I Tracked Macros For 1000 Days, Was It Worth It?

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Today, I’m sharing my 1000-day journey with macro tracking (that’s almost three years!). 

I promise to provide straightforward, practical insights from my own experience to help you navigate the world of macros. 

Whether you’re starting out or looking to improve your approach, you’ll find honest advice and tips here that are rooted in real-life challenges and successes. 

Let’s explore how macro tracking can be more than just numbers, but a sustainable part of a balanced and fulfilling lifestyle. 

Setting the Scene: Why Track Macros?

To set the scene, I first got interested in tracking macros in late 2014.  

I had moved overseas with my family (to South Korea) in 2013 to start a new job.  

Between the busy-ness of a global relocation, starting a new job in a new city, and trying out new-to-me foods and restaurants in the local cuisine, I had gained unwanted body weight and found myself unhappy with how I looked and felt.  

I had always been active with sports and cross-training in the gym to support those sports, and I tried my best to “eat healthy” – eating whole, minimally processed foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources like chicken and fish.  

In terms of my mindset, I felt guilty if I had chips or cookies (or any other food that I didn’t label as “clean” or “healthy”).  I found myself going overboard on those foods when I did have them because I figured I had “screwed up” my healthy eating plan and I might as well enjoy them while I “had the chance” off-plan and then start fresh the next day…or the next Monday.

I had been following some fitness “influencers” on social media at that time (mainly people who were friends or friends of friends on Facebook).  The IIFYM (“If It Fits Your Macros”) movement was really taking off, and I was surprised to see people eating the cookies and chips that I had labeled as “unhealthy,” and yet showcasing their visible abs and lean physiques.  

When a woman from my previous city posted jaw-dropping transformation photos of herself and her clients, and offered a 12-week “transformation program” I decided to sign up with her, starting in time for the new year of January 2015.

I actually still have my original intake questionnaire for her program, dated December 15, 2014.  

My goals were:

  1. Get lean – drop 3-5% body fat/improve definition
  2. Get strong – build muscle strength
  3. Lose 5-10 lbs in a healthy, sustainable way

What Tracking Macros Gave Me

what tracking macros gave me

I’m pleased to report that by the end of my initial 12-week program with my coach, I did achieve my stated goals: 

I got visibly leaner (noticeable changes in progress photos), I gained strength in the gym (increases in weight lifted/number of reps), and I lost 5 lbs.  

But those “outcome goals” paled compared to what I learned in the process.

Better Understanding of Energy Balance

Before tracking macros, I only had a vague sense of calories.  I knew that too many calories were “bad.”  But I also had some misunderstandings about certain foods the diet and fitness industry perpetuated.  

Certain diets, like Whole30, made it seem like you could achieve and maintain an ideal body weight if you just stuck to a narrow list of “allowed” foods.  

This is not necessarily true; you can overeat and gain weight on “Whole30” foods in the same way as non-Whole30 foods.  

On the other hand, if you eat entirely hyper-palatable processed foods within your calorie target, you may achieve your weight loss goals, but you’re less likely to feel satiated (meaning dealing with intense hunger and cravings) and less likely to feel and perform optimally.  

Ultimately, I came to embrace the 80/20 rule regarding my nutrition: 

I’d aim for roughly 80% of my calories to come from minimally processed whole foods each day and 20% to come from more highly processed “fun” foods.  On a 2,000 calorie diet, this is 400 calories – enough for a small bag of chips AND a cookie (or two!) each day!

Reduced Binges

Once I realized that the foods I had previously labeled as “bad” did not automatically mean that I was going to gain weight overnight, my overeating episodes decreased.  

Eating one cookie no longer meant I might as well eat ten cookies (and ice cream, too). I recorded the cookie and noticed that it provided some of my carbs and fat for the day, similar to what an apple with peanut butter would do.

Food Freedom

I noticed that certain combinations of foods provided the same total macronutrients as others, which opened up freedom of choice.  

In the example above, I mentioned a cookie versus an apple with peanut butter.  I noticed that the apple with peanut butter kept me feeling full longer than the cookie and was a better choice before a workout.

But, I also noticed that there were times when I didn’t WANT to feel full, making the more calorie-dense option the better choice.  Or, the joy/satisfaction from eating the cookie made it “worth it.”  Feeling in control of my choices and the ability to decide which factors were most important to me at the moment was incredibly freeing.  

Sometimes, it’s more important to me to enjoy time with family and friends by sharing rich food with them – this means opting for gooey-cheesy pizza or special homemade baked goods.  

Other times, I make lower-calorie choices with homemade pizza with light cheese or my favorite high-protein baked goods because I know that I will want to be able to eat more at other times in the day, such as around my training session.

I’ll admit that this isn’t a balance I always get right.  I sometimes feel stressed or anxious when I go to a restaurant, and I don’t know how the food is being prepared.  I know that this stress and anxiety can be a sign that I am, at times, too preoccupied with my health and fitness.  

In the past, there were definitely times when I opted NOT to eat at the restaurant to feel more in control of my choices.  Lately, I’ve been experimenting with ordering certain things, making “best guess” estimates, and moving on.  

The more I can do this and see that my weight and fitness levels don’t take a dramatic turn for the worse when I do so, the more I build my confidence-competence loop.

It goes to show that macro tracking can be adopted in various ways in social settings, and you don’t (and shouldn’t) forgo them entirely.  Connecting with friends and family in person is an important part of our overall health, and shouldn’t be shunned for the sake of hitting your macros.

Is Tracking Macros For 1000 Days A Good Goal?

To be clear, I didn’t set out with the goal of tracking macros for 1,000 days.  Recently, I’ve seen a trend where people talk about making a 1,000-day commitment.  This lofty goal is great but can also be so overwhelming that it causes people to quit when the “all-or-nothing” mindset kicks in.  

Three months is a great time frame to try a few things and learn what works and what doesn’t.  But you can’t get to three months without first getting to three weeks, and you can’t get to three weeks without first getting to three days.  

For some people, three days in a row is too daunting when there are other pressures and priorities.  The real key is to start easier than you think you need to so that you can stack wins.  

For example, you could commit to tracking just one meal per day.  Or tracking an entire day, but only 3 days out of the week – the ones where you have the most time and energy to devote to tracking.

Like any new skill, tracking takes a little while to learn and even longer to get good at.  But also, like other skills, the more you do it, the easier it gets until it becomes almost auto-pilot.  

Reflections & Advice For Others

Just because long-term macro tracking was (and still is) right for me does not necessarily mean it will be right for others.  In many ways, it depends on personality and preference.

For me, tracking macros actually “frees up” mental space: as soon as I log my food, I don’t have to worry or think about it anymore.  

For example, if I eat a cookie (or three), I don’t spend my day fretting about it.  

I just log it, and note how much it has contributed to my daily carbs and fat.  These are macronutrients that I need to function optimally; it just might mean that I make a slightly lower-carb and/or lower-fat choice later in the day.

For other people, tracking macros creates a large mental burden.  

They feel guilty when they have to record a food choice that they don’t think is optimal.  They might choose not to track, and since they are already NOT tracking, have all the foods that they don’t want to record in their food log/tracking app.  

This is not a healthy approach to nutrition, and if macro tracking drives this approach, then it’s not the right choice for them.

I’ve got enough experience to know what numbers “work” for me for various goals.  And, if they don’t work, I’ve also got enough experience tweaking my numbers up or down to know that I will find something that works for me within the next few weeks.  After 1,000 days, a few weeks feels like just a “blip” for which I’ve got plenty of patience.  

Looking back, when I struggled to hit my macros, I would have spent more time trying to understand WHY.  

I would look at this in three main categories:

1. Environment & Preparation

If I wasn’t hitting my macros, I asked myself whether I was planning my meals properly.  

Was my kitchen properly stocked with ingredients to hit my targets?  If it was, was I eating out too often, or feeling swayed by snacks at the office?  

Once I realized that I really wanted to eat a homemade baked good during our Friday “treat day,” it was much easier to simply plan for that than to try to white-knuckle through the meeting without eating anything.  

That’s the beauty of macro-tracking to me: no foods are “off the table” (literally and figuratively); I can just plan the appropriate portion and fit the rest of my day around it.

2. Appropriateness of Targets

Once I got my food prep/planning on point, I asked, “Are these targets too aggressive?”  

Especially when I was working toward fat loss/weight loss goals, I can remember having binges or overeating episodes that would cause me to go over my targets. 

 Rather than think that maybe the targets were too low, I would scold myself for not having enough willpower, and would try even harder for the next week (or day) to stick to the targets.

This usually backfired and ended up with another overeating episode.

Instead, I should have paid more attention to my biofeedback, such as my hunger, appetite, cravings, and energy levels (I’ve heard Jill Coleman and Jade Teta call this “keep your HEC in check” – for Hunger, Energy, and Cravings).  

Then, I could have adjusted my targets slightly to make them easier to hit, leading to more confidence and, ultimately, more success.

3. Progress Toward Goals

The final question I asked was, “Are these macros helping me make measurable progress toward my stated goals?”  

The only way to know this is to have clearly defined goals and one or more ways to measure progress toward those goals.

One thing that I could have done better earlier in my macro-tracking journey was to measure the outputs of the macro-tracking process more meticulously.  

I spent a lot of time and energy measuring the inputs (my carbs, fat, and protein), but should have had more careful measurements in terms of regular weigh-ins (ideally daily), circumference measurements (ideally weekly), and regular logs of my sleep (quantity and quality), and performance in the gym.

Now, this amount of tracking could be overwhelming for some people and lead to burnout and frustration.  It depends on your stated goals and your own personal idea of balance.  

For me, my sports performance goals are very important to me and bring me a lot of joy.  I don’t find it difficult to trade time with friends and family for solo training sessions.  I may not always feel this way.  

It’s important to realize that “balance” is unique to each person and can change over time as priorities and preferences change.

So, Was It Worth It?

100% yes. 

It was worth it for me to track macros for 1,000 days (and counting).  

The combination of structure and flexibility, plus the peace of mind and confidence I get from tracking macros, are why I continue to track macros today.

Getting Started With Tracking Macros

Want a complete A to Z guide on tracking macros?  Read my article: 

How To Track Macros: A Step-By-Step Beginner’s Guide 

Other Macro Tracking Articles

About The Author

Lauren Graham

Lauren Graham is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She focuses on helping busy professionals balance healthy eating and purposeful movement.  Lauren has a background in competitive swimming and is currently competing as a CrossFit athlete.  She has a passion for training, teaching, and writing. 

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