Ok so we all know I am a raging advocate for iifym or flexible dieting. I wanted to share my reasoning behind why I love it so much, and go more into the emotional and mental side of how it works, rather than just the facts (which I will do in another blog #sciencebitch)
I came from a clean eating background. Also, being a competitor I was no stranger to the world of low carb, low cal restriction diets, and spent several months on an extremely low calorie meal plan partnered with 3 hours of cardio a day and 5 weights sessions a week during my last comp prep. It was not fun. Well thinking back now it was not fun, but at the time I didn’t know any different. Plus I was pretty lean, so that meant I looked and felt great. Kind of.
At the time, yes I did. I thought I enjoyed eating chicken, asparagus and zucchini and egg whites day in day out. (I wasn’t even allowed broccoli in the end, just asparagus as it is a natural diuretic… and all in tiny, weighed portions, which were to be consumed at specific times throughout the day). I thought it was normal and that is what it takes to compete. Dedication, hard work, and suffering. Well its not. This is not normal. This is not normal for a competitor. And it certainly is not normal for joe public wanting to “get in shape” or just lose weight in general.
You do not have to eliminate certain food groups. And you certainly do not have to subject yourself to dangerously low calorie diets in order to get lean. This is not sustainable, and this is blatantly setting yourself up for failure.
The first point is that consuming low calories affects your body and not in a good way. Your metabolism is something that can be manipulated – it adapts. As soon as you start dropping your calories, yes you will lose weight however your metabolism will start to slow down. It will start to survive on the lesser amount of calories you are consuming and it will then drop to a level where it will try to maintain your current body composition on less energy. This is not good. While we have all been told, eat less exercise more to lose weight this is actually not the case.
Yes you need a calorie deficit to lose weight, however there are other ways to do this, and keep your metabolism working at a more appropriate rate.
The other problem with low calorie diets is that they are simply not sustainable long term. While you may get results in the short term, once your body adapts and maintains on the new, lower calorie intake, you will then need to create a deficit again once weight loss stalls. And you can’t keep taking away calories forever it simply doesn’t work like that.
Restriction or elimination diets are also a big problem, and with idiotic articles being flung around in the media stating that you need to cut carbs, or sugar, or processed food, or even protein, its no wonder people are confused with how to lose weight and maintain it. It’s also no wonder we have a huge problem with obesity. One cause of this is the lack of education, and another is the ridiculous amount of quick fixes and magic weight loss pills and supplements that are on the market at the moment. The quick fixes wouldn’t be so much of an issue if people would stop buying in to them, and stop being LAZY (yeah I said it) and actually realise that it takes a bit of work on their part, and consistency to see results.
Eliminating certain foods, or labelling foods as “good vs bad” is ridiculous. Yes if you are allergic to nuts, then obviously nuts are going to be bad for YOU. But by cutting out food groups, or certain types of food altogether for no reason then you’re automatically setting yourself up for failure. As soon as you say no chocolate for a week, what do you want? Yes, chocolate. It is human nature to want something you’re “not supposed” to have. Rather than cutting things out, I believe a far more realistic and sustainable approach is simply to include all foods in moderation.
And that is where iifym comes in. What this does is allows you to make your own choices, and eat the foods your want to, AND it gives you results. I believe one of the main reasons this protocol works is that it doesn’t discriminate against any food groups, and what you eat is entirely up to you. It changes “dieting” or eating for your goals back in to something you can actually enjoy.
Iifym gives you the power back. It’s up to YOU what you eat. It’s up to you WHEN you eat. You get to do whatever you want. And to be honest, especially coming from a very restrictive eating background myself, I think this is god damned liberating. Fancy a poptart? Have one! Yes that might mean you miss out on something else later in the day, but hey that’s your choice! And that’s the beauty of it. No longer are we slaves to the chicken and broccoli, AND we are looking and feeling a whole lot better because of it.
I don’t know when this happened exactly, but suffering and having a terrible time in order to get lean became the norm. Whoever gave up the most, and was the most miserable and therefore “hardcore” was somehow better than everyone else because of it. What the hell? When did enjoying delicious foods, and eating for enjoyment die out? Food shaming is in, eating damn kale smoothies topped with activated almonds and organic goji berries must mean you’re healthy and hence you’re a better person than someone who eats pizza. Whatever. Suffer, because I’m going back for more gummi bears.
Here’s the thing with iifym. Contrary to popular belief it takes will power. But, it’s not at all difficult to sustain long term once you get your head around it. Yes, you are limited to certain quantities, BUT the fact that you can eat any food you want does wonders for the mind. No longer is anything off limits. No longer are you restricted to a limited amount of boring tasteless foods. No longer do you get cravings for every damn thing on the list of banned foods, because you can have literally any food you like.
Yes the limitations on the quantity mean you cant just sit down to a whole block of chocolate necessarily, but lets be realistic, you don’t need a whole block to be satisfied, and you cant expect to have a whole block and get results. Hell if you don’t have certain goals for body composition or want to have a healthy relationship towards food then go ahead eat the whole damn block I don’t care! But if you do have goals, then you still have to make some sacrifices in order to achieve them, however sacrifices do not have to mean your life is miserable.
Once the realisation that no foods are off limits sets in, the possibilities are endless. Cravings will be a thing of the past. And even if you do really feel like having something, and you don’t have enough macros left that day it really doesn’t matter because you have all day tomorrow to have it. Or the next day, or the next day. You don’t have to wait a week for your next “cheat meal” as you can simply fit in the foods you want, whenever you want.
Cheat meals are the very things that binge eating disorders stem from. This goes back to again, the concept of some foods being good, and some being bad. Having this mindset really causes a whole heap of problems that you don’t want, or need.
Simply, some foods will be better for YOU, as others may be better for ME. And having the flexibility to experiment with the foods you like gives you the ability to also find out what does or doesn’t work for you. Diet and nutrition is very individual and no 2 people could eat the exact same things and get the same results. What works for one will not work for another. Yet, there is an abundance of cookie cutter meal plans available online for people to purchase and download. These “meal plans” do not take in to account anything about the client. 9 times out of 10 they are simply very low calorie, with little to no variety, they are not sustainable long term, and they are BORING. Variety is the spice of life!
Flexible dieting or iifym is not just random guesswork either. Your macronutrient requirements are individual to you. And they are based on a number of things, age, gender, current body composition, goals, activity levels, etc. What one athlete requires to maintain energy levels for marathon training will be different entirely from what a bodybuilder requires, which will be different again to a powerlifter, which will also be different again to someone who simply wants to look and feel better about themselves, and goes for the occasional afternoon stroll, but works full time in a very active job. It is very individual. Also it gives the power back to you by allowing you to take control of your nutrition, and create something that YOU can stick to long term, and if that involves having pizza or chocolate every week (or even every day!) then so be it.
Yes, you track your numbers and have to watch how MUCH you’re eating, but isn’t that a whole lot more realistic than having a huge list of foods you simply cant have at all? The amount of the foods you consume is pretty important. Calorie dense foods (even “healthy” things like almonds and avocados, not just chocolate and pizza) are not foods that should be eaten in excess anyway. Hell you can even gain weight from eating too much chicken! It is important how MUCH you eat, and I think that iifym makes you more aware of what you personally can or cant get away with, and also of what portion sizes should look like. That, and it does wonders for your sanity.