Flexible dieting, more popularly known as If-It-Fits-Your-Macros or IIFYM is probably the single most versatile and easy-to-adhere-to diet plan conceivable. In essence it has no restriction other than what is absolutely necessary to reach your goals, be it to lose fat, put on lean muscle, or just to get toned for the summer.
In a nutshell, depending on someone's activity level, body type and a variety of other factors, there is a necessary amount of caloric and macro-nutrient (protein, carbs, fat, fiber) intake necessary to maintain one's current weight and body composition. From this point, the calories and/or macro nutrients can be manipulated depending on your goals goals. For example, someone who is trying to lose weight while retaining muscle would require a higher proportion of protein to the other macro nutrients than someone looking to simply put on muscle while in a caloric surplus, and so on.
The real kicker with this protocol, is that there is no protocol! You are free to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, as long as you hit your macro nutrient targets for the day. This means that you can have that ice cream cone or candy bar here and there without having to feel bad about it, and knowing that it didn’t slow down your progress one bit.
While it has no metabolic benefits over other diets, it has the greatest advantage in the most important factor when it comes to succeeding in your diet: adherence. There’s no point being on the most ‘effective’ diet in the world if you cheat on it every week or so.
With Flexible Dieting there is no longer any need for cheat days, you can have all the foods you love any day of the week. However, you do have to exercise some temperance and make sure the majority of your intake comes from wholesome nutrient dense foods. I mean you can try and fill your macros with purely pop-tarts, ice cream, and protein shakes, and if you hit your macros you will definitely still meet your body composition goals. However, being ripped and shredded doesn’t mean much if you feel crappy all day because your body is lacking the nutrients it needs to keep itself essentially healthy. Lesson here is to keep in mind to exercise a little balance, something that is made all the more easier with the freedom provided by Flexible Dieting.
For some people, Flexible Dieting can be too much of a good thing, and the freedom can lead to some unhealthy eating habits. There is an inherent danger mentioned above, of letting the flexibility of this plan take control and using it as an excuse to eat crappy food and still meet your goals. It’s simply important to understand that if that is indeed your reason for pursuing Flexible Dieting, then your going about it in an essentially unhealthy way that will hurt you in the long run, and your best bet at success is re-evualting your relationship with food and going forward from there.
Also, like I mentioned above, there is a certain requisite knowledge of nutrition you will need, in order to be able to modify your macro nutrient goals according to where you are right now and what you would like to achieve in the future. And if you don’t have this knowledge, you just might have to turn to a Macro-coach to help you out, and while they are plentiful these days, that’s simply a financial commitment that most of us aren’t willing to make.
In addition, some people don’t really want freedom in their diet! This is particularly the case when it comes to the highly driven athlete, type-A individual that likes being given a strict plan to follow and have the capacity and restraint to follow it to a tee. The truth is, however, that this simply isn’t something that applies to the majority of the population.
If you’re completely happy following a strict meal plan or restrictive-style of diet (vegeterian, paleo, atkins, etc) and you can stick to those restrictions without it costing you any mental or physical stress, then you simply might not need Flexible Dieting. Why fix something that’s not broken, right?
If, on the other hand, you’re someone who is sick of having to sacrifice all the foods they like for the diet they have been struggling to follow and sometimes even end up cheating on severely because they feel so deprived, then you owe it to yourself to at least give Flexible Dieting a try! Chances are you’ll find it liberating and won’t look back once you start.