Food Tracking and Intuitive Eating are not Mutually Exclusive
The fitness industry today (looking at you Instagram "fitness professionals") would lead you to believe that you cannot be an intuitive eater and also track your food. I call bullshit.
There is so much black and white touted in the diet/food/health industry and genuinely- I am over it. I think the sweet spot of health lays in the grey areas.
Food tracking is a tool that people use to document what they are consuming day to day. This often includes tracking both calories and macronutrients (macros). Tracking foods is a strategy long used by registered dietitians, body builders, figure competitors and your average humans looking to lose fat and get healthier. More recently, the industry has gone into tracking those macronutrients specifically. A calculation is done based on your body type and your goals to determine the amount of protein, carbs and fats you should be eating each day.
I will be honest with you that I hated on macro tracking for a LONG time- I thought it was dumb. I thought it was dumb that if you wanted to you could eat literally whatever you wanted as long as it “fit your macros”. I thought it was dumb that it didn’t consider any micronutrients (vitamins/minerals). I thought it was dumb that it took food, which can be a fun joyous thing and turned it into strictly numbers. I also saw the red flags of this plan for someone who may have an eating disorder and how harmful this could be.
I avoided food tracking at all costs for many years because of these things and tried hard to trust my body and eat intuitively. At its core, intuitive eating is about trusting your body to make food choices for you, honoring your cravings and really tuning into what your body is asking for nutritionally. It takes the judgement out of foods (no "good" or "bad" foods) in an effort to break diet culture.
Sounds good right? On paper I think intuitive eating sounds great! I love the idea of honoring the body and trusting it to make the right choices! However, I don't think becoming a true intuitive eater is as easy as people make it seem. The food we eat today is so over processed (some is literally designed in a lab to make you over consume) that our bodies are at a massive disadvantage for self regulating. This is what happened to me, I ate what I craved whenever I wanted to and did not think twice about it. After a few years of this, I realized that I needed a little more accountability, and that intuitive eating alone was not giving me the fuel (mainly protein) I needed for my workouts/lifestyle. My body simply did not crave the protein that it so desperately needed.
On its own, intuitive eating can be great for people who have tracked food before, have a history of under eating or eating disorders, get obsessive about tracking or who know their foods and portion sizes really well. For most of us though, having a general understanding of nutrition science and what we consume before we jump right into intuitive eating is key. Knowing what foods are carbs/fats/proteins, knowing what those macros do for our bodies, and having a general idea of portion size and how many calories are in things is invaluable information.
So what does combining tracking macros and intuitive eating look like? Pretty dang awesome if you ask me! If we take the good parts of each of these plans, and combine them we get a really attainable, sustainable food strategy. This combo can look a little different for each person, which is good! For me, it looks like making sure I hit my protein goal everyday (136 grams of protein), and staying within a certain caloric range when I am leaning out or at staying at maintenance (we can also use this to put on lean mass too!). It also looks like having an ice cream sundae with my friends and their kiddos on the weekends, having a beer with my husband at our favorite brewery, or eating my favorite chicken wings! It looks like honoring my hunger and fullness cues, and not feeling like I HAVE to eat every last calorie or gram of protein just because my app told me to. This combo gives me the guide I need to follow in order to feel my best and to meet my goals as well as the freedom to still honor my true cravings while trusting and listening to my body's cues!
Food tracking and intuitive eating do not have to be mutually exclusive- you can do them both at the same time! I hope this helps you navigate all the information out there, feel free to reach out to me with any questions.