Why Macro Tracking Isn’t Working For Your Weight Loss Goals

by | Mar 15, 2024

The top seven reasons why macro tracking isn’t working for you. 

I am not against macro tracking. I have personally used it on and off since 2009. I have taught 1000s of women how to do macro tracking. I do think for long term sustainable weight loss, macro tracking isn’t something that you’re going to do forever. You’re just not going to do it for the next 20, 30, 40 years. You’re not probably going to want to be whipping out your phone or bringing a food scale on your vacation. If you do that now, I am not poo pooing it. You do you boo. 

For everybody else who wants to lose weight, keep it off, and not obsess over calories, carbs, and food in general while also improving your relationship with food, your self trust with food, your life, your body composition, all of that then this is for you. I just don’t think everybody wants to weigh and measure every morsel of food they put in their mouth. I could be wrong, but I think I am right.

I also want to preface this by saying what I teach in Self Made is flexible eating. That is not the opposite of macro tracking. In fact, they can be used together. Flexible eating can also work without macros. 

If you find yourself thinking, I need to track macros, I need to know the macros, I need to know the calories, I have to track everything in order to stay on target or in line, you are not alone. I get a lot of clients who come into Self Made because they do want to lose weight, they do want to keep it off, they want that maintenance piece. That’s usually what eludes most of us. Somewhere along the line, they have that thought like, well, I need to track. I need to know. Which is fine. However, what I have found is that when it comes to macro tracking, we’re not always really doing it. 

It’s kind of like in weight loss, when we find ourselves thinking and saying I am doing all the things, I am doing everything right. Yet, we’re missing the mark. I’ve missed a lot of marks. I’m hoping that this is something that gives you a lot of clarity, because if you do want to track macros, and you do want that data, then you’re going to want to maximize the macro tracking. 

Why spend any time, energy, money, doing sort of half assed stuff? Put all your eggs in the macro tracking basket at least for two weeks, a month, three months, and see what you get. See if having consistent data is helpful to you. I also want to add a little side note here. I am not going to go deep into any studies or science. Macros are math. Girls can do math. It’s not complicated math, you can do the math on your own iPhone or calculator. The type of math that you’d want to do, you can do it, it’s not hard. 

There are a ton of free macro tracking apps you can get right now. Back in about 2009 when I started working with macros and I had a coach, I think the only macro tracking app I remember on my desktop was fitday.com. I have not tried to log back in to see if all my stuff’s there. I can tell you what I learned about macro tracking is that it gets easier the more you do it, but also the more consistent overall the more automated your meals tend to be. I never tried to make my macro tracking wildly different. I didn’t try to make everything under the sun fit into my macros. I wanted to hit my macros. I knew over time what foods were going to make that easier and I thought it was a great tool for that. 

Maybe brush off and dust off your old macro trackers, fitday.com, I’m not sure really exist. You might use My Fitness Pal, you might use chronometer, I think there’s one called lose it, I’m fine with them all. They’re all equally good. It’s just finding the one that you like the most, that’s easiest for you to use, and you will be consistent with.

I did a post on my Facebook profile, my personal profile, that kind of outlines everything I’m going to talk about. If you’re somebody who’s very visual, and you want to go to that Facebook post from probably two or three weeks ago, you’ll find it on my profile. It will say the top seven reasons why macro tracking isn’t working for you. Then you can read all of the points and save yourself 30 some odd minutes. 

1) You are using macros that are random, hard to hit, not enough calories, or are created by someone that is just guessing. 

I’ve seen many women be given macros that just do not work long term and can create more hormonal instability. An example of hormonal instability would be when I try to not have enough calories, in general, just being way too restrictive. Maybe I have my fat grams set ultra low, or my carb grams set ultra low or not enough protein. 

Those macro tracking apps often will spit out macros for you. This is not a problem. But it’s not necessarily true that these are the golden macros, these are your magical macros, these are the macros that will work. Something to realize, whatever macros you start with, the only way to know if they work is to actually use them and be consistent. Then you can tweak it. Sometimes you will get macros that are too hard to hit, especially if someone’s saying, based on your height and weight and goals, you should be consuming 170, 180, 190 grams of protein. That might be a lot if you’re not used to doing that. 

Know that whatever macros you start at, doesn’t mean that they cannot be changed, or that they are the right ones. If you can’t hit them, then this won’t work. There’s more than one set of macros. There’s many multiple combinations of macros. Frankly, you could give the same macro setup to 20, 30, 1000 different women and they would still be successful because they’re going to probably pick different foods at different times in different amounts to fill those macros. 

If you’re getting macros, and you’re having trouble hitting them, you may need to change them or tweak them. I wouldn’t change everything, I would change one part of that. Maybe you need to increase the calories, maybe you need to decrease it. We’re talking about making a minor change. Plus or minus 100 calories. 

2) You are not aiming for grams. 

Instead you’re trying to do percentages. This happens a lot because I think this is what My Fitness Pal throws out to you. They show you a little pie chart where you’re supposed to for example have 40% protein, 40% carbs, 20% fat. In fact, that’s kind of generic. You see that a lot where people are trying to tell me that they are trying to get 40% protein, I’m like 40% of what? If you do the math 40% of 1200 calories is vastly different than 40% of 2500 calories. You could be eating 1200 calories or 2500 calories or somewhere in between. You’re not really aiming for a number. That’s not really helpful. There’s no way to plan for that. 

How macros work best is if you actually have a gram number, like how many grams of protein per day are you trying to hit? How many grams of carbohydrates per day are you trying to hit? How many grams of fat per day are you trying to hit? When you add up those numbers in the three macronutrients, calorie wise will be your total calories for the day. That is what I would go for. Whether that turns out to be you are getting 40% of your total calories from protein or not doesn’t really matter, but it’s the grams that you want to go for. 

In my Facebook post I did the math. 40% of 1200 calories is 480 calories, versus 40% of 2500 calories is 1000 calories. It’s a very large difference in how much protein you’d actually have to consume. The difference of 120 grams to 250 grams, it would just be a lot. It is about math, weight loss in general is a lot about math. It’s creating a deficit, and a deficit over time, not too big of a deficit. Enough of a deficit for your body to tap into body fat. 

3) You’re not weighing and measuring everything. 

The best way to be most accurate is to actually use a food scale.It is different than using a measuring cup, or the tablespoon of almond butter. Use a food scale. The macro data can be really helpful, but obviously not if it’s not going to be accurate. I would really use your macros and commit to a certain time. Really commit to the measuring and recording down the road. 30 days, 60 days, 6 months later, if you want to continue with macro tracking, and you want to be a little looser with it you can eyeball your food. 

I talk to a lot of women who haven’t really measured food. They assume that they’re eating enough protein, for example. When they go to actually weigh out the protein they realize, yeah, I was eating like two or three ounces of protein. I was not getting nearly enough. I wasn’t even hitting 25 grams of protein per meal. Macro tracking can be really eye opening and really helpful. You just have to be willing to do the measuring. 

When weighing and measuring should I do my proteins cooked or uncooked? To be honest, I always weigh my proteins cooked. If I’m draining them. If I have to let it rest, then I have a truer weight of what I’m actually eating. 

4) If you log all week long and skip over the weekends. 

Weekends are about 1/3 of your total intake and therefore 1/3 of your results. If you’re not at the weight you want it’s likely because of your weekend. This might be true whether you’re macro tracking or not. I think this is where a lot of us restrict, restrict, I can be good. I’ve structured my routine all week long. Then the weekends are, I deserve a break. I deserve a treat. I was good all week. I can’t say no, there’s so many temptations and we just are living in this weekday to weekend sort of cycle that we can’t break. 

Here’s something to think about. Log your weekends, no matter what it is, without judging, without fibbing. Just be honest. Maybe you will learn something about yourself. When I teach flexible eating, one of the things that is really helpful is that when we sort of break through, we don’t have this idea of I’m being good, or I’m being bad, or I need a cheat day, or I earned a treat. We can plan for any kind of food, anytime we want. I don’t have to wait until Saturday night to drink wine. Unless that’s the day I’m planning to have it. Same thing with the pizza or the chips or the things that you actually like to eat. We make it so that those are bad foods. I’m bad or I’m cheating and we just create this really vicious cycle. 

I remember when I had a very large program and hundreds of women would track their macros. At the time they had to print out their food journal. Imagine how awful, how much printer ink and paper must have been used. So they printed out their week’s worth of food and brought it to weigh in at the gym. I’m sorry for anybody who’s listening in and you were part of this, I’m sorry, I public apology, I would never do that again. Obviously the accountability factor was pretty high.

What was so interesting is how many people did not have complete weeks. How many people had missing days. How many people could go three or four days on track, and then fall back off. How many people wanted to or did omit the weekend. I get it, I do. This is not me judging you for wanting to do that or doing it. I would just say for fun, for the data, for the project, let’s just track it all. Let’s just see. Let’s just do that and see what happens. 

Sometimes, even if you’re not going to do a macro tracking app and you’re just going to keep a food journal, if you know that you’ve committed to writing down everything that you consume, it gives you a pause to be like, Okay, I’m going to have to write this down. 

  • Do I want to write this down? 
  • What am I going to be writing down? 
  • Am I really hungry? 
  • Do I really want this? 

If the answer is still, yes, that’s okay. It takes time to stop judging ourselves around our food choices. 

5) Your food selection is low quality. 

This is kind of the thing when someone has macros, and you might have heard this before the If It Fits Your Macros. You can eat anything, as long as it fits your macros. That is something that the judgy part of me has always been like, I don’t know. I don’t think you should try to make every bit of candy and chips and crap just fit into your macros and say, Okay, I did it. I stuck to my macros. I mean, technically, you can. You can make a lot of things fit your macros. But if you’re not finding the weight loss success that you want, if you’re not losing the weight you want, if you’re not keeping the weight off, I would go back and look. 

  • Is there some leveling up I can do with my food choices? 
  • Can I pick higher quality proteins? 
  • Am I just relying on protein shakes and protein bars and beef jerky all day long? 
  • Can I get some eggs in there? 
  • Can I get some salmon in there? 
  • Can I get some better choices? 
  • Can I up my vegetable content? 
  • Can I get more fiber overall? 
  • Can I pick something else instead of crackers? 
  • Can I pick whole wheat bread? 

Where can you make those leveling up decisions for yourself? 

It doesn’t mean you can’t have the foods that you like but food quality does count for overall fat loss. It lowers inflammation in your body. It helps you sleep better and have more energy. Better food quality is going to make you feel better overall. 

While math is still math, macros are still macros. That might be where you’re stuck. Maybe it’s just low quality foods like Lean Cuisines or a lot of processed foods. You might also want to check in with yourself or the protein shakes that you’re having or foods that you’re sort of serving up to yourself on repeat. How is your digestion? Are you gassy? Bloated? Is there something happening because that can happen too? You can eat really high quality, you can eat the best type of proteins, and after a while something’s going haywire. Your body has somehow decided that it needs to change. Listen to your body. Double check your food quality.

6) You have no actual macro goals.

This is a really common one. You are tracking your macros. You’re using a macro tracker, but you have no actual macro goals. You don’t have any macro numbers you’re trying to hit. You’re just tracking because your mind or brain has told you that you should track, which is fine. I am not the macro tracking police. I’m not going to report you. I’m not going to take away your macro tracker. I’m not going to tell you you’re doing it wrong. However, what are you doing? 

What are you doing? Just seeing how it all adds up? Which is fine too. Maybe you are taking a couple of weeks to see hmm without making any changes without adding subtracting. Doing any type of program protocol standards. Nothing. How am I eating? Without judging it, without policing it. I’m just going to type in everything I eat. Fair enough. You could do that, but then what? 

I get a lot of clients like this, who are just using the macro tracking app, but we’re not trying to hit any specific target. To me, that is like getting in the car and saying, I’d really like to go to California. I’d really like to lose weight. I kind of have a goal. I’m going to, obviously, get in a vehicle because that’s how I’m going to get there. Could be a car, could be a train, could be a bus, could be a plane. But if I get in the car and I don’t use GPS or have a map, if I just drive in a direction. Will I eventually get to California? Maybe, it depends on what direction you drive. If you drive north and you live in Massachusetts, I think you’re probably going to go to Canada not California. 

You do want at some point to figure out, why am I macro tracking? Why am I tracking this? What is the goal? Would I be better off actually setting some gram amounts to hit so I have targets, so I have a path, I have things to follow, so that I get closer to my goal? The macros you start with might not be the macros you end with. They might not be the magical macros. You’re probably not going to get better macros from going to Sir Macro-a-Lot. I just made that up. I don’t think there’s anybody who is actually named Sir Macro-a-Lot. But you kind of get what I mean. Sometimes people think I need Joe Blow because he’s gonna give me better macros. I’m gonna tell you, in my experience, the women I work with, and they have Sir Macro-a-Lot, or Joe Blow is like a 25 year old who doesn’t really know 40 year old women or 50 year old women. So don’t think that someone else knows better than you what you need for food. 

Macro tracking could be helpful when you start to notice trends. You notice when you’re hungrier if exercise makes you hungrier, if lack of sleep makes you hungrier, if certain days you’re hungrier. Ultimately, I think you need to follow actual macros, not just track anything that you’re eating, but actually have a target. Then you can change those things. You can change the gram amount, you could change how fast or how slow you want to lose weight by increasing or decreasing the total calorie count. 

7) Not every food entry in the app is accurate. 

I’m not saying they’re wrong. But if you go into My Fitness Pal and you type in chicken, or you type in eggs, you’re gonna come up with lots of different selections. It could be egg whites. It could be large eggs, extra large eggs. It could be duck eggs. It could be eggs, scrambled, fried, poached, hard boiled, XYZ. In many cases, a lot of these macro tracking apps were sort of crowd sourced, like Wikipedia. Kind of like somebody made an entry and said, Okay, three scrambled eggs is this many calories? But is it? Were they cooked in butter? Were they cooked in oil? Or was it that spray with zero calories? Is it small eggs, medium eggs, large eggs, extra large eggs? 

There’s some discrepancy. So you do have to double check what you’re actually selecting and clicking on because you could get vastly different numbers. I’ve seen so many different food journals. The ones that were printed out for me. There were times where I had access to people’s actual accounts, I would go into their macro tracking account, and I could see what they were doing. They did not catch that they had inputted something that was slightly incorrect. Then it threw the whole day off. It made them think that they had over consumed or under consumed or didn’t hit their macros altogether. There is a learning curve where you have to go into these macro tracking apps and make sure what you’re selecting is what you’re actually eating. Then it gets easier because then you typically find if you always have your eggs a certain way, you’re always going to pick that selection on the eggs or the salmon or the steak or whatever it is that you’re eating. Not saying the macro app is wrong, it’s just that there are a lot of different entries to choose from.

If you really think about it, calorie counting in general is sort of fascinating. For example, you could have two bananas. One being more ripe is probably going to have a higher carbohydrate count than the one that is green. Because as the food ripens, it becomes sweeter and has more carbohydrates. I mean, that’s nitpicky, but that’s why there is a degree of error in calorie counting and macro tracking in general.

This was not about turning you off of macro tracking. If you are going to use a macro tracking app, if you are going to commit to macro tracking, if you’re interested in it, then I would say fully commit to it. I don’t think a week of macro tracking is going to give you enough information. It’s going to be three or four days of really digging into the app and figuring it out. That only leaves another three days for you to have any meaningful data. For the most part, I think probably two weeks is a minimum, 30 days as a good goal. I do believe if you hit 30 days of consistent macro tracking, you probably would go to that 2 or 3 month mark. Then you can decide what you want to do with it. 

I will say, as a former macro tracker, it’s great data. I think data is going to be much more helpful than your emotions, than your feelings, and I feel like this isn’t working. I feel like I need more information. I feel like I should do something different. I feel like carbs make me fat, all of that stuff. This is going to be true data. You do probably need someone to help you decipher some of your data.

You have the information. The next step is figuring out what you’re going to do with it and what next needs to happen. Do you need to increase calories, decrease calories, stay on those calories? Is it now about adding more activity? What comes next? Just know that macro tracking can be one place to either start or stop or figure out where it factors into your overall weight loss journey. 

I do not personally track macros anymore. I do have clients who will track macros. Of the clients I have who track how many of them are actually doing it all the way? Probably not as many as I would like. I think committing to macro tracking is great. Just be all in on it. Just do it. Then you get to decide whether you want to keep doing it or not. It might be enough information so that you know, hey, I needed to increase my protein. I needed to eat more on days that I strength trained. I tended to overeat on weekends. I have that data to show me that is true. 

Overeating on weekends isn’t a huge deal, unless it’s wild. Where it’s, I eat 1000 calories every day during the week and 5000 calories a day on Saturday and 6000 on Sunday. That’s when it becomes a problem. But you might not really be aware, unless you’re using a macro tracker.

I would also add this. Put everything in there. Especially if you’re drinking alcohol, add that in there. If you’re going to drink alcohol, measure your alcohol. One glass of wine. Was it a four ounce pour, six ounce pour, nine ounce pour, 17 ounce pour? I think that is going to be really helpful to you. 

I want you to know that if you come into Self Made and you want to track macros, that is okay. I’m an expert on macro tracking. If you want to come into Self Made and never track another f*cking macro again, that is okay too. Because I don’t either and Self Made is all about helping you lose weight, keep it off, and do it in a way that does not necessarily require following a specific diet, following a macro tracker, unless you want to. I am working with you where you’re at and where your comfort level is. We do a lot of food planning and then that therefore becomes your data, so you do have something that’s actually written. 


Bonnie Lefrak is a Life & Body Transformation Expert and Founder of Self Made, a program designed to help you tackle the physical aspects of health and weight loss as well as the beliefs and thoughts that drive our habits and behaviors. It is her goal to help women create certainty in their own lives, their own results, and their own abilities.

Weight loss is not about the one “right” diet – it is about MUCH more than that. Weight loss is not about the one “right” workout. Weight loss is not about being positive and putting a big smile on.

Weight loss is about FEELINGS. All of them. Not trying to bury them or hide from them but knowing and allowing the full human experience. Weight loss is not about grinding hustling and will powering your way to some end line. Transformation (when done well) is done from the inside out.

By addressing both the physical and mental aspects of dieting and weight loss, she has coached thousands of women ages 30-55+ from all over and helped them ditch the mindsets that are holding them back, achieve permanent weight loss, and get the bangin’ body of their dreams.

Bonnie is an expert at Demystifying weight loss. She helps you u****k your diet brain. She is on a mission to help women love themselves, to find PEACE in the process of losing weight, taking care of themselves, and leveraging the power they do have to become who and want they want right now.

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