Tag Archives: My Fitness Pal

Is Intuitive Eating For Everyone?

Is intuitive eating for everyone?  I don’t think so.  I may take some flak for saying this, but success with intuitive eating is not something that every person will be able to achieve, but with a lot of work most can.

I myself have been working toward it for years and in all honesty, I am not there yet.  Will I completely get there someday?  Maybe.  Do I have to track every morsel I eat every day?  No, but I do need to track my intake on a weekly basis and guesstimate when I don’t track.

I don’t often discuss the fact that I had an eating disorder in my teen years, but I did and I firmly believe that my disordered eating during those crucial developmental years altered my ability to have normal hunger/fullness cues.  I can’t find the reference (believe me I have tried), but a few years ago while listening to a podcast with Layne Norton and Sohee Lee she mentioned a study that indicated that girls (and I am sure boys too) who experienced disordered eating during their developmental years had diminished ability to experience normal hunger and fullness cues.  Bingo…that made so much sense to me and spoke to my experience.

Please know this can work both ways; some people have an increased need to track their intake in order to make sure they eat enough, while others need to do so to ensure they don’t overeat, and yet others have zero need to track and truly can intuitively listen to their body’s needs.  Throughout all of my years of working with clients, I have seen so many different eating behaviors.  I’ve had clients who have very little appetite in general, those who are not able to control their urges to overeat, and still others who eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full.

I have found that both under and overeating issues generally stem from unbalanced Sugar Handling (Hyperglycemia, Hypoglycemia, Insulin Resistance, etc.), so the solution to more normalized appetite tends to be getting their sugar balance in line through eating the majority of their calories from whole unprocessed foods and consuming enough protein and healthy fats for their specific activity levels.  When we eat nutrient dense food that’s been properly prepared, our hunger signals will be more normalized.  This is not to say that emotional issues aren’t at play; I think we can all agree that there can be a heavy tie between emotional state and appetite.

As I mentioned, I have been working toward a more intuitive approach to eating for years with many unsuccessful attempts along the way, however, each failure has taught me something that has improved my experience the next go around.  Now my approach is tiered as I slowly work toward intuitively knowing what my body needs.  I have tracked for so long now that when I do go out to eat I can estimate what is on my plate and do not need to weigh or measure it, but I do loosely track it in My Fitness Pal.  I also have at least 3-4 meals a week where I simply work to build a balanced plate with no need to weigh or measure.

One of the biggest mistakes I made when moving away from tracking was to completely stop tracking versus taking baby steps.  I went from weighing, measuring, and inputting every morsel I ate into My Fitness Pal to a free-for-all (lesson learned).  I am now at the point where I am able to go out of town and simply eat reasonably yet still within my whole foods healthy manner.  I simply make the best decisions I can when we eat out and when I get home I track my meals to make sure I am eating a good macro split that supports my health and the type of athletic training I like to do.

Another key for me has been to make sure that I stay away from processed sugars completely because they send me down a horrible path.  I know this about myself and have made the conscious decision to stay away from them because I literally can’t control myself…it’s like one bite and I’m done for…any semblance of control is gone.  So, when I have something sweet (which is daily) I make sure it is made with as little processing as possible like a smoothie sweetened with dates or an RX Bar.  If we have a birthday coming-up in our family and I make the decision that I want to partake in the treat, I will make a homemade paleo dessert and then I am able to have one serving and be done.

An important piece of the puzzle has also been sleep.  Getting proper sleep is a critical factor in appetite management.  Sleep deprivation is a major contributing factor to increases in appetite.  We need those precious hours of sleep to rest and repair and provide our body with the energy it needs.  If we do not get that sleep, our body will trigger hormones that will increase our appetite because our body needs to get energy from somewhere and if we are not getting it from sleep, then food is the next best thing.

At the end of the day, we are all on our own personal health journeys and I don’t want anyone feeling poorly about themselves because they haven’t been able to master the recently labeled eating style of “Intuitive Eating.”  While I think that eating healthfully with an intuitive eating goal in mind is a good goal to strive for, it is not something anyone should feel they have to do.  We all have our eating pasts and those help dictate where we currently are in our journey.

I used to feel bad that I wasn’t able to experience normal hunger cues and felt guilty about the choices I made as a teen, but I no longer allow those feelings of guilt to take hold of me because they truly serve no purpose.  I can’t change my past choices, but I can make sure that my kid’s have a normal and healthy relationship with food.  I made the choices I made in the past and now I am doing what I need to do in order to remain healthy and give my body the nutrients it needs for health.

As long as we focus on overall health, how we get there versus how someone else gets there shouldn’t matter.  If you are someone who needs to track their intake and the person next to you doesn’t, that’s A-OK.




Filed under Education, IIFYM and Macros, Nutrition, Weight Issues


Alcohol tends to confuse so many people when it comes to IIFYM.  How the heck do you log it?  When you look-up alcoholic beverages in My Fitness Pal or My Macros+ it will pull-up an entry with calories, but no fat, very few (if any) carbs, and no protein…awesome…we can have virtually unlimited amounts, right?  Wrong.

You all know better than to think alcohol washes through our bodies like water.  While it would be MUCH easier to reach your goals without drinking, that just isn’t realistic for most people.  A big part of IIFYM and what I teach my clients is how to live a normal life while at the same time reaching / maintaining their goal body and most people like to drink from time to time.

There are a few different options when it comes to logging alcohol and fitting it into your day.  You have the choice to either log it as carbohydrate, fat, or a mixture of the two.  I recommend you take a few minutes and sit down with your food app so you can manually add in the alcohol you typically like to drink.  Once you have done that you will already have it available to you to just pull-up and log when making plans for your night out.  Yes, I do recommend you PRE-PLAN how many drinks you will be having because we all know that once you start drinking your judgement can go out the window and having a plan ahead of time is a much better way to ensure you successfully stick to your macros.

The macros you have available to you will determine whether you log your drinks as carbs, fats, or a mixture of the two and in order to be ready for that I recommend you manually add all three options for each alcohol you typically drink…that way each time you go out you can easily select drinks and fit them in based upon the macros you have available to you that particular day.  For example, if you plan on having a steak that night you probably will not want to log your drink as fats (the steak will be using those), but if you plan on eating fish you will probably have extra room in your fats and can log your alcohol as fats.

Now for the actual calculations:

Your body treats alcohol like fats (9 cals) and carbs (4 cals).  To reiterate, when recording alcohol in MFP or My Macros+you have the choice of recording it as fats, carbs, or a mixture of both.  Here are some examples:

Red Wine – 5 oz.

  • 5oz. red wine = 129 calories
  • 129 / 4 = 32g carb
  • 129 / 9 = 14g fat
  • You could decide to record it ½ and ½ as 16g carb and 7g fat

White Wine – 5 oz.

  • 5oz. white wine = 121 calories
  • 121 / 4 = 30g carb
  • 121 / 9 = 13g fat
  • You could decide to record it ½ and ½ as 15g carb and 6.5g fat

Champagne – 5oz.

  • 5oz. champagne – 98cal
  • 98 / 4 = 24.5g carb
  • 98 / 9 = 11g fat
  • You could decide to record it ½ and ½ as 12g carb and 5.5g fat

Vodka – 90 proof 1.5 oz.

  • 1 shot = 110 cals
  • 110 / 4 = 28g carb
  • 110 / 9 = 12g fat
  • You could decide to record it ½ and ½ as 14g carb and 6g fat

Tequila – Petron 1.5 oz.

  • 1 shot = 105 cals
  • 105 / 4 = 26g carb
  • 105 / 9 = 11.7g fat
  • You could decide to record it ½ and ½ as 13g carb and 5.8g fat

Bud Light – 12 oz.

  • 1 beer = 110 cals
  • 110 / 4 = 28g carb
  • 110 / 9 = 12g fat
  • You could decide to record it ½ and ½ as 14g carb and 6g fat

Hopefully that helps clear-up the “how” when it comes to logging alcohol.  Now that you know the formula you can apply it to all different types of alcoholic drinks.  You will quickly figure out your go-tos as there are some drinks that are clearly a lot more macro friendly than others.

I’ll leave you with a link to a macro friendly margarita that the Ledbetter Team has made popular and may become your go-to…click HERE for that recipe (It’s the second recipe).

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Filed under Alcohol, Education, IIFYM and Macros, My Fitness Pal, Nutrition, Weight Issues

How to Enter Your Specific Macro Goals into My Fitness Pal For IIFYM

I know the world of IIFYM (if it fits your macros) aka Flexible Dieting can be information overload for someone who is just starting out.  It was for me, and I have been working in nutrition for years.  There is no getting around the steep learning curve, but I thought I’d try and write a few posts detailing the “hows” of IIFYM.

I want to tackle how to track your macros in My Fitness Pal (MFP) and my first post in this series will detail how to set your particular macros in MFP so you can more accurately track them.  How you do this will differ depending upon which level of MFP you have; the free version or Premium ($49.99/year).  I personally have Premium because I wanted the ease of use, the extra features, and because it is an app I am in multiple times a day.

In an attempt to give my clients more options when it comes to tracking I did recently download My Macros+ (it’s only $2.99) and plan on posting tutorials for that app as well in the future.


9.1 Home Screen and More MFP

The image (above left) is of the MFP homescreen.  At the bottom you will see where I arrowed in red to the “MORE” area.  Click on that and it will take you to the “More” screen (above right).  Once in the More screen click on the “Goals” section.

9.3 Goals to Cals and Macros

Once in the “Goals” section click on the “Calories & Macronutrient Goals” area which will take you to the “Calories & Macros” screen (above right).  You will see that MFP provides you with a “Default Goal” based on the questions it asked you when you first logged in.

9.4 Change Calories MFP

When you work with me (Click HERE to learn more) I provide you with prescribed macros.  If you would like to attempt to set your own macros you can go to sites like BodyBuilding.com for their Macro Calculator.

Once you have your macros you will need to amend the calories (above left).  Click on the calories (1) and a number screen will pop-up.  (2) Delete the “Default Goal” calories and (3) enter in the calories you should be eating.  This is literally the ONLY time you should ever worry about calories because from here on out all you need to do is hit those daily carb, protein, and fat macros regardless of whether that puts you OVER or UNDER your calorie goal…it does not matter…MACROS, MACROS, MACROS.

9.5 Calories changed MFP

Once you have entered the appropriate calories hit the “check mark” to save them.  Now click on either “Carbohydrates 203 g”, “Protein 81 g”, or “Fat 54 g” and the screen below left will pop-up.

9.6 Get Macros Close MFP 140C130P60F

Scroll through the “Carbs” percentages until it is NEAR what your prescribed carbs should be.  Remember, this is not Premium, so you can’t get exact on the grams.  Do that for “Protein” and “Fat” as well and remember that the “% Total” (bottom right of the screen) must equal 100%.

In this example, my client has prescribed macros of 1620 calories 140C/130P/60F.  This means that our “Close Enough” ended-up being 1623 calories 142C/122P/63F.  Does that mean my client will eat the “Close Enough” macros???  NO.  She will just have to remember what the macros that I gave her are…this is the downfall of the Free MFP service, but you all are more than smart enough to remember your macros.


10.1 Home Screen and More MFP

For the Premium version of MFP, to set your macros go to the Homescreen, click the “More” button on the bottom right (left screen above) and then click on the “Premium” button (top right screen above).

10.2 Premiun to Macros by Gram MFP

Once you are in the “Premium” screen (left screen above) click on the “Premium Features” tab and it will bring you to the “Premium Features” page (right screen above).  Once there click on the “Macronutrients by Gram” tab.

10.3 Cals Macros gram or percentage MFP

This will bring you to the “Calories & Macros” page.  Set your calories as described above in the FREE MFP Tutorial.  Then, click on (1) “Carbohydrates 32%” tab which will pop-up the image in the above right screen.  (2) Make sure to click the “Grams” button so you are able to set your macros in specific grams.  Once you have clicked the grams button (3) scroll through each macro and set your particular macros exactly as they were prescribed.  Remember to (4) click the check mark to save your macros.

10.4 Diff Goals by Day MFP Premium

Premium MFP has another neat feature which is great if you are carb-cycling.  Carb cycling means that your macros are different on different days usually in relation to the level of training you will be doing that day.  For example, my highest carb day is on my heaviest leg day (weight lifting).  The “Different Goals by Day” feature above allows me to pre-set those macros for those days that are different than my normal days and I do not have to remember to switch them in MFP on those days because they automatically pop-up (nice run-on sentence, huh?).

To set the macros for those days that do not fit your default days, click the “Add Daily Goal” button (above right  screen).

10.5 Diff Goals By Day Detail MFP Premium

And that my friends is how you set your daily macro goals in My Fitness Pal.

My next tutorial will detail how I go about planning my macros for the day food-wise and how I am able to hit them usually dead-on or within 2 grams either way.

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Filed under Education, IIFYM and Macros, My Fitness Pal, Nutrition

What’s a Macro & What the Heck is IIFYM?

Quorn Vegan Burger Assembled 600

Ready for the quick and dirty lesson on macros and IIFYM?

Macro is short for macronutrient and macronutrient refers to the big three; carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.  Foods are generally categorized by the macronutrient they contain the most which is why rice is generally referred to as a carbohydrate even though it also contains protein and fat.

You may also have heard of micronutrients which are the vitamins and minerals that are essential to maintain health.  Our bodies require these to run at optimal levels.

IIFYM is an acronym for “If It Fits Your Macros.”  IIFYM is a lifestyle that has been embraced by many in the fitness industry…many of whom previously spent years restricting their diets (myself included) to foods they considered “clean” (whole foods aka “bro” foods such as sweet potato, tilapia, asparagus, etc.).  The IIFYM revolution has opened many of our eyes to the fact that as long as you eat your set macros for the day (specific grams of Carbs, Protein, and Fat tailored to your particular needs), you can eat those macros ANY WAY YOU CHOOSE.  For years it was widely believed that in order to get lean and obtain those elusive abs you needed to eat all whole foods and eliminate treats.

Those of us in the IIFYM community are proving time and time again that you can achieve health with balance.  Confession time… For years I have eaten those clean foods and deprived myself of treats only to decide to allow myself a treat now and then and with that first bite I would CRACK and an all out treat fest would ensue.  Trust me, you would be shocked by the flood gates that would open.  It was as if I couldn’t stop myself.  After these treat fests my body would scream at me and to say I felt awful (both physically and mentally) would be an understatement.  These food fests as I call them would make me so disappointed in myself.

Then IIFYM came into my life.  Suddenly I was able to fit a treat in if I craved it and do so guilt-free.  The mental freedom that this brought me was nothing short of amazing.  Knowing that I could technically have a treat when I wanted one took away the “all or nothing” mentality that previously led to my food fests while following my restrictive lifestyle.

I stumbled upon this lifestyle by chance when looking something up on the web.  I honestly can’t even recall how it happened.  Somehow I was directed to Corina Nielsen’s blog, live fit, and THIS particular post which led me to Layne Norton‘s vlogs and countless hours of research.  The idea of finally achieving balance while simultaneously remaining fit was so appealing to me.  My IIFYM searches led me to multiple Instagram pages and I again stumbled upon a gem, Katie Ringley aka katiesfitscript.  I decided to hire Katie (yep Nutrition Coaches hire their own coaches too) to help me navigate this new world of Macros and IIFYM and I am so glad I did.  I started my own mostly fitness-based Instagram page (fitquestmom) and continue to gain inspiration from those I follow.  Trust me when I say that following people you respect and that inspire you helps keep that fire stoked within to hit those workouts hard!

fitquestmom Instagram Page

That being said, 90 percent of my food still would be considered bro foods because that is what I truly like to eat and what makes me feel the best (gotta get those micronutrients in).  I am now more fit than ever and the flexibility this lifestyle has afforded me is so freeing.

ISSA Cert_LogoI am such a believer that I went back to school and earned another nutrition certification so I can help others achieve the health and balance I have finally found.  I am now an ISSA Fitness Nutrition Specialist and have been helping clients learn this simple and maintainable lifestyle.

My client, Gracie, was able to achieve the results you see below in just 9 weeks and I have to tell you they were 10 weeks when she was traveling for work, working CRAZY hours, and experiencing a truckload of personal stress.

FitQuest Before and After IIFYM

In her own words:

“I have started another part of my path in life.  Instead of just trying to ‘lose weight’ my focus is on being the healthiest person I know my body wants to be.  I am working with such a great, positive, supportive, loving woman!  @fitquestmom has put me through a nutrition program.  I am coming up on 10 weeks now and this is my progress so far.  I am very thrilled by my results due to the fact that I am doing it healthy this time.  Counting macros is everything!  And patience is another.  You must have this…health is not a race but a lifestyle…Diet is almost what got me to this point…my workouts have now picked up again finally (due to an old injury acting up from time to time).  I am so happy that I have made it this far, but I know I still want to achieve excellence in myself.

Before I started the program I told Gretchen why I wanted to do this, ‘I want to wake-up every morning and look in the mirror and be happy in my own skin.’  I can finally say that is where I am right now and I am overjoyed!  I feel comfortable with myself again.  I can’t wait to see where the next 12 weeks takes me.  So thank you for standing strong beside me @fitquestmom, I really couldn;t have done it without you.  XO.”

I truly love helping people learn how to eat and how to create a lifestyle that is healthy and easy to maintain.  I want my clients to learn how to eat in a way where they can go out to eat, live their lives, and not be stuck with a Tupperware kind of life.  Through macro counting my clients are able to lean out while eating as many calories as possible.  The popular diets out there ruin our metabolisms through constant restriction, super low calories, and FEAR of carbs.  I love bringing people back into the world of eating carbs while simultaneously leaning out.

One thing I stress is that if you are looking to lose 10 pounds in the next 2 weeks, my programs and approach to IIFYM is not for you.  As I mentioned before, I like my clients to achieve results while eating as many calories as possible, so it oftentimes can take a few weeks for us to find the sweet spot where my client is eating a satisfying amount while simultaneously leaning out.  My programs are not cookie cutter and are tailored to the individual.

Does IIFYM only work for those who are fitness minded?  No, of course not.  Achieving the lean and toned look is done most efficiently while following IIFYM along with lifting weights, but it doesn’t have the happen that way.  I calculate your macros based on your activity levels, how much you have been eating, and a multitude of other factors.  IIFYM is for anyone and everyone.

The IIFYM lifestyle does require you to track your food (I use MyFitnessPal) and if that doesn’t appeal to you, then IIFYM is not for you.  I also weigh my food when I am at home, but quite honestly once you have been doing that for a few months you get REALLY good at guesstimating the amount you are eating which makes it really easy for me to keep track of my food when eating out.  Once you get through that initial learning curve you are home free.

If any of you are interested in working with me, check out my FitQuest Nutrition Coaching page.

If you are interested in trying to calculate macros on your own, here is a general IIFYM calculator.  When you work with a coach, they take much more into account when planning your specific macros, but this is a good place to start.

In my next post I will go into detail with regards to how MyFitnessPal works and how you can use it to track your macros.

P.S. If you are interested in seeing what I eat on a daily basis, feel free to send me a “friend request” on MyFitnessPal.  My username is gretchentseng. 



Filed under IIFYM and Macros, Nutrition