Flexible Dieting (a.k.a. IFFYM, “If It Fits Your Macros”) is simply the tracking of macronutrients to achieve a body composition goal. Macronutrients, or macros, make up the majority of our diets. There are three main macros: Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrate.
Before a year ago, I had never counted a calorie a day in my life. I focused on whole foods and exercise to lose most of my weight. But after I had my baby and was working full time, I wanted to learn how to take care of myself even better. Thus began my journey with macros.
Below are three reasons why I believe in this approach:
1. It’s FLEXIBLE
In our high-paced, hectic culture, having a flexible plan is key to sustainability. Speaking from my own experience, if my plan is too rigid, I won’t stick with it. Now, if I want to go get a morning muffin at my favorite bakery, I just make it work into my day. I’ll eat a lower carb lunch and dinner and it all evens out. Before, I would’ve wasted a whole to of time feeling guilty about one muffin. Now, there’s no guilt and I just make it WORK! Seriously, some days I have so much fun fitting in my fun foods.
Before I continue, I will say that flexible dieting (IFFYM) gets a bad rap because some people use it as an excuse to eat as much junk food as possible. If you click on the hashtag #iffym, you will see pictures of lucky charms, etc. Personally, I have an 80/20 guideline. But I do have some clients that do IFFYM on 95% unprocessed foods, dairy-free and gluten-free.
2. It’s SUSTAINABLE
It has been almost a year since I started tracking my food and counting my macros. I slowly lost 10 pounds over the course of 5 months and have kept it off. I started at about 22% body fat and now hold at a steady 15%. That is about 10 pounds of fat loss on the scale (no muscle.). I have kept it off while eating a lot of food. This is KEY. I eat LOTS of food. Do I eat 5 meals of chicken and veggies in Tupperware containers? No Way! I eat all sorts of food and it looks different depending on my evening plans. However, I do eat minimally processed foods 80% of the time. I usually eat less during the week, then eat more on the weekends or on nights I go out to eat with friends. This has worked well for me and many of my clients.
3. It’s EFFECTIVE
Counting macros is different from counting calories because it focuses on changing body composition. When trying to lose weight, most people cut their calorie intake too low and don’t eat enough protein to maintain their muscle mass. So even if they lose weight, they lose muscle in the process, thereby slowing down their metabolism. No Bueno!
Another reason counting macros is effective is that it helps get you out of that binge/restriction diet mentality. Logging food and seeing its nutrient value is a great way to be honest with yourself about what you are eating. It also helps build habits of mindfulness around food. You eat it, you log it.
Some people think food logging is a bit extreme. Isn’t all that measuring and weighing a sure sign that you’re a control freak? For some people, probably so. But for me and most of my clients, it’s an educational tool that helps us learn how much or little we eat. Studies have shown that most people perceive their actual food intake inaccurately. In other words, we aren’t naturally inclined to be honest with ourselves about what we are eating. That’s why we need tools!
I like to remind people that they will spend 5-6 hours at the gym every week. So what’s another 45 minutes per week to track your food intake? If you want to see real body composition results and other health benefits, nutrition is 80% of the equation. Given the almost endless amount of choices we have each day, I think we need to be a bit more attentive to what we put in our bodies. That means we need to take time to take care of ourselves and learn what our bodies need.
Here is my food log on my fitness pal. It’s from one day last week where I ate my minimum and another day that I ate close to my maximum. You can see that I don’t eat whole foods 100% of the time. Most days, I end up having dairy and gluten. But I can honestly say that I am the leanest I have ever been. This is why I LOVE flexible dieting and macros. I have learned what my body needs for fuel and am able to be strategic on crazy days or special occasions.
There is SO much more I could get into with this. I could talk about it all day! I hope that this has given you some insight, and I promise to break it down more in the coming weeks – so stay tuned!
HIGH MACRO DAY
LOW MACRO DAY