Sunday, February 28, 2016

Death of The Macros.

My new favorite place...Opened in September in Millburn NJ. Although I am not gluten intolerant nor will I be indulging in baked goods (paleo or not) daily, they have amazing espresso drinks and make their own coconut milk! They also crush the smoothie game....
I've always loved cold treats - shakes, ice cream, fro yo. Lately I've been whipping up my own shakes at home. This one is next on list to add to the arsenal.
Sunday is prep day. Sweet potatoes, carrots, fennel, onions...plenty of time to cook up these gems to have for dinner and then use for left overs tomorrow!
Sandwich for M on homemade bread: Avocado/ olive oil drizzle/ Organic turkey breast/ Organic VT cheddar. Made with Love!

When in doubt - a soft boiled egg atop anything makes it better. Arugula, avocado, balsamic drizzle, some left over cod and gluten free bread...
Truffle popcorn, good wine and an amazing gift from Iceland courtesy of my best friend...a mini carafe that has a line marked at 6 oz. She knows me well...

It's been a while since my last post, but in that time there's been quite a bit of discovery. I'm finally ready to get thoughts on 'paper' and share.

For just about 1 year now, I've been committed to the "Macros" and the "Flexible dieting" method. I have had the guidance of several Macro coaches and in that time I have played with numbers/ Refeeds/ timing etc. I have shared my highs and my successes as well as the value I found in this approach to eating with friends, family and our athletes. However, I also feel it is my responsibility  at this point to share my lows and hesitations having come full circle with this experiment.
For me, balance was always a challenge. There were items on my 'no' list and for the past 8 years, since my introduction to CF, I had accepted that fat wasn't evil and instead of fearing fat, the real enemy was processed sugar. At first exposure, the Macros gave me a sense of freedom and the ease of knowing I would not immediately put on weight or inches by having frozen yogurt or a donut every so often. I was able to enjoy some 'treats' with my kids without feeling the guilt that had previously been so prevalent. For a few months, the Macros felt like the perfect solution for me, as I finally found peace with food.

Fast forward a few months. The Macros has gained a tremendous amount of momentum in our community over the past couple of months - everyone is signing up to learn how to 'find their numbers' and work the My Fitness Pal app. Being lean has become THE validation of peoples' knowledge and general success. I can't scroll through my FB page without encountering a multitude of "before and after" selfies or photos of food that our community previously deemed to be a 'cheat' and now are part of a daily regiment. It has taken a drastic turn.

Personally, the momentum was building as well, however, in a very different way. I found myself consumed with my phone app. It was an appendage and was deserving of a place setting of its' own at our table for every meal. Date nights were being compromised because the idea of going out to a restaurant and relinquishing the control of cooking my food myself was daunting. I no longer felt a sense of freedom, but instead like I had simply moved from one prison cell to another.

I realize this part of my experience has everything to do with my history of an eating disorder. However, this 'disorder' was not limited to me. The real concern was what it did to Bill, someone who had previously had a healthy relationship with food until he embarked on the Macros. The disconnect from the quality of food and the experience was apparent. Food was being reduced to a number and an app - no longer an experience or something to feed the body when it needed it. When and what to eat was being determined by numbers - reduced to a binary code.

Eating disorders aside, there is an even bigger concern that we can all relate to. This trend is shifting toward the sacrifice of quality. While I do think is is possible for the Macros to be followed without this being the case, it is simply not happening. Instead, most people are choosing to focus on the "flexible" part of the program. It starts with opening the door to a donut here and there and seems to escalate to daily doses of processed foods and sugar. Posts from folks on the macros consist mostly of 'fake foods': protein cookies, drinks, and concoctions that 'hit their numbers' but rarely are the images of fruit, veggies or organic/ local high quality foods.

The truth is a calorie is not a calorie for our health. As a CrossFit L1 Seminar Staff member I stand in front of future L1 trainers on weekends and talk about hyperinsulinemia and the link to modern disease. We emphasize Quality first and then Quantity. Our prescription is both of these factors and as much of the time as possible. We don't promote taking short cuts and fitting in poor quality food as much as long as the numbers match up. 

Flexible dieting is giving people a high five and handshake for deviating from our prescription for health. It would be like CF coaches everywhere telling their athletes you can abandon mechanics at all costs in order to achieve intensity.  Forget threshold training and slight deviations from mechanically sound movement, the Macros approach is much more Machiavellian in that the emphasis is only on the ends, not the means. It violates our creed. It violates our integrity.

I know this post will not be well received by everyone, some of whom are friends. My intention is simply to share my honest experience and observations because I feel it is my responsibility as a professional. Can the macros be done with high quality, organic, local and non processed foods? Of course. Is that what is happening and how people are approaching it? No way. If people want the macros to maintain credibility they need to start emphasizing doing it with the quality we know is necessary for health.

For me, I am still tracking my quantities and using the app. That's the God's honest truth after all of this. However, I am committing to eliminating processed foods and returning to the original: "Eat meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar".


  1. Slow clap.... Bravo for this post Karianne. I am flooded with relief to read this, as your words directly echo my own feelings and thoughts about this macro thing. I have been watching it from the outside looking in for a year or more, and finally caved to doing it for 3 months to learn about it. I don't have a history of eating disorders and I still feel this negative connection with food that I have never had. The willingness to eat processed food and more dairy (fat free) than I have eaten in 5 years combined is amazing in the mental mind switch - all just to hit the right numbers.

    THANK YOU for this important post.

  2. Thanks for your honestly K. I cook and I cook - after prepping meals and trying to track the macro it becomes an overwhelming one focus job. I do the best I can and try to be fair and provided healthy meals for my family. I cook and eat as clean as I can. Macros gave me a real sense of quantity and highlighted where I over indulged (guilty -I'm a FAT LOVER) and under on protein a lot of the time. I assess my plate of food with a different perspective now. I need to keep my sanity and always appreciate listening, reading and experimenting myself too! I too agree with CF mantra and experiment with other cultures recipes which I find have more interesting flavors and healthy spices. It is a working process and a journey. Thanks for all you do and share with the community!

  3. I feel as though I could have written this myself! You nailed every point - and every concern I have - on the head. I did the most "whole food" version of IIFYM I could for four months, taking more allowances with my diet than I should have, and the experience truly messed with my head. Eating when I wasn't hungry just to hit the number, force-feeding 18 TBS of egg whites at bedtime and being more lenient with food quality for the first time in more than four years was not a good fit for me. Thank you for your willingness to talk about the scary side of Flexible Dieting.

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  5. On what are you basing your assumption that people on "the Macros" don't eat wholesome food? On their posts?

    Seriously? POSTS are the thing on which you base your understanding of how people eat? If you based your understanding of my life on my posts, you'd get a very skewed version. I post the highlight reel, not what winds up on the cutting-room floor. If one of my kids is being cute, I'll post a picture. If she's being a little snot, I won't. Same with my food: If I have a donut, I'll post it. But I don't post every boring container of yogurt that I eat, though they vastly outnumber donuts.

    I believe your methodology is deeply flawed. I came to "the Macros" after strict paleo and whole 30, and still eat predominantly foods that would be okay under both of those diets (with the addition of limited dairy). And there are certainly people who follow those diets who have a LOT of bacon, high-fat ground beef, dried fruit, nuts, and other not-so-nutritious foods.