What is Flexible Dieting?
Flexible dieting is a concept and has taken the health and fitness industry by storm over the last few years. You may have heard of it being referred to as IIFYM or “If it fits your macros”? And although it has been scientifically proven to be a successful form of “dieting” it initially received a bad rap from the old school dieters in health and fitness and it still does.
I know that anytime I have ever been on a diet the foods that are typically listed has always been chicken, tuna, lean meats, broccoli, egg whites, sweet potato, and whole grains. Sound familiar? But really, let's be honest! Unless you are an "A" grade bodybuilder (and even then), who wants to eat these foods and these foods ONLY all of the time for the rest of our lives just to stay in shape?
After 3 years of yo-yo dieting with only eating the typical "clean" foods and trying to stick to a strict diet, I kept falling off the wagon. I know many of you have been there too.
But, what if I told you there is another way to get great results without feeling deprived or restricted? Would you try it? I know that giving flexible dieting a try over a year ago was the best choice I could have made in regards to food for so many reasons and here is why.
SO HOW DOES FLEXIBLE DIETING WORK?
Many of you may be familiar with the concept of flexible dieting but you may still be wonder what is it and how does it work? IIFYM means that you track your daily intake of food. This can be done in an application like My Fitness Pal.
You simply enter all the food you eat in a day. It may sound tedious, but believe me, it's so simple and you become better at it over time.
This allows you to keep track of your total calorie intake for the day and if you want to get into more depth you can track and hit quotas for your macronutrients too (macros = protein, carbohydrates, and fat intake).
This means you can choose ANY food you like throughout the whole day as long as you make sure you do not go over your numbers for the day.
Yes, it is that simple! No catches, no gimmicks, just track your food and try to hit your target numbers as close as you can. Many people (including myself) even do competition prep using IIFYM. This just means we get a little more strict and accurate with the numbers we need to hit.
The Benefits of Flexible Dieting:
1. NO FOOD IS OFF LIMITS
Yes, you read that right! NO food is off limits. WOW! What kind of diet is this? Well, I am going to start you off with a scenario to give you a better idea. Everybody loves chocolate, right? However, I don’t really eat much chocolate on a regular basis and rarely have any cravings for it. Just on occasion, I may have a few squares here or there.
What if someone told me I was not allowed the eat ANY chocolate for a few months because that was NOT part of my new “diet”, suddenly now all I can think about is eating chocolate and instead of the few squares I would usually have I now have the desire to eat the entire block! Sound familiar???
This is why I LOVE flexible dieting because no food is ever completely off limits, which means you have all the power to decide whether you want to sacrifice your calories on some chocolate or have something else instead.
Now, this doesn't mean that you can just eat chocolate and ice cream all day because you still need to make sure you get an adequate amount of protein, fiber and your vitamins and minerals (micronutrients). So, in order to hit your, numbers you may need to eat 80% nutrient-dense foods, but if you want to have some cake or ice cream and if it fits into your targets, then you can treat yourself and its no big deal.
2. REDUCE HOURS OF MEAL PREP
If you have ever followed a strict meal plan you know that you need to prepare all of your food to try and make sure you follow it 110%. In the past, I was known to spend up to 3-4 hours every weekend(don’t judge me - I was on a mission) preparing all of my meals for the week ahead, so I could just grab them out of the fridge/freezer every day.
Spending that long preparing food not only made my kitchen look like a tornado had swept through it but I'd honestly rather spend that doing anything else (and who wouldn’t), like catching up with a friend for coffee or just having some me time.
Flexible dieting gives you that freedom! If you have a crazy busy day you can always grab some food on the go or quickly pop into the supermarket and put a meal together.
A quick fix for me is usually a tin of chili tuna, cottage cheese, and some greens, which I can grab from any local supermarket. Or even some low-fat Greek yogurt and berries. I also always pack my protein shakes too just in case I need to have a quick snack and don't have time to nip out of work. I still like to prepare my lunch the night before, but it usually involves some leftovers from dinner.
Even though some organization and preparation is the key to success, you no longer need to cook every little thing because there are so many options you have access to and you get those 3-4 hours back to you what you wish. Win-win!
3. CUT OUT THE BINGING AND THE GUILT
If you have ever been on a strict diet and been told you can have a “cheat” meal then you will most likely be all too familiar with binging on food.
It's so common among dieters to deprive themselves of certain foods and once the weekend comes, so does the binge eating of foods that were not allowed during the entire week. This eating pattern will most likely undo all of the hard work you put in all week long.
Flexible dieting helps prevent binges. When you allow yourself to have food in moderation you will have little or no desire to binge on any foods because you can make them fit into your daily intake. You can have your cake and eat it too and there is no need to feel guilty about it or spend any extra hours in the gym.
4. GET SOCIAL
Have you ever said no to a friendly catch up for dinner because the thought of deviating off your diet plan was too much to bare? Or have you ever packed your own food with you just to stick to your plan?
Well, now you can say YES to all social outings and enjoy the food around you instead. All you need to do is estimate what you eat when you are out. It's also great to plan ahead if you know you have a big dinner planned all you need to do is simply eat a little lighter throughout the day to accommodate for your extra food in the evening.
5. GET SMARTER ABOUT FOOD
Now you don't have to track all of your food forever, but tracking your food over time means that you will become more educated about the nutrient content of foods. Some items of food may surprise you with what they actually contain so tracking in your app makes you aware of what you eat. Over time, you can just eat mindfully and you will get to know exactly what your body needs and be able to have a healthy balance and relationship with food while getting your desired results.
Now you can ditch the fad diets and just eat real food and the foods you love! If there is a way to achieve results whilst eating any foods your heart desires (in moderation) then you need to give it try because you have absolutely nothing to lose and all the cake to gain.