Flexible dieting is not really a diet – it is more of an approach to nutrition. It involves meeting daily targets of protein, carbohydrate and fat that have been calculated specifically for you in order to reach a specific body composition goal. This may be to lose fat, build muscle or just to maintain weight and improve your overall health. The focus is on reaching these personal targets, with food selection left up to you! And we mean that — there are ZERO food restrictions. All the normal rules you find in a typical diet don’t exist (that’s right – carbs, sugar, processed foods, wheat, and dairy are all “allowed”). Basically, flexible dieting is completely personalised to you and your lifestyle.
As a result, flexible dieting helps to create a healthy relationship with food and essentially takes the worry out of dieting. There’s no ‘cheating’ or eating the ‘wrong’ foods. And because there is no guilt, there’s less stress and fewer urges to binge or get off track! The best thing about flexible dieting is that it is designed to fit around your lifestyle and preferences. You can eat out at a restaurant, or enjoy a food you have been craving without worrying about going off track, as long as the foods you eat fit within your daily macronutrient and goals. Without all the limitations and restrictions, you can create enjoyment and sustainability with your diet which in turn improves long term adherence and most importantly — helps you get results!
What flexible dieting helps to achieve:
- Eating what you want, in controlled quantities
- Having freedom over food choices
- Fitting your food around your schedule and lifestyle
- Educating yourself on what you are putting into your body
- Having a healthy relationship with food
What flexible dieting helps to eliminate:
- Feelings of anxiety caused by attending social events or going out to restaurants with friends and family
- Obsessing over food
- Avoiding processed or junk food
- Removing whole food groups from your diet
- Lack of knowledge about what is going into your body
- Binging, cheating, yo-yo diets
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT TO NORMAL CALORIE COUNTING?
Rather than typical calorie counting (e.g. eating 2000 calories per day), flexible dieters track macronutrients. As we now know, the three main macronutrients – protein, fat, and carbohydrate, all have a caloric value per gram:
- Protein = 4 calories per gram
- Carbohydrate = 4 calories per gram
- Fat = 9 calories per gram
Depending on their weight, current body composition and preferences, a flexible dieter eating 2000 calories per day may break this up into 150g protein, 67g fat and 200g carbohydrates).
What is the benefit of doing this? As we know, to lose weight you must be in a calorie deficit and to gain weight you must be in a calorie surplus. But just focusing on these alone isn’t great for improving our overall body composition. Losing weight is different to losing fat and gaining weight is different to gaining muscle. Retaining as much muscle as you can (or increasing it) will increase your metabolism and actually make you burn fat more effectively. Not to mention, help you achieve that “toned” look. If you want to focus on improving your body composition, then counting macronutrients is superior to counting just calories because it allows you to target these actions, not just simply dropping or gaining weight.
WHAT ARE THE GUIDELINES?
Typically, the people who give flexible dieting a bad name are those that disregard the guidelines and try to ‘fit’ as much processed food into their daily calorie intake as possible. We must remember that food is more than just a source of protein, carbohydrate, and fat – it is also our provider of vital micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that support the many physiological functions of our bodies. A healthy body is always going to perform more effectively and efficiently than one which uses excessive amounts of processed foods as a fuel source – not to mention that you will be more satisfied by foods that are nutrient dense, such as fruits & vegetables. That is why there are some guidelines in place! They are as follows:
- Follow the 80/20 rule – aim to get at least 80% of your daily calories from whole, micronutrient-dense foods that you actually enjoy. That leaves 20% for more processed “fun” foods!
- Aim to eat 1-2 serves of fruit per day.
- Aim to eat 3 serves of vegetables per day.
- Aim to eat 25g fibre per day for optimal bowel health
As long as at least 80% of your daily calories come from foods containing essential micronutrients, you can add less nutritious foods as you desire. For example, if you love chocolate, include some as part of your macros for the day. If you have been craving some pizza for a couple of days now, make room for a slice or two, depending on your daily calories. Personally, we like to get about 80-90% of our daily calories from nutrient-dense foods, but will include some dessert every day like chocolate or ice cream!
Flexible dieting has completely revolutionised what and how we eat. We have the ability to eat with family and friends, satisfy any cravings we experience and ensure we have a healthy relationship with food, all while still achieving our desired results. It is time to stop searching for a short-term fix and instead focus on a solution that can be seamlessly incorporated into your lifestyle for the long-term!