Carrie Underwood counts calories and tracks macros: ‘I love rules’

Carrie Underwood is promoting her new fitness and diet book, Find Your Path: Honor Your Body, Fuel Your Soul, and Get Strong with the Fit52 Life. It came out yesterday and is currently number one on Amazon for Exercise and Fitness. That makes sense, Carrie is very fit but I suspect a lot of that is diet and sheer willpower. She’s covering the new issue of Women’s Health. They toned down her makeup and she looks so much different. Carrie told them about her diet, which is vegetarian and involves calorie counting and a specific ratio of carbs and protein, and about her fitness routine. She runs five miles outside or on a treadmill and does weight bearing circuits, with a focus on her legs. Her new book includes a workout plan in conjunction with her trainer, and she considers exercise her stress relief. It doesn’t sound like she does anything like yoga or meditation. Here’s some of that interview.

She lost weight after winning Idol
She started reading labels, counting calories, and logging time on the elliptical. At first, she felt good. “I was sleeping better, and I had more energy for our grueling schedule,” she says. So she decided to take it further. If this is working, she reasoned, wouldn’t it be better to exercise even more and eat a little less? Some days, she consumed as few as 800 calories.

Her periods of restriction were almost always followed by overindulging. “I would ‘fall off the wagon,’ then feel terrible and repeat the cycle.” Her newfound energy levels were also starting to dip. “Your body is screaming out, I need more calories, I need more carbs!” she says. When I ask if she feels she was suffering from disordered eating, Carrie pauses, then says thoughtfully, “I really would not call it that.” Instead, she feels she just lacked the knowledge to create parameters that worked for her.

So what does Carrie’s current version of healthy look like? It’s structured, but in a way that allows her to enjoy the occasional slice of cake. “I love rules,” says Carrie. “This is how I feel good about myself, and this is how I operate.” On that note, she tracks calories and macros (the amount of protein, carbs, and fat she consumes daily) on the app MyFitnessPal. Her happy place: 45 percent carbs, 30 percent fat, and 25 percent protein.

Working out is her relaxation
“If I can work out seven days a week—which doesn’t happen, but if I can—I’m going to,” she says. “Because the next week, I might get two days.”

On if she does anything else to maintain balance
“That’s a part of my personality I need to be better with. I’d love to sit in a bubble bath, but that’s not going to happen. My self-care is my gym time, and that’s a stress reliever for me.”

[From Women's Health]

I’m somewhat like this with my diet, although I don’t pay enough attention to macros. I also track my calories using MyFitnessPal and a food scale and I’ll reign it in when I overindulge. Weight loss is math and I see it like budgeting. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me and is how I lost weight and have kept it off for years. I like knowing the numbers and I also like to have parameters. I agree that when you know the rules you can follow them. I’ve never gone down to 800 calories a day though and good for her for recognizing how unhealthy that was. After hearing her scoff at taking a bath though, I wonder if she needs to focus on relaxation more. You need downtime and self care after kicking your own butt at the gym.

Her son’s birthday cake is so cool!

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38 Responses to “Carrie Underwood counts calories and tracks macros: ‘I love rules’”

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  1. manda says:

    That cover photo is not flattering to her at all. She is very good looking, but here she looks sallow or something.

    I don’t really understand how to count the macro thing and I don’t have patience to do the math on calories. That’s basically weight watchers and I just can’t be bothered to figure it out for stuff that isn’t prepackaged, which a lot of what I eat is from the deli or fresh and I don’t have a scale, etc…. I just try not to eat a ton of sugar or carbs, which carbs are just sugar, and the carbs and sugar I do eat I try to get from fruit and real things. I love sugar and carbs, and so that sucks, because when I was younger I would totally eat candy as a meal. I miss it. Now, I eat a lot of rotisserie chicken (ha, like the eating disorder girl from Girl, Interrupted) and salads and fruit. I was in my teens and early 20′s in the 90s, and back then, we were taught that sugar was fine, stay away from fat. (remember all the bagel places in the 90s?) It’s hard to break from that because that was heaven

    • Noodle says:

      @Manda, her color is way off on that cover. Not sure if it’s the lighting or a correction in editing, but it’s really wrong, which is unfortunate.

    • Amy Too says:

      I agree about the cover. Every other picture is so much better than the cover photo—why didn’t they pick one of the other ones? She looks so tired, her skin looks discolored like the orangey/yellow that you would usually correct with makeup, but it appears she’s actually wearing a lot of makeup and it’s getting caught in the lines around her eyes, so I’m not sure why her color is sallow.

  2. Flamingo says:

    I am too lazy to track macros, but I do have really good luck on weight watchers tracking points. I know that if I log all of my food and stay at or below my number, I’ll lose weight.

  3. emmy says:

    I wish I were like that. My stress relief is cake.

    Honestly, weight loss is a lot more than math for most people. Counting is not sustainable for many, I can’t do it because I go crazy with the daily focus on numbers. I go below 1000 calories every time because it doesn’t come off fast enough and I can feel that I won’t be able to maintain this for long enough. So I try to speed things up. And that ends in disordered eating every time.

    Intermittent fasting works well for me. On paper it might not be the superior method (certainly not the miracle method YouTube will have you believe) but it works better for my personality. I automatically eat less and healthier and just don’t think about food for 16 hours. Awesome.

    • hereforit says:

      Came to say this. Weight loss is not just math. So much of this, especially for women, has to do with hormone balance/imbalance. You can be eating the “right” amount of calories for a theoretical deficit, but not lose weight because your cortisol is through the roof, you are nursing and have high prolactin levels, your neurotransmitters are off, your vitamin levels are off … Sleep, stress, lifestyle, environment, gut health, etc. play such a huge roll in weight loss. It really can be much more complicated than just calories in v. calories out.

      Apps like MFP can be great if you are in a mentally and physically healthy, balanced place and your body is ready to lose weight or recomp. Otherwise they can just be another tool for self-abuse.

      • emmy says:

        I can’t do MFP. It’s my path down self-destruction and I stop eating fruit etc. just to lower my calories. Weight Watchers is better but again, the daily tracking is not good for me. I sleep really well doing IF which means I lower my stress levels and cortisol and don’t get as many cravings. I don’t do it all the time because that’s not realistic for me and I do lose weight doing it. I don’t want that to be my life either.

        Weight loss is really hard for a lot of people. It has led me to some dark places.

  4. Millennial says:

    I don’t think it’s great that “health” magazines are featuring celebrities who endorse macro counting, which is basically just calorie counting with a fancy twist. Anything that encourages readers to start the never-ending cycle of myfitnesspal-ing is just not great IMO. I say this as someone who has had an eating disorder, and will probably always have disordered eating of some kind. It’s a bad path to start down.

    • Meg says:

      Yes it’s easy to ‘live and die’ by counting and rules instead of intuitive eating. This can send a messy of a lack of trust in yourself your judgement and just listening to ur body

    • MMC says:

      But for some of us calorie counting works really well. Intuitive eating is just to vague for me and not sustainable at all.

      Different strokes for different folks. But there is so much pressure to see moderation and iinuitive eating as the only right way.

      • josephine says:

        Counting calories is the only thing that worked for me. I did it for 6 months, lost 30 pounds, have kept it off without continuing the counting.

        Counting helped me realize the relative caloric values of what went in my mouth, and if I wanted to stay full and feel energized throughout the day, helped me realize that there are easier and harder ways to do that. I also found it easier to count the calories in real food and food I made at home, which made my choices automatically better.

        I agree that it is not the right choice for everyone. For me, it was an education, that’s what I got out of it. The accountability appealed to me (I love lists, and it felt like that.) But there is no one solution.

      • Millenial says:

        Oh, I agree. Calorie counting is basically what keeps me from an all out eating disorder. And Intuitive eating for me was like, “have you ever considered not having an eating disorder?

        I’m just saying, articles like this is what can get people *started* down this path, and that’s dangerous IMO.

      • Erinn says:

        I mean, it can both work really well and also cause/encourage an eating disorder.

        Counting macros shouldn’t be a permanent thing. It should be used more or less temporarily to sort out a deficiency in your diet, or to take a deeper look at what you’re eating and what it’s doing to your body. And unless you’re weighing every ounce of food and tracking every drop of oil you use while cooking, it probably isn’t even accurate. Even when you’re militant about doing it – there’s still a pretty high chance that it’s not accurate because the databases with the nutrient info probably are not accurate. Nutrient content varies by season, growing conditions, processing, etc.

        Tracking can be addicting. It isn’t all that different from calorie counting when it comes to the downfalls. And it definitely increases the risk of relapse when you’ve had an eating disorder. Then you have programs like weight watchers where people often end up ‘saving’ their points up to eat something ‘bad’ later which is in NO way a health way to live. At the end of the day, you’re going to lose weight if you have less calories going in than going out. But that does not at all guarantee a healthy diet. There are a LOT of people who have disordered eating but use a trend diet as a way to cover it up or to convince themselves it’s ‘okay’.

        The number one thing I wish people would stop doing in regards to health / weight loss is talking about how wonderful their diet is, and how much it’s helped them WHILE promoting it for other people to do. A lot of people tell their friends to try it, and will recommend it to coworkers, and I think that’s SO dangerous. Everyone is different, some things work for some people. But I really don’t think anyone should be recommending that kind of thing to someone else without training and credentials. There are just too many medical issues / medication issues out there, and the potential to do real damage to your body if you don’t know what you’re doing.

      • hereforit says:

        @Erinn.. Your point about it not even being accurate is so true. I see so many fitness/bikini competitors post screenshots of their macros for the day hitting 0-0-0 in MFP, and it’s like “ok great but that doesn’t even mean anything because it’s is probably off by as much as 10% or even more.” Calorie labels are allowed to be off by a certain amount. Then there is human/device error in measuring, trace amounts you didn’t consume of your meal, changes in food due to cooking or preparation, etc.

        It is the consistency that matters, not the exact numbers. It really irks me because most of these people are shilling their macro “coaching” like they have some special formula of macros that is going to make you magically shed fat, but it is just not the case. Assuming your body is in a healthy state that will accept weight loss, any form of deficit you can stick with will work. It is the sticking with it, not the macro ratio, that works.

  5. Stef says:

    I dont count micros but when I’m eating something that has a label like candy , coke or process food I do like to see how many calories contains. If its something small that has around 200 calories I prefer to wait for a meal at home lol so I actually eat something nutritious.

  6. Meg says:

    I’ve always gotten the feeling that Carrie is very hard on herself and this interview and how rules focused she is really emphasized that. I don’t want to be thinking of calorie counting etc all day. It’s easy to get obsessed. I also get a bad feeling when she says she can’t sit in a bath, I think she’s hard on herself and it sounds like she feels bad for resting which as a mother with a busy job how can she not need rest?

    • Amy Too says:

      I got a very icky feeling reading the quotes from her. Like she had a very disordered relationship with food, exercise, and eating, and that she very much thinks of herself as either being “good” or “bad” when it comes to eating and her weight and what she looks like. I remember how absolutely tortured she seemed to be about being “disfigured” after that accident when she fell on ice and whatever changes that caused to her face (I didn’t see any). She hid for months afterwards and prepped everyone for some kind of major change in her appearance, and then there was nothing. But she obviously thought there was. It’s almost like body dysmorphia but for her face.

      And this: “This is how I feel good about myself,” when she’s talking about following her dieting rules. I think a ton of her self worth is wrapped up in her appearance, and it’s very sad. This isn’t the type of mindset or advice that I want to see promoted in a fitness (or any) magazine. It seems truly disordered.

      • livealot says:

        Totally Agree AmyToo. Maybe because she started on American Idol and was noticeably heavier then, but her mentality isn’t healthy imo

  7. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    “I love rules.”

    Oh no no no. She sounds exactly like someone I know, and although she’s very fit, exercises every day and does her ‘macros,’ (what will it be next), it’s an obsession. For 365 days a year, she religiously works her exercise routine same bat time, same bat channel. Every day is a rinse and repeat. She obviously loves her rules.

    I have to fly. Sometimes I have to fly on the fly. And sometimes have to be comatose so when I’m upright, that’s my flight for the day. Certain activities need tweaking like upping my time on the elliptical, but I’m using it everyday. And I use it like I clean, in intermittent bursts lol. I’m an intermittent and fasting gal. I don’t call it fasting though, I’m simply not eating until I’m hungry. Or I’m delaying the practice because we’re going out, or celebrating, or doing something I know awesome food needs my attention lol. Rules and lists are dirty, filthy words.

    • josephine says:

      I love lists! I don’t create lists just to check things off, but I find that in my work life, lists really decrease my stress. If I write down an idea or something that I know I need to get done, I can keep my focus on the task at hand. But I can see how lists could create stress, too.

      • Mabs A'Mabbin says:

        My husband loves lists too lol! Maybe I should confess. Yes, I hate lists. But I do keep an ongoing digital ‘collage’ of sorts that illustrates needs, reminders, desires, wants, etc. It’s more of a focused personal Pinterest on a very basic note app. Pinterest is awesome too. I’m artistically inspired, then when it hits, I research lol. But I never have daily to-dos beyond my kid’s needs and texts or voice texts to myself. There’s ALWAYS room to maneuver, shift and about face.

  8. Emily says:

    I need to pay attention to macros, reign in empty calories (instead of restricting/counting) and lift weights to stay in shape. My weight is basically always the same with varying degrees of muscle. After having a baby my weight went back to its usually range fairly quickly as well but I am super soft all over.

  9. Roma says:

    If she’s going that hard at the gym, a bath with Epsom salt is a game changer! I work out 5-6 time’s a week and it helps with post workout soreness. She can take 20 min for a soak.

    I’ve been loosely counting calories for about 10 years. I understand how it can trigger disordered eating for some, but for me it gives me a lot of freedom. I eat everything I want, I just make adjustments with the balance of my day. Yesterday I ate a cupcake without a hint of guilt. Works for me, personally.

  10. Cosmo says:

    It;s about balance. Eat less move more.

  11. Case says:

    I can’t put my finger on why, but Carrie always seems very obsessive about her looks and hard on herself. Even when she was pregnant, it was like it was such an inconvenience that her baby got in the way of her looks or something. I don’t get the sense she’s mentally in the best place when it comes to body image.

    • livealot says:


    • Kristina says:

      That discipline and diligence is probably how she got/maintained being successful, though. I didn’t see the vibe of pregnancy as inconvenience to her, though. She very much wanted kids.

  12. Andrew’s Nemesis says:

    I’m sorry, but it sounds nightmarish. One can easily become obsessed with numbers – particularly when it comes to calorie counting and number of calories burned and minutes spent exercising and… when does one get to live? Part of training is taking rest days, allowing your body to heal and your muscles to strengthen. I’d rather do my hour and a bit of yoga and ballet-cardio a day and feel really good in my skin rather than worrying, worrying, worrying.

  13. Notsoanonymous says:

    New teeth. All I see is new teeth.

  14. Amanda Bennett says:

    The entire thing just makes me sad. Her entire existence seems to be tied to her appearance, disguised as her health.

  15. Abby says:

    So I started counting calories and macros on myfitnesspal in January along with a Camp Gladiator program. I have been working out hard since September, but weight loss (one of my goals) was slowww. I was resistant to tracking everything because I’d counted calories once before and it got old real fast, and it didn’t really work for me. But this time don’t feel deprived. I’m just more aware of mindless snacking and wine calories and the way going out to eat is so different then eating at home. I have found a series of meals that I can prep ahead, that taste yummy and are a lot of food, and also fit in with the macro goals. I basically input the same rotation of meals so the time to track things is minimal. And, I’ve lost a pound a week since January and am more than halfway to my goal weight now.

    I’ve never been a dieter. I always felt like I couldn’t do it, I didn’t have the willpower and I didn’t like being hungry. I was super resistant to trying to track calories and macros this year, but it wasn’t as hard as I thought and when I started to see results it was motivating to stick with. I will say that I’m planning to keep doing this until I lose a little more weight, then I may ease off on tracking all the time. I just want to get to that goal, if possible, and then work on maintaining.

    I say all of this, and I don’t think macro/calorie tracking could be a long-term lifestyle. I wonder how long Carrie’s been doing that? She seems like a disciplined type, but that would get old if it was ongoing.

    • Kristina says:

      I guess everyone is different. I have always been super active (hyper? Wild? Lol) as a kid, and started exercising as a teen (through sports, but in summer would do daily exercise), and I am still exercising for an hour/day, 6 days/week, plus strength training all these years later. I love it! I’ve always been thin but after my 3rd baby, it just didn’t fall or stay off anymore- I was up 15lb permanently. Counting calories is the only method that worked, after 2 years of resisting trying it. Now I keep it up. It’s not too much effort- I do it while I’m on the treadmill or bike to check in. Different people definitely like different methods, but this works for me

  16. Sarah says:

    This sounds a lot like an acquaintance of mine who spreadsheets every calorie, workout, her weight, measurements, body fat etc etc etc with gains and loses at the end of every week and posts it online for all to see. But woe be tide the person who suggests to her that this degree of orthorexia is not healthy.

  17. Ali says:

    I make lists for packing for trips or I go crazy worrying about what I did or didn’t remember.

    On cleaning days I like to make lists for the satisfaction of seeing it all crossed off.

    Writing things down is therapeutic to me. I still keep a big desk calendar that I write all of our appointments and activities on. I need to write and see it all at once.

  18. Marigold says:

    I like counting, but everyone is different. I couldn’t care less about macros. I just count calories in and out. It’s math.

    For me, the numbers give me a focus that ENDS obsession. When I don’t count, my brain will obsess over what I’ve eaten and the inner monologue gets very negative. When I am counting, whether I’ve overindulged or landed right on target, the numbers stop the obsessive thoughts. It’s right there. I can see quantifiable data. I find it calming and a great tool for making what I eat simply a record of food instead of a never-ending commentary on my character and worth.

    Counting might be an obsession and a negative thing for some, but for me, it’s mental freedom. Always account for differences of personality, situation, and temperament. Different things work for different people in different ways and for different reasons. Counting calories works, but it’s not the only thing that works. It works best for me, and I’m glad there are such easy, quick ways to manage calorie counting nowadays. It doesn’t require a notebook and endless journaling. I take 30 seconds to sync my fitness watch and scan a barcode on my snack or enter a meal I just ate. It’s a great time to be on the planet in that regard.

  19. Charfromdarock says:

    I don’t want to health shame her or assume anything but as someone who has struggled with an eating disorder since childhood, I see many of the same thought patterns in those quotes.

    I hope she can reach a point where she feels at peace with herself.

    I imagine counting calories and dieting is similar to alcohol. Some people can drink without an issue and some people develop alcoholism.

  20. Lucy2 says:

    Does she even do music anymore? All I ever see of her is dieting, workouts, and fitness gear.