How Should I Use MacroFactor When I'm Sick?

Short answer: it largely depends on how you WANT to use it when you're sick

Getting sick can affect your activity levels and ability or desire to eat (and to keep foods down). So, should you keep logging your food and weight, or will that negatively impact the recommendations MacroFactor provides once you’ve recovered? And, should you keep eating in a manner consistent with the goal you’ve set in MacroFactor?

To address the second question first: If your doctor provides you with dietary advice, follow your doctor’s advice.

Otherwise, it’s typically advisable to consume plenty of calories when you’re dealing with an infectious disease. Your immune system burns a lot of energy when it’s fighting off a bug, and being in an energy deficit is a stressor that generally has immunosuppressant effects. So, if you have a goal of losing weight, it may not be a bad idea to put your goal on hold, and try to consume at least maintenance calories when you’re sick. You can either change your goal from weight loss to maintenance, or just treat your expenditure as your calorie target without changing your goal. Beyond trying to consume enough energy overall, a generally healthy, micronutrient-rich diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein may help the body deal with infections a bit better.

So, should you continue logging in the first place?

The first and most critical question is: Do you want to keep logging your food and weight when you’re sick?

If not, don’t.

You have plenty of time to worry about your weight- and nutrition-related goals. Just focus on getting through the illness and feeling better, and pick back up goal-related habits (like food logging) when you feel up to it. While you’re not logging your food and/or weight, your expenditure calculation will enter a holding phase, which will let you hit the ground running once you’re ready to start logging again. The holding phase ensures that you return to logging with dietary targets that were well-calibrated to your lifestyle and activity levels before you got sick, so these dietary targets are likely to still be appropriate for your goals once you’ve recovered and resumed your normal lifestyle and activity levels. Once you log your food and weight consistently for a week after your return to logging, your calculated expenditure will start updating again. 

If you do want to keep logging, go for it!

I personally find it fun to observe how my body responds to an illness. You might prefer logging, even when you’re sick, because it preserves one of your daily habits and routines, and gives you a sense of normalcy when getting sick throws the rest of your life off-kilter.

Once you’re feeling better, you can decide on the best course of action moving forward.

If your estimated expenditure significantly changed (because you couldn’t keep food down, you lost a ton of water weight, you gained a ton of water weight, or your activity levels dramatically changed when you were sick), you could just roll with it. For what it’s worth, that’s what I tend to do; I don’t like overthinking my dietary targets, and I don’t mind too much if my intake targets are a bit higher or lower for a couple of weeks until things level out again. Alternatively, you could clear your food logs during the days you were sick, so that your estimated expenditure will return to the level it was before your illness. Doing this will cause your expenditure to enter the holding pattern described above, and provide you a bit of stability as you return to your normal lifestyle.

I wouldn’t recommend over-thinking what to do if you vomit while you’re sick. Either leave your most recent meal logged, or delete it from your food log. Whichever option you prefer is fine. There’s not a great way to accurately estimate how much energy you absorbed before vomiting. When you’re vomiting, you have much more important things to worry about than debating whether you retained 20% or 50% or 70% of the calories from the most recent meal you consumed. As discussed above, you can determine your course of action moving forward once you’re feeling better.

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