Activ8 Advice: Flexible Dieting

By PCYC Deception Bay Gym+Fitness Trainer, Jade Parker

What is Flexible Dieting & How Does it Work?

You may have heard of ‘flexible dieting’ before, also known as If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM), but do you know what it really means, and who it is best for?

Flexible dieting is not only flexible in the nutrition side of things, but it is also flexible with everyone, with any goal, any history, any age, any gender and so on, unless medical reasons restrict an individual. Flexible dieting is best suited for those people who can generally stay on track without being told 100% what to do. It is for those members of society who enjoy not having restrictions with what foods they can eat when going out for social events or even when they’re just at home and don’t have much left in the cupboard. Sound good so far?

Flexible dieting is not a diet. It is a way of life. It is maintainable over long periods, not just for 6, 8, 12 weeks and such. Flexible dieting is perfect for all members of a family, people on a budget and people who get bored with set meal plans quickly. It is for those people who like to eat anything, not just foods that society has labelled to be healthy.

How Does Flexible Dieting Work if we can Eat Anything?

Flexible dieting assesses an individual on their age, height, weight, lifestyle, current nutritional intake, and current nutritional habits to work out their total daily caloric intake.

Assessing each person’s individual resting metabolic rate, their non-exercise activity thermogenesis, exercise activity thermogenesis, resting energy expenditure and non-resting energy expenditure is also done, so it can become quite mathematical. This then works out everyone’s energy balance (thermodynamics), their macronutrient and fibre ratios, their micronutrients and hydration ratios, their nutrient timing and lastly, supplements suited for each person’s nutritional programming priorities. This isn’t all necessary, although can be beneficial to some. Macronutrient intake is the main focus for everyone.

Therefore, based on the above information, each person with their different goals will have their own nutrient breakdown.

For flexible dieting to work, each individual must remember that they are, just that, an individual. They need to set realistic goals, follow their tailored nutrient breakdown, and consume a nutritious diet, whilst being patient and persistent.

Incorporating your favourite foods that are usually labelled as “unhealthy” and that people on a diet are generally told to completely stay clear of has a lot of benefits.

Being able to lose weight for example, whilst eating foods like pizza, burgers, chocolate, cakes and so on, improves your relationship with food, improves adherence to stay on track with your goals, makes it sustainable and ensures it doesn’t interfere with your lifestyle or where you can eat at social gatherings. It can also address eating disorders for some and gets you results whilst actually enjoying being on what a lot would label as a “diet”.

Do not restrict yourself from any types of food. This does not mean eat 100% greens and protein on one day and chocolate and ice cream the next. Find foods that your body tolerates and still consume majority of wholesome foods. If you are someone who knows they have a sweet tooth or is attracted to the “dirty” food groups, flexible dieting allows this, although still keep it to a minimum to ensure you hit your fibre and micronutrient targets.

It’ is not food quality as such, even though this is important for your targets to an extent, but rather your amount of intake verse the amount you burn.

Your caloric intake requirement is made up of macronutrients – proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

Take a cookie for example. This is predominantly made up of carbohydrates and fats, which is the same as a piece of fruit and some nuts, macronutrient wise. All will give you energy for your daily tasks which carbohydrates and fats are designed to do, although fruit and nuts will fill you up for longer. You will be able to eat more of these foods visually, rather than a cookie. Also, because they contain a lot more fibre, molecules bind together in your body, which slows down the digestion rate, allowing your body to absorb more of the nutrients. If you have hit majority of your daily macronutrient intake, your fibre and protein intake most importantly, then incorporating such foods like a cookie to fill some of your carbohydrate and fat intake, will help for your own personal sanity, balance and control. This is a way to avoid binging on these foods due to being restricted in your lifestyle. So have your favourite foods, track them and you will stay on track. Science allows it.

To wrap up all the above information, flexible dieting uses a science based, personal lifestyle approach, to enable everyone to eat according to their required intake, whilst including their favourite foods, thus sustainably attaining their personal goals. It may be made out to be another one of those fad diets that you can eat ice cream and donuts all day every day and not have to worry about vitamins and minerals to reach your goals, but it is all about being the best version of yourself through a personal lifestyle approach.