Posted November 22, 2018

How to Stop Tracking Your Macros and Still Lose Weight

Today’s guest post comes from Laura Poburan, an exercise physiologist and nutrition coach in Edmonton, who has also just released a new online course, The Happy Way to Hotness to help women take the stress out of weight loss plans.


Hi, my name is Laura and I’m a recovering perfectionist.

Alright, It’s time I come clean and tell you something really embarrassing about my past. I used to be a chronic tracker. I would skip social events because I was scared I wouldn’t know how to track everything properly and that would throw off my perfect tracking streak. I would order the simplest salad and chicken out at restaurants because, again, this I knew I would be able to track with the highest level of certainty. And I would sit on the couch for hours meticulously planning my food so that I came within 5 grams of each of my macronutrients for the day.

I was obsessed with perfection.

What’s worse, I used this as an excuse to hit my calories eating as much shit as I could on the weekends. “Oh, I have an extra 800 calories today? Better eat 4 cups of frozen yogurt just to hit my numbers”. Sound familiar? Yeah, sure it does. Because I think if you have tracked for long enough you have dabbled with this sort of extremism. It’s very hard not to when the culture of today preaches flexibility to the nth degree, so much so that we don’t even know what that really even means any more.

What I CAN tell you, is if you are eating treats just to hit your numbers, girlfriend, you aren’t being flexible. You are obsessed. Just like I was.

Here’s the good news, though. I survived! I came out of that cycle and started treating food like food instead of treating it like a math equation. I started to listen to my body again and I tuned in to my hunger cues for the first time in years (which you may be thinking right now, “whats that?”, cause I know I sure was). I learned what I needed to eat in order to reach my goals, feel great in my body and just fucking chill around what the exact composition of my meals were divided by 12 to the power of 10.

And here’s the even better news. If you’re sick of painting life by numbers I’m going to give you everything you need to know about getting off the app without having a panic attack (been there done that. It ain’t’ pretty) and actually continue to progress towards your goals in a way that you can sustain for the rest of your life.

Sound cool? K let’s jump in.


Why everyone should stop tracking – eventually

Tracking is pretty fun in the beginning. You are told you can eat whatever you want as long as you hit these 4 little numbers. It feels kinda like a game at first, if you’re a perfectionist like me. Drag and drop, plug and play until you get the satisfaction of being bang on perfect. “Uuuuhhhh that feels so good”.

And that should have been my first red flag that told me to stop, you have a problem, put the phone down and slowly back away. But it fired the reward centres in my brain like a pinball machine and I was hooked. Looking back now, I believe that everyone should have it as the goal to stop tracking eventually, and here’s why.

The app is nothing more than a tool to get you to your goal. It is not meant to override your internal hunger and satiety cues (but it does), it’s not meant to make you feel bad about treating yourself (but it does…f*ck the red numbers, amiright?), and it’s not meant to be a lifelong strategy to keeping the weight off (but many people use it as such).

There was literally a glitch in the app just last week where no one was able to log in, and there was PANDAMONIUM. Everyone was freaking out because how on earth were they ever going to eat if they didn’t know what their macros were at?? Okay. If that doesn’t tell you we have a dependency problem I don’t know what will.

So here’s my dead serious honest opinion. I think the app is great – temporarily. For a short period of time for very specific people under the pretence that this is not a life long solution to their poor relationship with food. Ultimately I believe that everyone should learn how to eat without it either before or after their goals are met. At the end of the day, when all the dust settles, if you don’t change your behaviours from the inside it’s just a matter of time before the app no longer has the same sparkle as it once did and you find yourself back where you started.

I realize that many of you are probably thinking right now “NUH UHHH, that is so not me, I’m different”. If that’s the case, read on. You’re not a special snowflake and I want to convince you of why I believe that to be true.


When tracking can be a useful tool, and who should use it

There are certain people who I believe could use an app to track their food with really good success during different seasons in their journey.

  1. You enjoy it. Plain and simple, if you enjoy tracking then I think this is a good tool for you. BUT you must understand that a transition away from the app is crucial once you reach your goals.
  2. You compete. Obviously there are certain sports where the degree of accuracy that tracking provides is required to make weight or achieve a certain level of leanness. Again, there is a season for this and I believe that in the off season non tracking methods should be employed to avoid obsessive tendencies in these already perfectionistic populations.
  3. You have a short timeline to reach your goal. Again in this case, increasing your level of accuracy temporarily is important to improve your chances of actually achieving your desired weight loss goal in the time frame required. It is still important to understand and manage expectations around rates of loss and put a plan in place for the sustainability of these quick losses.
  4. Education. Yep, I think this is a great tool to temporarily educate yourself around what a proper portion size looks like, how quickly snacking can add up, how many calories are in the foods you’re eating, what foods are high in protein, etc. I use tracking sporadically with clients for this purpose and it works really well when perfection is not stressed and the temporary nature of the tool is emphasized. In other words, give yourself a reality check to adjust your behaviour moving forward.


The most important first step you can’t skip

Many of you reading this are possibly currently tracking your macros, and I hope I’m starting to convince you that perhaps maybe you don’t need to be. But before you quit the app cold turkey there is a very important first step that many people skip and then come crying to me saying “SEE, I need to track or I just gain all my weight back!”

Don’t let that be you. Here is a logical sequence you can follow to wean yourself off, you MyFitnessPal junkie.


  • Start by paying attention to your hunger signals while you’re still tracking. When do you feel hungry? How do you know its time to eat your next meal? How do you feel after you finish eating? Are you eating something just because it “fits” or does it actually serve you and your goals?
  • Slowly, over the next 2 to 3 weeks, stop tracking one day at a time. I would start by removing a day that you have good conscious control around – a weekday that is usually pretty regimented. And then move to more difficult days like the weekends where you typically would over-consume, eat foods that you don’t eat through the week or “make foods fit” because you have macros for them. Try to make your weekends resemble your weekdays for now.
  • Continue to practice mindfulness, checking in with yourself before you eat anything and asking yourself how hungry you are, what that meal should consist of, and mindfully challenging yourself to slow down while you eat so you can begin to recognize when you feel satisfied. Be patient with yourself – remember there is a learning curve just like everything else and you wont be perfect the first time you try.



The top 5 ways to continue to lose weight without MyFitnessPal

You have heard this before, but the most important factor when it comes to weight loss is your energy balance for the day. Simple as that, if you eat less calories than you use you will lose weight. Literally it’s that easy, but HOW you achieve that can be different for everyone. Without your little pal to tell you how much you’re eating you’re going to need some strategies to help you in this area.

Remember that if you just came off of a MyFitnessPal bender you probably can’t trust your hunger and satiety cues all that well at the moment. This is a skill you’re going to need to re-learn, so eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full is a sure fire way to…lose nothing. Your body wants to keep you at maintenance – in other words it has a lot of systems firing on all cylinders to make sure you don’t gain or lose anything.

So here are my top 5 ways to override your body and continue to lose weight without tracking:


  1. Pro-Veg Meals – limit yourself to 3 meals per day and ensure you are eating roughly 25-35 grams of protein at each meal and bulking up your food volume by prioritizing vegetables. Feeling full is the number one way to ensure that you can sustain a caloric deficit for long enough to see the weight loss you’re looking for. By focusing on protein and veggies at 3 meals per day you can ensure that you are maximizing your satiety while minimizing the calories you’re consuming.
  • Choose lean protein sources like egg whites, chicken, turkey, lean beef, low fat dairy (greek yogurt and cottage cheese), and white fish.
  • Try making one of your main meals protein-veggie exclusive without any added starch or fat. A large salad, lettuce wraps, frittata or a stir fry would be examples of this.
  • Find veggies you enjoy eating, or try new ones until you do. Vegetables like spaghetti squash, bok choy, and cabbage are all good examples of overlooked veggies that can be eaten in high volume for minimal calories
  • Make these meals larger to allow you to eliminate snacking completely or minimize it down to one snack per day, keeping in mind the purpose of a snack is to get you to your next meal and should not be this size of small meal in and of itself.


  1. Remove Trigger Foods – previously you were able to make a food “fit” if a craving arose. You likely trained your body to crave these foods more and more over time. It is going to take some time to retrain your brain away from craving these foods consistently. In the meantime is it likely a good idea to control your environment and remove triggering foods that you may reach for out of mindless habit. Other ideas to help you when a craving hits:
  • Put sticky notes on your typical trigger foods reminding you to check in with yourself and see if you are actually hungry or not.
  • Have healthy snacking options on hand to reach for if you are, in fact, hungry (cut up veggies, rice cakes, tuna snack packs, yogurt cups, pepperoni sticks, cheese string)
  • Keep a water bottle handy at all times and try using flavor drops to curb a sweet craving
  • Keep mints or hard candies on hand to suck on – these are quite low calories compared to what you would normally be indulging in and can work well to curb a sweet craving(as long as you aren’t triggered to eat the whole bag)
  • Find the pause – take 5 deep breaths and ask yourself why you need to eat “x” before mindlessly and habitually reaching for it. Remind yourself of your goals and take the craving’s power away naming it. What is the emotion you’re feeling right now? Why are you craving this? Are you bored, stressed, anxious, sad, annoyed? Lean in to the discomfort and sit with it for 10 minutes before giving in.


  1. Limit Your Variety – research has shown us that less variety you have in your diet when trying to lose weight, the more full you feel after eating your meals, the less cravings you have and the easier it is for you to control your portion sizes. It’s called taste fatigue.


Think of it this way, if you are constantly being stimulated by new delicious foods, you’re going to always want to eat more of them. But if you limit yourself to more simple foods, you will likely have a better chance of controlling your portion, stopping when satiated and removing any temptation to overindulge.

One easy way to limit your food variety iis to find 1-2 breakfast options you enjoy, 2-3 lunch options you enjoy and 2-3 dinner options you enjoy and then rotate between them week after week. Keep these meal interesting by switching up the spices or cooking methods used, and eat them in different combinations. Keep in mind that this is only a temporary option and that introducing variety back into your diet can occur slowly once your goal is reached.


  1. Intermittent Fasting (IF) – there is nothing inherently magical about this method, in fact many people use this strategy incorrectly by justifying an overconsumption of food during the hours they are allowed to eat. The same rule still applies – energy in must be less than energy out in order to lose weight. What this strategy does really well, however, is it narrows the window of time you are able to access food, inherently restricting your caloric intake for the day if you still follow the same protocols from tip #1. The benefit is that once you adjust to this shortened window of time you may in fact feel more full and energized because you may be able to eat slightly larger meals for the same caloric intake that was previously spread out over a larger time frame. This strategy will also allow you to more easily remove excess snacking, also reducing your daily calorie consumption.
  • The most typical protocol is 16 hours fasting followed by an 8 hour window where you consume your food for the day
  • The thing to realize is that there are no hard and set rules, if you feel better with a 9 hour window of eating, then do that. Whatever allows you to consistently eat in a caloric deficit relatively stress-free is what I would recommend.
  • Note: IF works particularly well for people who don’t enjoy eating breakfast in the morning and would rather fast until lunch.


  1. Food Swaps – and no, I don’t necessarily mean baking a cauliflower pizza crust because it “tastes basically the same”.

Umm no. It doesn’t.

What I mean here is being mindful around where you require additional flexibility in your life, and understand how to make adjustments in your day to allow for that flexibility.


For example, if you want to go out for dinner with friends on Friday night and you know there will be wine (obviously), how can you make that work? I would suggest swapping out higher calorie foods earlier in the day for lower calorie options (swap out the rice for more veg at lunch, toast for more egg whites at breakfast, and remove your snacks that day) to allow for more flexibility at dinner.

I would then suggest deciding what you would enjoy the most at that meal and prioritizing that. Do you really want the fettucini alfredo, or would you rather have a couple glasses of wine? By swapping out foods earlier in the day you opened up a buffer in the evening, but you still must be mindful around how indulgent you are. Removing your piece of toast in the morning alone, for example, does not buy you an extra 800 calories for the cheesecake on top of the fettucini alfredo you just indulged in.

By swapping foods based on their estimated calories and staying mindful around your indulgences you CAN enjoy that which you really want and still lose weight. This strategy, however, challenges your ability to estimate calories, be realistic with yourself and understand that this is not something you can do all the time with good success. Its meant to provide you flexibility when you need it so that you can continue to live your life and feel good about the choices you make without saying “f*ck it” and ordering the entire dessert menu (again, been there)

You can employ this, however, on a more semi-regular basis by making smaller swaps like:

  • Removing your starch at dinner to have a glass of wine
  • Skipping your afternoon snack to enjoy a couple cookies in the evening
  • Eating a smaller portion than normal lunch to allow for a larger portion than normal at dinner


How to prevent the rebound

Making lasting changes with your nutrition is all good and well, but have you ever stopped to consider the real reason why you are where you are in the first place? It’s not that you didn’t have the perfect meal plan, the tracking app didn’t make an appearance in your life until it was too late, or you were force fed chocolate cake as a child, Matilda style.

It comes down to your relationship with yourself. How you feel about YOU, the limiting beliefs you hold around your worthiness to feel great in your body and confident in your life. It comes down to a lack of balance in your life and your inability to make yourself a priority, keep the promises you make to yourself or change the incessant negative talk playing on repeat in your mind. It comes down to not truly understanding what it is you need to feel happy (not skinny, H-A-P-P-Y). Because that really is the ultimate goal isn’t it?

I couldn’t possibly walk you through ALL of these crucial pillars in one blog post, which is why I create a 4 week program called The Happy Way to Hotness, so that you can deep dive into each of these pillars and come out on the other side a non-tracking confident goddess ready to step into her truth and create a life you’re obsessed with.


About the Author

Laura Poburan is a nutrition coach based in Edmonton, Alberta that helps women who crave confidence learn how to put themselves first and live a life where they feel like they have it all. She has developed a unique four pillar Have It All method by which she creates lasting physical and mental change in her clients. Laura also works closely with a handful of other online nutrition coaches in her Have It All Coaching Academy where she teaches them the Have It All method so that she can further increase her reach and the impact she is having on even more women searching for their confidence. Laura is extremely passionate about helping women realize their worth, stand in their truth and create the physical and mental changes necessary to live a life they are obsessed with.