I primarily follow and teach the flexible dieting lifestyle for overall nutrition needs. Since the word “diet” has the word “die” in it (diets feel like death, right?), I like to call it flexible eating instead.
Flexible eating is just that – flexible! With flexible eating, the belief of “bad” or “good” foods is abandoned. The word “clean” is also eliminated from your vocabulary, because saying “clean foods” implies that there are also “dirty foods,” which isn’t the case, and it only leaves you beating yourself up over what you eat. Is living in a constant state of guilt or having a fear of certain foods truly a way to live? Let me answer that for you: No.
Because of this change in perspective towards food, flexible eating should help you develop a healthier relationship with food by making you realize that:
Food is fuel. Food is meant to deliciously enrich our lives by fueling it for everything we do.
Food is NOT meant to be used as an excuse or a filler for an emotional void.
Food is NOT meant to be used as a “reward” for exercise or achievement.
With flexible eating, you’ll learn that you can regularly enjoy dessert or whatever foods you may crave, because you’ll learn about moderation and portion control along the way.
As you can probably already imagine, flexible eating is your path to food freedom. Popularly known as If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM), it follows the concept that you can eat the foods you want to eat as long as they fit your daily allotted macros. “Macros” is short for macronutrients, which are nutrients you need in large quantities (they are measured in grams). Micronutrients (or “micros,” such as vitamins and minerals), are nutrients you need in small quantities, and are measured in smaller units such as milligrams (mg).
Ideally with flexible eating, you’ll not only meet your daily macro targets, but you’ll meet your daily micro targets as well — meaning that you should make every effort to have your primary food sources consist of nutritious whole foods that are naturally full of vitamins and minerals. With whole foods comprising the bulk of your daily nutrition, that allows you to have a bit of flexibility and fit in whatever foods you enjoy eating that were once considered “cheat” or “bad” foods.
There are three macronutrients:
Carbohydrates (or carbs)
Technically, there’s also a fourth macronutrient, alcohol, because it is processed by your body differently than the other three macronutrients.
Macronutrients are what supply you with calories, and each macronutrient supplies a different amount of calories, as follows:
1 gram of protein = 4 calories
1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
1 gram of fat = 9 calories
1 gram of alcohol = 7 calories
At 9 calories per gram, fat provides the most calories per gram, making it more calorie-dense than protein or carbs. Alcohol takes a close second at 7 calories per gram.
You may already be familiar with the process of counting calories, which is great, because controlling your caloric intake generally helps with controlling your body weight. This is due to the idea of energy balance. Energy balance is the notion that you’re eating within the range of calories required for your day-to-day activities (including your workouts). You can also have a negative or positive energy balance. When you have a negative energy balance, you’re eating less calories than are needed to support your daily activities, thereby creating a caloric deficit and resulting in weight loss. When you have a positive energy balance, you’re eating more calories than your body needs each day, thus creating a surplus in calories and causing eventual weight gain.
With flexible eating, the main focus is on the macronutrient breakdown of your caloric intake, making your nutrition specific to achieving your fitness and/or body composition goals by balancing your macros to fit your body’s needs.
Macronutrient breakdown can have a potent influence on our overall body composition instead of simply focusing on weight loss and gain — this is precisely why counting macros is often more successful than only counting calories. Focusing on improving your body composition allows you to focus on changes besides the random number you see generated on the dreaded weight scale that’s collecting dust in your bathroom.
There is more to life than what you weigh.
In summary, flexible eating is not a diet; it is a lifestyle. It allows you to eat any foods that you want to eat, because nothing is off-limits or considered “bad” — yet, it also ensures that you eat nutrient-dense foods if done properly. Flexible eating isn’t restrictive and doesn’t leave you feeling guilty about your food choices, therefore making it a lifestyle that is realistic to follow, without the need for “cheat” meals.
Now, let’s talk about macros a bit more in-depth.
Eating an ample amount of protein will not only help you build muscle, but it can also prevent muscle loss if you are eating less food in order to lose weight. Protein helps keep you feeling full for longer periods of time than carbs, so it helps you keep hunger under control. It also takes your body more energy to digest protein than any of the other macros — this means that you burn more calories when digesting protein.
Ideal sources of protein include meat, seafood, eggs, egg whites, dairy, and protein supplements. Nuts and beans are not ideal sources of protein (unless you’re a plant-based eater), because only about 15-20% of their calories come from protein.
Eating a sufficient amount of carbs is critical to providing your body with enough energy (in the form of glycogen) to workout as well as perform regular daily activities. Carbs are stored mostly in your liver and muscles as glycogen.
Just remember: carbs = energy!
Sources of carbs include vegetables, fruit, grains (including rice, breads, oatmeal, etc.), many processed drinks (such as soda and fruit juice), and many processed foods (like crackers and cereal).
Fat is an essential nutrient that assists in regulating our hormones, vitamin absorption, and other functions necessary within our bodies.
Sources of fat include fatty cuts of meat, fattier seafood (such as salmon), nuts, oils, butter, and other similar sources.
Alcohol isn’t an essential nutrient (sad, I know), but it still contains calories (even more sad).
Sources of alcohol include wine, beer, and liquor. Tasty.
INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE?
There’s your brief introduction to the world of flexible eating. Let me know if you have any questions by emailing me and I’d be more than happy to help you make sense of it all.
If you’re interested in having your macronutrients personally calculated for you to meet your goals, check-out my Services page first to see what I offer, then shoot me a message and we can set-up a time to chat for a free consultation.