Clean Eating vs IIFYM

I was a “clean eater” for quite a long time. I would say that most people now following IIFYM would have been clean eaters at one stage in their lives. I honestly thought I LIKED chicken and broccoli every day. Hell I felt great, I was looking great, I was still eating what I thought was a lot of food (albeit extremely low carb/cal/fat) but what I didn’t realise was that this behaviour was creating a bad relationship with food and I would go so far as to say an eating disorder.

Clean eating is an interesting one. From what I understand, it is eating mainly whole, unprocessed and natural foods. Sounds sensible and healthy?? Well its not necessarily. There is no limit as to how much of these healthy foods you are allowed. This to me is a pretty big flaw. Almonds, and avocados are considered “clean” or healthy yet they are extremely high in fat therefore they are calorie laden. Based on “clean eating” you can eat 3,000 calories worth of almonds but not gain weight. Hang on… What if your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) is only 2,500 calories? And you haven’t just eaten almonds; you’ve gone nuts on avocado, chicken and broccoli and all the rest of it. YOU WILL GAIN WEIGHT.

Another thing is the amount of focus there is on eating vegetables. When I was eating “clean” I would have for dinner, every night, no less than 3 heads of broccoli, a zucchini, and a green capsicum stir-fried with my chicken or steak. THAT IS A LOT OF VEGES! Cooked vegetables create gases as they break down in your stomach, which can slow digestion and make you feel bloated. Your body is an amazing thing and can adapt very quickly, so I can only assume this is how I coped with doing this for months on end… Your body needs variety in order to function properly.

3 hours after this massive dinner there would be a ginormous green salad with salmon. Every day. Except on a cheat meal day…

I do not agree with cheat meals. I think they encourage binging and the idea that some foods are good and some are bad now does not sit well with me. This is the very thing that started my problems with food. By labelling something as bad, you immediately want it. You will crave it, its human nature. And when you crave something it can be difficult not to give in - it will usually happen sooner or later. Once you give in you feel tremendous guilt, you have failed not only yourself but your coach/trainer as well. You have wrecked everything so you may as well go all out and have a real big splurge seeing as everything is ruined with your diet for today. Not good.

Or, if you are good and have great will power instead of giving in to that craving then you will hold off until…. Your CHEAT MEAL!!! Yes, once a week (some people do it more often) you get to have a whole meal completely “off plan.” That is, anything you want and best of all it is GUILT FREE. Yes. NO!!! Just because you eat only chicken and broccoli and clean foods during the week does not mean you should go out and binge! Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of being a clean eater? You don’t want that processed crap in your body? Please. If clean eaters are so dedicated and hard core because they only eat whole foods and look after their bodies during the week then what are they doing binging on a whole pizza followed by a chocolate mud cake and a tub of Ben and Jerry’s on the weekend?

Ok that was a bit of a rant. But you have to admit it makes sense. I understand some people do not binge and they go out and enjoy a nice meal for their “cheat meal” and that is that. Or is it? I started that way too but then, after depriving yourself so much during the week it is only natural to start to want more during your cheat meal. You wont get a chance to eat like this for another whole week! More often than not it can turn in to a cheat day, or a cheat weekend even.

The reasoning behind a cheat meal is that it should raise leptin levels (fat loss hormone), however the way a cheat meal is perceived as a free for all, 9 times out of 10 a cheat meal can actually cause damage. Insulin levels can also rise causing you to crave more after that initial hit.

Having a more controlled approach and using what we call a reefed day will give the same rise in leptin but without the same binge/risk factor as a cheat meal. Refeed days are high carb days (woo hoo!) and are calculated specifically to encourage fat loss and muscle gain. It is best to do a weights session on a reefed day too so you are getting the most out of those extra carbs! 

IIFYM or flexible dieting has actually fixed my little problem I had with binging, as I do not need to wait for a cheat meal to have something I want. I can have chocolate every day if I like. Not blocks and blocks of it, but if I want some I can easily fit this in, in moderation.

Because I can eat any food I like any time I like, I actually no longer have cravings like I used to. This also means my macros are right. If your macronutrients are right you should not get cravings, you should not be hungry and you should have enough energy.

More often than not people think that dieting should be hard. You should be hungry and suffering. Who on earth would want that? If someone told me years ago I could get in shape, feel great, AND eat the foods I like (and not just chicken and broccoli everyday) I would have been listening!! You CAN eat whatever foods your like in moderation and get results. And this is sustainable long term.

Flexible dieting for life!!