Step-1: Track everything.
Kidding! Sort of.
Cause the utopia of achieving and maintaining a healthy, lean, and athletic body composition is to eat “intuitively” without tracking.
And it CAN be done.
In fact, there are entire eating “systems” dedicated to helping people eat instinctively.
Take @drjohnberardi. As the co-founder of Precision Nutrition (PN), John Berardi knows a thing (or three) about how to eat for health and good body composition.
While “diets” come and go, the PN “system of eating” has stood the test of time. It’s helped thousands (millions?) of people improve their relationship with food and achieve their health and body composition goals.
The PN system is also rooted in science & practicality and is aligned with my own philosophy on long-term, healthy eating.
A few years back, John made a FB post to answer the question of whether or not he tracks his macros.
His answer was perfect then, and nothing has changed how well it mirrors my worldview today.
In essence, it came down to this:
A. Try to eat enough protein (~200g per day).
B. Fill in meals with other healthy stuff (and some treats) until satisfied.
C. Calories stay in check if I mostly eat minimally processed foods and balance carbs/fats.
D. Unwanted weight gain—eat less than “normal”.
E. Unwanted weight loss—eat more than “normal”.
Now if that looks 1) WAY too simple and 2) somewhat hard to do—you’re right.
The simple stuff IS simple, but rarely easy.
And the nuance and wording matter.
Words like TRY, HEALTHY, SATISFIED, SOME and MOSTLY need framing and interpretation.
That’s where the tracking comes in.
Tracking your food—at least for a while—can help you understand what ultimately matters. Especially caloric density, portion sizes and meal composition.
Most importantly, extended tracking is how you build the “intuition” you need to eat instinctively.
Throw in some consistency, discipline and a little patience, and the tracking can fall away.
But not forever. Things change, and every system needs recalibrating at times.
So I return to tracking when a client wants to “take their body somewhere.” Cause that’s when it really shines.