Nicole Marr (my sister) @nicolemarrrr
I had never counted calories or even looked at nutrition labels prior to my competition prep. My family always cooked wholesome food growing up, so eating chicken breast, veggies, and rice was actually very normal to me. However, tracking everything I ate via macros, was not. Most of you probably know, but macros consist of the three main macronutrients (Protein, Carbs, and Fats). I had to track these things every day on a MyFitnessPal or follow a set meal plan my coach had laid out for me. When I would pull out my food scale, most people thought I was insane or better yet, selling drugs LOL! The funny thing is, is at first, I actually enjoyed it. I thought learning about my food was cool. I did not study nutrition in university, so learning about the nutrients that make up certain foods I religiously consumed, I found very enlightening.
Throughout my entire prep, I think I held on to as much balance as I could with my current life circumstance. However, my prep was supposed to be 12 weeks, but my show happened to get postponed to 2 weeks later last minute. Anyone that has competed knows an additional 2 weeks that weren’t planned for can add a lot of stress to the body (and mind) and throw off that plan your coach had set for you. This made me lose more weight than planned and when I stepped on stage, I weighed a slim 104 pounds! My normal weight is around 118-120 at a healthy maintainable level. My body was easily in shock.
Things started to shortly regress quickly after my show. I became more food focused than during my entire prep. With my type A personality, having a set exercise and nutrition plan, I found not too difficult to follow. I knew there was a set end date and prepping during my summer vacation and not having school to interfere just kind of worked. However, going from a strict day to day back to “normal life” made me almost forget what normal eating and exercising was. Other competitors told me that it is very normal for competitors to gain more weight post show than when they started because of our bodies wanting to hold on to everything consumed. My food focus increased, I got anxiety for the first time in my life (and I mean like clinical anxiety), I had my first panic attack, I would cry for no reason, and I became fearful of starchy carbs. Overall, I was a mess. I was very open and aware about what was happening to me to my family and friends, and even called my school therapist because I did not know how to fix myself. I knew that my body was basically trying just to adjust to normal weight, and the physiological responses that came with the adjustments was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
I continued to track my food on and off for 3 years. It seems insane, but I felt like every time I did not track, I was regressing away from my fitness goals. I had done a fitness competition, bulked, leaned out, maintained, etc. all with tracking macros. I knew the science of macro counting worked. However, growing up with my sister who had an eating disorder, I was very self-aware of disordered eating behaviors. My tracking was not obsessive, it just became second-nature. I generally tracked, but if there was a Saturday I was out of town, I wouldn’t worry about it. Or if it was dinner and I basically knew I did not have any fats left in my daily plan, I wouldn’t consume fats and just focus on protein and carbs and not need to weigh or track my food. Because of the balance I had with tracking, I thought I was fine. It was like a part of me wanted to stop, but the other part of me did not want to lose my fitness goals. I never struggled with eating healthy, I struggled with portion control. So, the scale helped me tremendously with not overeating.
Moving in with my boyfriend, it made me sad that I never wanted to cook with him because I wouldn’t be able to measure exactly what I was eating if we combined it all together. In addition, I would never make big stews or soups because that was almost impossible to track. My meals became so basic, and I love to cook! I knew tracking was not something I wanted to do forever, and I just needed to adjust and adapt.
Intuitive eating has been the hot topic lately. Researchers are even studying intuitive eating on weight maintenance and normal weight range in individuals. Even BuffBunny, who is one of the biggest names in the fitness industry, doesn’t track macros and uses intuitive eating to reach her fitness and health goals. I knew there was another way, and I realized that tracking wasn’t the way that I wanted to live forever. I started YouTubing, “macro counting to intuitive eating” to be able to listen to other’s stories about how they got to where they are. Some advised different strategies, such as, “Start by not tracking one day a week.” But I already did not track once in a while, I wasn’t religious on it daily. Others said they had just stopped cold turkey. I decided that was what I was going to do. After tracking for so long, I knew what was good to eat and knew portion control, I just needed to practice that. And then it happened, I just gave up tracking all together, and have never looked back.
I began to increase my cardio a little bit since I knew my calories would not be exact, drank more water, made sure I got my 4-5 gym sessions in a week, and stuck to wholesome nutrient dense food that just made me feel good. At first, it did feel a little weird. But shortly after, it didn’t take long for it to feel empowering. As humans, we like routine and what feels comfortable. And for me, that was tracking. I reminded myself to take it day by day and not look ahead in this journey, but be mindful of the present moment. Be mindful of my hunger cues, be mindful of my cravings. If I wanted a cookie, I had a cookie. If I wanted pasta, I had pasta. If I wasn’t craving carbs, but was craving fats, I had fats. It did actually come with a little bit of weight gain. But with the couple pounds came relief and happiness. It was so freeing. I became way more in tune with how I felt, and started reading food labels for the ingredient list, not for the grams of proteins, fats, and carbs. My shift in diet mentality had changed completely.
Through my food journey, I never had an eating disorder. However, there were disordered eating behaviors that were present. And the sad part is, I think most people in our society deal with disordered eating behaviors, even without realizing it. We have all of these fad diets out there, and our peers and even ourselves fall prey to them. Switching our focus away from calories and to consistent exercise, nutrient dense food, and quality and quantity of sleep is what the literature says can allow us to reach optimal health.
I love the intuitive eating approach. However, I do not think I would be able to truly eat intuitively if it was not for my journey with counting macros. I think having the knowledge I gained with the protein, carbs, and fats in food has helped me be more mindful of what I am eating and still reach my fitness goals through this eating method. I now focus ten times more on micronutrients, and have eliminated this “good food,” “bad food” idea and just try to eat as nutrient dense as I can, with the foods I know make me feel the best and give me the energy to train and replenish my body the way I know it needs. Food is fuel, not our enemy and our bodies need nutrients to optimally function. My wish for everyone is to reach optimal health and balance in their lives in whatever way that may be!!
- Nicole Marr xoxo
- Instagram @nicolemarrrr