Beyond Tracking Macros: How to Develop Skills for Life

Tracking Macros

Tracking tools & Learning skills for life. 

In the Macros Inc Facebook group, we see posts now and then related to the end goal: breaking free from weighing & tracking macros and using the new skills we learned to proceed without the need for these tools.  Is it possible to be successful without tracking?  Yes, but to be truly successful we need to build some skills and competencies.  And a great way to visualize how that happens is to look at a model introduced by psychologist Noel Burch back in the 70’. This model represents an interesting way to show the stages people go through when we learn.

“The Four Stages of Competence” (1) also referred to as the “Hierarchy of Competence”

  • Stage 1 – Unconscious & Incompetent
  • Stage 2 – Conscious & (still) Incompetent
  • Stage 3 – Conscious & Competent
  • Stage 4 – Unconscious & Competent 
Image c/o PHX Publishing

Unconscious & Incompetent: 

In Stage 1 with our fitness journey, we do not have goals.  We may be at any stage of fitness, but we probably did not get there intentionally.  We may be in great shape thanks to having a physically demanding job, or a generally active lifestyle.  Or, we may be completely out of shape and not even consider it to be an issue.  In either case, it is just not a priority.  If it was, we do not even know where to start.

Conscious & (still) Incompetent: 

In stage 2, we have developed a goal.  We want to: lose fat, gain muscle or strength, carve out some abs, or put an end to some changes that we do not want.  Maybe we started gaining weight, or maybe we have been gaining for a while and we have decided enough is enough. 

At this point, we start trying things.  The problem at this point is that we do not know what actually works.  We try all of the fads, we fall for all of the gimmicks and marketing that promises results.  Some of it works, some of it does not, and we can not sort it out because we do not know why they work or not.

Conscious & Competent: 

Tracking macros is one tool that gets us out of stage 2 and through stage 3.  This is where we build the skills to understand what really works.  We begin to understand why things are working.  We start to see the balance in nutrition and how it affects our body.  We do this by learning the energy content of our food, learning how to evaluate it for ourselves and getting a solid understanding of how much energy comes with a certain amount of food.  We start to see just how to fuel the goals we established.  This, like any new skill, takes practice and some repetition.

Unconscious & Competent: 

Stage 4 is the goal.  Not just for nutrition and lifestyle, but for anything we learn.  We do what we do, we use the skills we have mastered and we are good at it, hopefully enough that we can flip on autopilot and let our instincts take over.  We no longer have to scrutinize everything we come across, tracking macros is no longer our “religion”, although we may look twice at something we have never seen before.  Much like a career mechanic picking up a bolt and knowing exactly what size it is, we have a pretty good idea of what serving sizes look like and how they relate to what our body needs.

The only real secret here is making sure you are ready to take that step.  Because if we try to take that step too soon, then we may find ourselves believing that it was just another fad that we tried, but thankfully you can revisit stage 3 and dial your skills in a little more.

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