Is your diet too restrictive? Are you stuck yo-yo dieting? Then keep reading! But first, if this is your first time visiting, please take the time to get to know me a little better! And before you go much further into this post, please read my disclaimer first.
What is Flexible Dieting/IIFYM according to me?
Now that we’ve met, and you are well-informed about what this blog is about, let’s move on to discuss the very controversial flexible dieting/IIFYM. Flexible dieting, or if it fits your macros, is an alternative eating plan that can be modified to fit your goals. Are you working hard to gain muscle, lose fat, maintain your current weight? IIFYM might be for you!
The overall goal is to have a way of eating that you can sustain over the long-term. This eating philosophy does not mean that you get to eat junk food all of the time, as some might believe. But it does mean that if you can fit ice cream, for example, into your daily eating plan, you are “allowed” to do so. The reality is that you can lose, gain, or maintain your weight while eating the foods you enjoy.
If you are trying to lose fat, you will still need to be at a caloric deficit to accomplish your results, as opposed to trying to build muscle, which will allow you more calories, and thus more food options. As long as it fits within your prescribed macronutrients, it is allowed. With flexible dieting, as long as you stay within your caloric goal and target specific macronutrients (more on that later), you can create a flexible eating plan that fits within those numbers.
If you want to know more about IIFYM, here are some resources that I recommend:
Dr. Layne Norton
IIFYM Article by Dr. Layne Norton
Why did I decide to try IIFYM?
This is a question that I get from people frequently. The short answer is that I don’t have to worry about breaking the rules and dealing with the “punishment” that goes with it. What I mean by that is that when I have followed almost every other type of “diet”, I had a group of “off-limits” foods or behaviors.
Let me repeat what I stated earlier: if you can fit ice cream, for example, into your daily eating plan, you are “allowed” to do so. The main point that I want to convey is that by removing the rules, you are mentally able to handle your weight loss better than you would be able to with a very restrictive plan. You will see me repeat this over and over in my posts:
To change your lifestyle, you must change your mindset
I could stop the post right here and rest my case, but I will continue…
What are Macros?
Macronutrients, in my simplified definition, are the primary elements that you get from food that you need to sustain your body. The macronutrients that IIFYM focuses on include: protein, carbohydrates (and fiber), and fats. Now, what makes IIFYM controversial is that there are a lot of people who follow the protocol who love to tweet, post on Facebook and Instagram, and show to the world that they can eat something like a pop tart (the poster child of IIFYM) and still lose weight. And naturally, after seeing such a photo on social media, the world believes that people who follow IIFYM live off of pop tarts. But before you jump on the band wagon wondering about this “bad food” free-for-all diet, let me provide some clarification and insight into the flexible dieting world.
If you do a little research, you will find that most people who are successful with flexible dieting promote eating mostly veggies, fruits, protein, and high-fiber, low GI foods. Plus, of course, healthy fats. But they also include “bad foods” in their diet as well in moderation. Some tout different percentages with regards to their “good food”/”bad food” split, such as 80/20, or 90/10, etc. The bottom line is that the goal is to hit your macronutrient goals (again, protein, carbs, and fats), and also focus on getting the proper micronutrients (from veggies, fruit, etc). If you have room for “bad food” (chocolate, ice cream, cake, pop tarts, chips, burgers, etc), go for it. The reality is that when you are cutting, or trying to lose fat, you are going to have less room for these treats as someone whose goal is to bulk, or add muscle.
Also, know that IIFYM is customizable. Again, depending on your goals and your health, your diet might not be as “flexible” as someone who has reverse dieted up to the point of being able to maintain on 4,000 per day. And, like me, you may have some additional dietary requirements that won’t allow you to be as “flexible” as someone who can fit a package of Oreos into their macros. More on this later, but I have to be very cautious with fat, healthy or otherwise, and most inflammatory foods including gluten, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, etc. (all the fun foods).
Not to go off on a tangent, but I also am a crazy supporter of green juice and eating lots of fruits and vegetables. God gave us these foods to heal our bodies! And with our lifestyles, friends, we need these now more than ever! It is so important to ensure that you are eating enough protein for muscle creation, enough fiber and low GI foods to control insulin, and enough healthy fats to get your EFA’s (essential fatty acids) for fat burning and hormone regulation.
Where did I start?
I first discovered IIFYM/flexible dieting from Dr. Layne Norton. During my process of yo-yo dieting, I burned out my metabolism completely. When I would visit the doctor and tell them that I couldn’t lose weight unless I ate less than 1,200 calories, they started talking to me about getting older (I am turning 30 this December, folks—um hello!?!)! I couldn’t find a doctor or trainer who would even give that idea the time of day, so I went out in search of it myself, using my best friend, Google, and quickly found that I was not alone.
From there, I discovered that my concept of “good foods”, “bad foods”, “clean foods”, “dirty foods”, etc. was messing with me so much mentally. The IIFYM basis is calories in, calories out. It creates freedom, and removes “off-limits” items, and ultimately, the inevitable binge.
I did some additional research, and discovered a couple of pretty awesome chicks. I first discovered Nicole Capurso on Facebook through another page that I follow. It might have even been from Dr. Layne Norton. She posted a pretty great blog post about switching to IIFYM when trying to get lean for Crossfit, which not only got her leaner, but also helped her to realize gains in the gym. Pretty sweet, if you ask me. And after reading a bit more about her, Nicole seems to be someone who is very admirable, and who seems to have a great heart to add to her athletic abilities.
From Nicole’s blog, I discovered Krissy Mae Cagney, from whom I purchased an e-book to get me started. I decided to calculate my maintenance calories and macros, and as suggested, monitor that for a few weeks to see if my calculation was correct. Once I established my maintenance level calories, I determined the calories and macros for my cut. I worked with a flexible dieting coach online for a few weeks to get me started. At first, I didn’t lost any weight, but I lost inches. I use IIFYM in addition to heavy lifting, with some HIIT cardio. I highly recommend that if you consider starting flexible dieting, mentally prepare for a slower loss than what you would see with other “diet plans”. And use your scale as a secondary measure. Take measurements of all sorts. Body fat (I recommend using a caliper or a scale that has the body fat measurement as well for a high-level idea of where you are. You can also have this done professionally.), inches (waist, hips, shoulders, arms, forearms, thighs, calves, bust/chest, etc.), pictures (try to be consistent with what you wear, time of day, and lighting for a good compare).
My approach is to also try to keep my calories as high as I can, keep my micronutrients up up up, while also seeing changes in my body composition. My goal is to lose fat, not muscle. I also want to support muscle growth and strength gains in the gym, while doing only a reasonable amount of HIIT cardio for fat loss and heart health.