Chances are that if you are reading this you are probably at least a little interested in fitness and if you are interested in fitness you have probably at least heard of flexible dieting or seen #IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) and wondered what the heck people were talking about. You were probably quick to write of flexible dieting as simply the latest fad diet but flexible dieting is not really a new concept.
Flexible dieting owes its origins to body building. A few competitive body builders got tired of eating the same bland “clean” foods: chicken breast, broccoli, egg whites, etc. But by tracking and sticking to set calorie and macronutrient goals (more on this later), these body builders were able to eat foods that were typically off-limits (think anything “bad” or “dirty” foods or pretty much all the stuff you want to eat!) and still achieve their shredded physique. In other words, these body builders had figured out a way to eat cookies, candy, pasta, and fried foods while staying lean and ripped using the principles of flexible dieting.
“Clean” Foods Are Not Magic
One of the main concepts behind flexible dieting is that so called “clean” foods or healthy foods are not the magic bullet to weight-loss. Yes, eating “clean” can certainly help you lose fat and weight but sometimes this is sort of by accident….I’ll explain. You see, it all comes down to calories. Yup, calories. We’ve heard it before: calories in have to equal less than calories out in order to lose weight. When people start eating “clean” by removing sugary foods, soda, fried foods etc. they naturally reduce their calorie intake whether they realize it or not. It’s extremely hard not to reduce your calorie intake when you start trying to live on salads, egg whites, and water. So fewer calories in equals weightloss…for a while. But it usually comes at a cost. Sometimes, eating “clean” can cause too drastic of a reduction in calories and fat which is an essential macronutrient. This can actually suppress your metabolism and cause hormonal damage making it harder to maintain your weight-loss in the long term. Eating “clean” is also hard to maintain because it is boring and people feel deprived. This is why the failure rate is so high for people who go on super strict diets. So all this to say that eating “clean” is not the secret to fat loss but, rather, it is one tool or method for reducing your overall calorie intake which helps you lose weight.
Flexibility is Key
The main idea behind flexible dieting is that you can eat whatever you want and still achieve your goals (lose weight, gain weight or maintain) as long as you stick to a specific calorie intake. Of course, “macros” are an important part of the equation too but we will talk about those later. Basically, flexible dieting is an allotment of calories that you can use as you wish and still lose weight (or gain if you want to!). This gives you flexibility to eat a variety of foods and not get bored or feel deprived! Granted, you naturally won’t be able to eat a ton of calorie dense foods and still stay within your daily calorie allotment but with a little practice, you can plan ahead for treats and splurges while still staying on course toward your goals. This level of flexibility is great for long term weight-loss as well as practical for a maintenance phase. Super strict diets can be very effective in the short term but are difficult to stick to later on and, as previously mentioned, can alter your metabolism requiring even more drastic of a calorie deficit to maintain weight-loss. But with flexible dieting, you learn how to do a slow steady cut and how to responsibility incorporate those once forbidden foods into your diet so you are more likely to stick to the plan.
Want to learn even more? Stay tuned for my next post on macronutrients!