Now before you read through this article, which has been written to provide contextual fact, it's important we remove any previous bias you may have on flexible dieting and look at the content within. Then you can judge it on the content at hand as opposed to having pre-conceived ideas based on what you may have heard from a friend or seen on social media.
What is flexible dieting?
Flexible Dieting is the term given to the former dieting concept known as IIFYM (if it fits your macros) and recognises that regardless of the food type consumed, provided that the law of thermodynamics is adhered to (calories in verse calories out) it essentially does not matter what food type you eat so long as it fits your macronutrient targets.
In essence, flexible dieting places no preferences on food type, but instead on food quantity.
NOW before I go any further, this definition can obviously be taken quite liberally and abused, but it is my opinion that this is not what was intended for IIFYM. Yes, there are individuals who choose to eat a diet based predominantly of processed nutrient devoid foods and claim "iifym" however, an outlier does not define what the majority do.
Just like religion or any belief system, there may be outliers, however defining the entire group based on the actions of a minority is unfair and unjust.
Coined many years ago on a bodybuilding forum, IIFYM originated after a forum member asked the board if he could merely swap a fruit or a vegetable for another source during his prep for a bodybuilding show, of which one coach answered, “if it fits your macros.”
Taken in the context of this conversation, IIFYM was simple, effect and reasonable acronym given to someone looking to swap a single food type in an entire diet for another.
Years on and we now have ‘fitness enthusiasts’ promoting diets laden with processed foods, minimal vegetable and fruit intake, hitting their macros and hashtagging #iifym as if it is a good enough excuse to simply eat whatever you want without nutritional consideration, all for a physique goal.
This is NOT what flexible dieting is about.
Flexible Dieting is simply having a nutritional understanding that in the context of an entire diet there are no good or bad foods, food types should not be negatively labelled and that you have the ability to eat both nutritiously in the physical sense but also consume foods that provide us with social and psychological freedom despite those foods not necessarily being nutrient dense.
You have to eat to grow!
Flexible dieting understands that in the context of a diet consisting primarily of animal products such as meat, dairy and fish for protein, grains, legumes and fruit for carbohydrates, nuts, avocados and oils for fats, that eating a small portion of non-nutrient dense foods like a lolly, a donut, some cake or even using things like sauce on meals is not going to affect body composition or physiological health.
Instead, flexible dieting recognises the benefits of all facets of dieting and instead of labelling foods as good or bad, a flexible dieter will consume a diet primarily of nutrient dense proteins, fats and carbs for physical health but will also include all types of food from various sources. In doing so a flexible dieter is not socially excluded due to food choice restriction but instead they have complete psychological control over the consumption of whatever food type they choose.
For example, let's look at the diet of this flexible dieter:
|Liddells - Lactose Free Skim Milk (100ml), 30 mls||11||1g||0g||1g||0mg||11mg||1g||0g|
|SNI - 100% Whey, 30 g||119||3g||1g||24g||0mg||0mg||2g||0g|
|Oats - Quick - Uncle Tobys, 70 g||268||40g||6g||9g||0mg||9mg||1g||7g|
|Aldi - Sweethaven - Frozen Mixed Berries, 100 g||47||9g||0g||1g||0mg||15mg||7g||4g|
|Nuttab - Mushroom Raw, 105 g||26||1g||0g||3g||0mg||0mg||0g||2g|
|Dairy Farmers - Low Fat Cottage Cheese, 50 g||46||2g||1g||6g||0mg||96mg||2g||0g|
|Pb2 - Chocolate, 6 grams||22||3g||0g||2g||0mg||35mg||1g||0g|
|Chobani - Greek Yogurt - Plain Fat Free, 200 g||120||8g||0g||20g||0mg||95mg||8g||0g|
|Riverina Fresh - Lite Milk - Low Fat, 120 ml||53||6g||1g||5g||0mg||47mg||6g||0g|
|Highland Park - Extra Lean Beef Mince, 307 g||385||2g||12g||68g||0mg||0mg||2g||0g|
|Steggles - Turkey Mince, 509 g||590||4g||20g||98g||0mg||338mg||4g||0g|
|Pastificio venturino - Wholemeal Artisan Penne, 100 g||337||67g||2g||13g||0mg||0mg||0g||2g|
|Nuttab - Butternut Pumpkin Raw, 400 g||188||29g||2g||9g||0mg||0mg||0g||7g|
|Old El Paso - Enchilada Sauce With Tomato & Capsicum, 50 g||19||4g||0g||1g||0mg||323mg||3g||1g|
|Fountain - BBQ Sauce no added sugar, 30 ml||14||3g||0g||0g||0mg||0mg||0g||0g|
|French's - Yellow Mustard, 20 g||14||1g||1g||1g||0mg||0mg||0g||0g|
|Fountain - Smart Tomato Sauce, 10 ml||5||1g||0g||0g||0mg||57mg||1g||0g|
|Heinz - Baked Beanz Bbq Sauce, 108 g||130||17g||1g||5g||0mg||504mg||7g||6g|
|Nuttab - Spinach Raw, 30 g||8||0g||0g||1g||0mg||0mg||0g||1g|
|Continental - Cucumber Raw, 50 g||4||1g||0g||0g||0mg||0mg||1g||0g|
|Nuttab - Onion raw, 12 g||3||1g||0g||0g||0mg||0mg||0g||0g|
|Nuttab - Mushroom Raw, 55.0 g||14||1g||0g||2g||0mg||0mg||0g||1g|
|Nuttab - Egg Plant Baked, 22 g||6||1g||0g||0g||0mg||0mg||0g||1g|
|Nuttab - Capsicum Raw, 25 g||4||1g||0g||0g||0mg||0mg||0g||1g|
|Generic - Raw Zuchinni - Skin on, 38 grams||6||1g||0g||0g||0mg||3mg||1g||0g|
|Chicken 100g - Chicken Breast Raw, 100 g||110||0g||2g||22g||0mg||63mg||0g||0g|
|La Barre - Caramelised Balsamic, 8 g||26||7g||0g||0g||0mg||0mg||0g||0g|
|Coles Bakery - Stone Baked Light Rye Sourdough, 30 g||69||14g||0g||2g||0mg||119mg||0g||0g|
|Christis - Halloumi Lighter, 43 g||108||1g||7g||11g||0mg||0mg||0g||0g|
|Maxs - Muscle Meal Protien Bar, 85 g||315||34g||6g||31g||0mg||240mg||25g||0g|
|Nestle - Milo Starz, 20 g||76||14g||1g||2g||0mg||23mg||6g||2g|
|Nestle - Milo Snack Bar, 1 bar||76||15g||1g||1g||0mg||20mg||5g||2g|
|Nuttab - Strawberries, 100 g||19||4g||0g||1g||0mg||0mg||0g||3g|
|Pb2 - Pb2 Peanut Butter, Powdered, 1 tablespoons||23||3g||1g||3g||0mg||47mg||1g||1g|
|Ferrero - Nutella (Aus), 10 g||52||5g||3g||1g||0mg||0mg||5g||0g|
Total Calories: 3300kcal
- Total Protein: 350g
- Total Carbs: 300g
- Total Fat: 70g
- Total Fibre: 40g
Within this diet they are consuming:
- 30g of whey
- 200g of yoghurt
- 50g of cottage cheese
- 500g of beef mince
- 300g of turkey mince
- 100g of chicken breast
Totalling 900g of meat and 280g of additional dairy derived proteins.
They are also consuming:
- 200g of mixed fruit
- 730g of mixed vegetables
- 70g of oats
- 100g of pasta
As you can see there is a TONNE of mixed vitamins, nutrients and fibre from varying food sources, which provide all the necessary vitamins and minerals required for physiological and psychological health.
- Keeping this in mind, should we really be concerned about the 10g of Nutella, 20g of milo cereal, the milo bar (30g) and the processed protein bar?
- Likewise, is the 40g of halloumi a concern?
- Why is it that cottage cheese is deemed good but other cheese is bad?
- Have you ever actually asked yourself why people label foods?
- Better yet, who even governs these decisions?
- What constitutes a good, bad, clean or dirty food?
While some may look at the halloumi, milk, Nutella, cereal and snack bar on its own and deem them bad, or dirty foods, in the context of the entire diet they essentially play no negative role in metabolism, fat loss, physiological health or any other concern someone may have.
Instead, for this particular person who was in prep for a bodybuilding show and was approximately 8 weeks out, these foods provided a guilt free psychologically positive food option for them to consume in a time that they were restricted in food amount.
Above all, knowing that no food is 'off limits,' flexible dieting, especially in a caloric restriction phase, provides physiological, psychological and social BALANCE!
Don't get me wrong...
- It is absolutely important to consume adequate healthy protein sources.
- It is absolutely important to consume adequate healthy fat sources.
- It is absolutely important to consume adequate fruit and vegetables
- It is absolutely important to consume appropriate carbohydrate sources to maintain energy levels.
We can also consume small portions of the food we enjoy, in the context of an entire diet to ensure we maintain all three facets of dieting, which are physiological, psychological and social health.
Dieting is not about suffering to achieve a physical result at the cost of the other two factors but instead should be holistic in its approach to ensure health longevity is maximised.