it's a problem because you are erasing your caloric deficit because you double counted that exercise – once when setting your macros, and again when you logged it.

So as good as it feels, resist the urge to log your workouts in your MFP diary. Or, if you must log them, then be aware your macros may automatically adjust and make sure you are sticking to the right macro goals. *Yes there is a setting where you can tell MFP not to change your macros when you enter exercise, but I don't trust it. I've still seen it automatically update in my client's diaries who have that setting activated. My vote is better safe than sorry – just don't log it.

5. Inadequate water intake

I am a nurse married to a doctor, so I don't get embarrassed talking about your stool, but if you do, you might want to skip this last one—just sayin'.

Drinking water is always important, but it's especially important when you are eating increased amounts of protein. Nitrogen is a bi-product of protein breakdown and nitrogen leaves your body in your urine. Extra protein means extra nitrogen which means extra urine which can leave you constipated.

Ewwwwwwwwww.

To combat it the first line of defense is to drink plenty of water (there isn't an exact amount you need—aim to drink enough so your pee is light yellow to clear) and get 25-35 g of fiber per day. If that doesn't fix the problem adding a probiotic supplement can help. If you are still backed up, I suggest adjusting your protein goals down to a level that allows you to be more regular.

Learning how to use macros to hit your body composition goals is a process and the longer you do it the more experienced you are going to get and the less likely you're going to fall prey to these rookie mistakes.

 

How To Avoid Weight Gain Over Thanksgiving

The holidays should be about family and celebration, not stress.

But if you are trying to lose or even maintain your weight it can seem like an impossible feat with all the food that surrounds holiday celebrations. Maybe you have already thought about Thanksgiving and you already have your own ideas of how you’ll handle the day, and that’s great! I believe the most important thing is to go in with a plan that you’ll be happy with at the end of the day. If that plan is to not track a single thing and just eat whatever on the holiday, that's great—as long as you will feel good about that choice. So, take a breath, make a plan, and enjoy the holiday.

Here are a few to get you thinking about the balance you want to strike—hopefully a balance that will help you reach your goals but still enjoy the holiday.

  1. Start the day with a high-protein, low-carb, low-fat breakfast. My go-to is always an egg-white scramble with sautéed veggies (like broccoli, zucchini, and peppers). It’s high volume, high protein, free of fat, and low carb.
  2. Eat light early in the day, but do eat. It’s tempting to try to skip breakfast and lunch in preparation for dinner. But approaching a holiday dinner on an empty stomach means that you’ll be less likely to savor and enjoy the food; instead, you’re likely to find yourself just shoveling it in because you’re so hungry.
  3. Drink at least 8 to 16 oz of water before the meal. This will fill your stomach and can help limit overeating.
  4. Get a workout in during the morning. Go for a run, hit up the gym, do a HIIT workout—just do something to get a burn on!
  5. Step away from the pie. Suggest an after-dinner walk around the neighborhood or play an active game to get your blood moving and keep you occupied, so you don’t pick at the leftovers or eat another piece of pie.
  6. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep the night before. Sleep will help your hormones (particularly leptin and ghrelin, which control your feeling of hunger and fullness) stay at normal levels. Studies show that a lack of sleep can cause you to eat foods that are higher in calories, carbs, and fat the following day[1].
  7. Plan how much food you will eat. Are you going to sample a little of everything? Go back for seconds? Have pie? What foods are most important to you? If your grandma’s pie is something you look forward to all year, plan to have a slice! No guilt involved. But really think about what you value and what’s worth it—and what you’re just eating because it’s there.
  8. Practice the “one bite rule.” Take a bite of something, put down your fork, and take a moment to decide if it’s worth it. If it is—enjoy it! But if it’s not, be okay with leaving it on your plate, moving on, and eating something that is worth it.
  9. Eat slowly. Take the time to savor the meal; don’t just rush to clear your plate. After the meal, take a 20-minute break before going back for seconds.
  10. Have a plan for your leftovers. Will keeping them in the house throw you off and prevent you from sticking to your macros? If so, make a plan to send food home with others or figure out a way to get it out of your house.

Remember that what you do 90% of the time is more important than what you do the other 10% of the time. That said, most holidays are really about one meal. Or at most one day. Celebrate the holiday, but don’t let that celebration turn the whole week or weekend into a caloric free-for-all.

[1] Schmid, S. M., Hallschmid, M., Jauch-Chara, K., Born, J, Schultes, B. (2008) A single night of sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels and feeling of hunger in normal-weight healthy men. Journal of Sleep Research. 17(3), 331-4.

 

My Favorite Self-Help Books

Hey friends! I'm a big reader and love to curl up in bed at night with a good book. I keep two running lists on my phone: a list of books I want to read, and a list of books I have read, loved, and recommend to people who ask. If you have similar lists these four books below need to be on it. I especially enjoyed them because while none of them are specifically written about weight loss, each book can easily be read with weight loss in mind. In case you want to order any of these books from Amazon (holla for convenience shopping!) you can click on any of the book cover photos and easily put them in your shopping cart.

You Are a Badass
by Jen Sincero

Inside all of us is greatness, and this book is going to help you find it! Sincero drops truth bombs left and right. “If you want to live a life you’ve never had before, you have to do things you have never done before.” BOOM.  “Procrastination is one of the most common forms of self-sabotage because it’s really easy.” Gosh, there are so many quotable quotes in this one, you just have to read the whole thing, take it in and get inspired to live a bigger life.

Better Than Before
by Gretchen Rubin

If you have ever heard me talk about moderators vs abstainers or how I am an Upholder – I am referencing this book. This book is about more than just setting and achieving goals – it dives deep into your personal tendencies that help you to understand how you personally form habits. It was fascinating to see myself in the Upholder tendency as Gretchen discussed responding readily to outer and inner expectations. If you want to take the quiz without reading the book and find out which tenancy you identify with you can take it online here.

The Power of Habit
by Charles Duhigg

If you really want to make permanent changes in your life you need to focus on your habits and changing them to align with your goals. Duhigg outlines The Habit Loop which consists of three elements: a cue, a routine, and a reward. Understanding these components can help in understanding how to change bad habits or form good ones. I've said it before, and I will say it again, if you want to be successful with weight loss long-term you have to create new sustainable habits.

The Compound Effect
by Darren Hardy

My favorite quote in the book is:  “If I were to put a ten-inch-wide, thirty-foot-long plank on the ground and say, “If you walk the length of the plank, I'll give you twenty dollars,” would you do it? Of course, it's an easy twenty bucks. But what if I took that same plank and made a roof-top “bridge” between two 100-story buildings? That same twenty dollars for walking the thirty-foot plank no longer looks desirable or even possible, does it? You'd look at me and say, “Not on your life.” However, if your child was on the opposite building and that building was on fire, would you walk the length of the plank to save him? Without question and immediately – you'd do it, twenty dollars or not. Why is it that the first time I asked you to cross that sky-high plank, you said no way, yet, the second time you wouldn't hesitate? The risk and dangers are still the same. What changed? Your WHY changed – your reason for wanting to do it. You see, when the reason is big enough, you will be willing to perform almost any how.” How inspiring is that? Makes you want to get a really solid reason WHY to back up any changes you are making in your life, right?

Did I Miss Any?

Any other awesome self-help books I am missing? Any of these changed your life?

 

 

018: 10 Things I Am Scared To Tell You

In today’s episode, Amber pulls back the curtain and lets you see a side of her that you do not see on social media. She takes an idea started by Jess Lively, and gets raw and vulnerable as she gives you a “behind-the-scene” view of Amber.

Amber shares her favorite thing to watch on YouTube, how she feels about Instagram, what makes her nervous, something she struggles with, where she envisions her business in 5-10 years, something she is not proud of, and a few other things you will be surprised to find out! She is able to share all of this, knowing that what other people think of her, the opinions they have about her, are none of her business and they mean nothing about her.

Highlights:

  • There is power in acknowledging your imperfections, yet continuing to show
    up and improve.
  • Own who you are and where you are at in the journey of life
  • Being a multi-tasker can mean you are getting a lot done, but at what
    expense?
  • The best thing you can do for content producers is to share and comment on
    their posts.
  • What someone thinks of you is none of your business.
  • Everyone out there has insecurities, guilt, fears, and quirks.
  • Learn from your past mistakes and move forward.

Take Away:
You can have a messy life and you can have things you are not proud of and can still show up and keep moving forward. No one is perfect. Own your past and your quirks because it is a part of you and who you are.

 

Macros 101

Macros 101

Two years ago if you had asked me what “macros” were I would have stared at you with a blank face and my mind would have started to drift to thinking about macaroni and cheese. In the last several year “macros” have become quite the buzz word and it may feel like everyone is talking about counting them right now. The reason is simple – it works. By setting and tracking your macros you get the right nutrition in the right ratios to support your performance, physique, and health goals. It provides structure yet with enough latitude to build a menu that works for YOU.

Wait a minute, let's back up.

What are “Macros”?

With the risk of sounding too “science-y” here's the definition: a macronutrient is any of the nutritional components of the human diet that are required in relatively large amounts: protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

Macros are what make up the calories of your food. 

When we say “counting your macros,” we’re talking about tracking your calories, but specifically breaking those calories down into your intake of carbs, fat, and protein.

 

Why count macros?

Losing weight really comes down to eating fewer calories than you expend. Cutting calories by any method is going to result in weight loss; however, the quality and permanence of that weight loss is vastly different. Instead of just counting general calories, knowing how much of each macronutrient to include in your diet yields better results.

For example, if your typical diet and exercise puts you in a caloric deficit (eating fewer calories than you use each day) but you aren’t eating enough protein, your body will break down muscle for use as energy. If you aren’t getting enough carbohydrates, you’ll likely feel weak and unable to perform well during workouts. Carbs are fuel! Lastly, not getting enough fat in your diet can mess with your hormones, which can make your weight loss stall or even make it more difficult for you to build muscle, since eating healthy fats can naturally boost your levels of growth hormones.

Yes, you can lose weight by cutting calories, but we aren’t just interested in dropping weight. We want to lose fat, and we want a good-looking, athletic, healthy body. For that, counting calories isn’t enough—you need to count your macros.

Each macronutrient contributes calories to your food. Here's how much:

 

How do I find out the macros of the food I eat?

Most foods you eat have a nutrition label that looks like this:

On the nutrition label, you will always see the three macronutrients listed with the number of grams the product contains.

In this nutrition label, you can see the following:

• 8g of fat

• 37g of carbs

• 3g of protein

Based on the caloric value for a gram of each of the macro nutrients listed above (1 gram carb = 4 calories, 1 gram protein = 4 calories, 1 gram fat = 9 calories), you can see how this product’s 230 calories are broken into the three macros:

 

If what you are eating doesn’t have a nutrition label (think: an apple), then you can use a database (like MyFitnessPal) to calculate the macronutrients.

 

Why can't I just cut out carbs or sugar to lose weight?

Cutting calories in any form is going to help you lose weight. But if you tell me that you aren’t going to eat any carbs or sugar ever again (or any other extreme restriction used to lose weight), then I’d say you have more willpower than 99% of the population. Chances are you will “mess up” by eating something off-plan and then feel guilty. With counting macros (you will also hear it called IIFYM – If It Fits Your Macros – or flexible dieting), there aren’t “good” and “bad” foods; it’s all just food. Flexible dieting is built on the basic knowledge of certain macronutrients and gives you a precise amount of each macronutrient to include in your diet. If you want ice cream for dessert, have it! You just have to make sure not to go over your daily allotment of carbs or fat. If you fit it into your macros, it’s not a cheat, it’s not bad—it fits! And if it fits your macros, you can eat it guilt-free and without feeling like you “cheated” on your diet. This is a sustainable way of eating.

Don’t get me wrong; it would be really hard to eat processed foods and treats all day long but still hit your macros. Most of the food you consume needs to be nutrient-dense food like lean meats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. But the beauty of flexible dieting is that you can easily make room for treats and still reach your weight-loss goal. It’s a moderate, healthy way to approach food.

How do I get started?

      • Buy a food scale: Get used to weighing out your food instead of using measuring cups and spoons. Why is this important? Because it’s so much more accurate! It’s too easy to overfill measuring spoons and cups, which leads to eating extra calories and stalled progress. It will take time for weighing and tracking to become a habit. For the first couple of weeks, it may feel like it takes forever to weigh and log everything, but I promise it will get easier and faster. After about two to three weeks of tracking, it should only take you about five extra minutes a day.
      • Download a food-tracking app: Personally, I love using the app MyFitnessPal (MFP). It’s user-friendly, tracks everything for you, and the database is huge and fairly accurate. Play around with MFP. It takes some getting used to, but the tracking capabilities of MFP make it well worth the time. And it does get easier. Figure out how to find foods, how to adjust the serving size, and how to add recipes—those are the tools you will use the most.
      • Log your normal intake for 1 week: You aren’t trying to hit any macros or calories, just eat normally and track your food choices. This will both give you practice using your tracking app as well as give you a clear picture of your normal diet. You will be able to see your current caloric intake and macros and have a MUCH better idea of how to accurately set your numbers moving forward.
      • Set your macro goals: You can set your macros either through a coach (like me!) or on your own. If you want to set your own macros I have created a free cheat sheet to help you do it as accurately as possible. You can download that here:

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