My previous post was about the craziness of the wide and wild range of extreme diets that people follow, going from having just liquids to not having any carbs or fat at all. How many of you have heard of that “new revolutionary diet”, or that you should avoid carbs or fat to improve your body composition? And how many of you were actually able to stick to those extreme diets and achieve results?
Extremes don’t work because they are unrealistic, setting yourself up for failure and making you feel guilty, even for the smallest treats.
Flexible dieting, also known as “If It Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM), is an easy-to-follow, guilt-free, realistic nutritional strategy that helps people keep track of their daily caloric intake compared to their daily individual targets of all the essential macronutrients – protein, carbs and fat. Flexible dieting allows anyone to enjoy their favorite foods while achieving great fitness results. You don’t have to avoid any foods; you can continue to eat what you love, as long as your total daily calorie count and the daily amount of each macronutrient stay within your targets. As long as those targets are achieved, then food selection is left up to your personal preference.
As much as possible, your daily nutrition should consist of a variety of natural, unprocessed foods, which are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber, and low in sodium, sugar and saturated fats. The best sources of protein are fish, chicken, lean red meats, eggs and beans. Carbs should be complex, low in sugar and high in fiber, coming mainly from vegetables, whole wheat grains and fruits. Quality fats are found in avocados, olive oils, nuts and fatty fish like sardines and salmon. Eat packaged and processed foods sparingly, avoiding commercially baked goods, packaged snacks, solid fats, fried foods, and pre-mixed products. They are poor in vitamins, high in sugar and unhealthy fats.
The great thing about flexible dieting is that it is not extreme. You will still be able to enjoy your favorite “bad” stuff – pizza, cupcakes or even a Big Mac. As long as they are eaten sporadically and the macronutrients fit your daily caloric and macronutrient targets, you don’t need to feel guilty for treating yourself!
So, how do you start flexible dieting? First, if you don’t know your figures already, find out from your fitness professional or personal trainer your target daily caloric intake, and the amounts of each macronutrient that are appropriate for your fitness goals, gender, and age. Technology has made it really simple to keep track of your daily nutrition, and there are free smartphone apps that can help you do that. Track everything that you eat for at least one week, recording your portion sizes as accurately as you can. The app will tell you exactly how many calories you are consuming, meal by meal, and the amount of each macronutrient, comparing those to your daily individual targets. Then you can start making adjustments in your nutrition to keep your daily caloric and macronutrient intake in check.
Once you know all that, you can start having fun with it and being flexible. It’s like playing a game that you know you’re going to win all the time! For example, last weekend I had two slices of pizza that gave me 18g of protein, 33g of carbs and 20g of fat. On that day, I mindfully fit those slices of pizza in my diet, and ate one less can of tuna, less sweet potatoes and avocados to leave room for the macronutrients that came from my treat. It’s all about knowing how many calories and macros your body needs, and not going overboard.
It’s simple as that, guilt-free, sustainable and fun. It allows you to mindfully eat what you like to eat, to be social, to treat yourself occasionally, and live more naturally. And that’s why it works!
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