What is flexible dieting?
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, gluten, and dairy are all “allowed”). Basically, flexible dieting is completely personalised to you and your lifestyle.
As a result, this approach to nutrition helps to remove the unnecessary restriction that a lot of other diets create and allow you to form a healthy relationship with food. 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 feel out of control with your diet! 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 calorie budget. 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 avoid:
- Feelings of anxiety caused by attending social events or going out to restaurants with friends and family
- Obsessing over food
- Feeling like you have to avoid your favourite foods
- Labelling foods as “good” or “bad”
- Bingeing and guilt associated with food choices
How is it different to counting calories?
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 tracking macronutrients instead of just calories? As we know, to lose weight you must be in a calorie deficit. Weight loss means lowering your overall body weight through the loss of fat, muscle mass and water from the body. But losing weight isn’t great for improving your overall body composition – you essentially just become a lighter version of yourself often without a significant change in body fat percentage. If you want to focus on losing fat and improving your body composition instead of just losing weight, then we need to go a step further than just counting calories. You still need to create a calorie deficit and burn more calories than you consume but you also need to be more specific about your macronutrient intake. Eating the right amount of protein helps to prevent your body from breaking down your muscles to provide the body with energy. Instead, your body will break down fat stores as a source of energy. It can also aid fat loss by boosting your metabolism and reducing hunger and cravings.
What are the guidelines?
While food selection is essentially left up to you, 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 to help with optimising your health! They are as follows:
- Follow the 80/20 guideline – aim to get roughly 80% of your daily calories from nutrient-dense foods that you actually enjoy. That leaves 20% for more “fun” foods that aren’t so nutritious but good for the soul!
- 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 (if you are following the other points you should generally reach this easily!)
Using the flexible dieting approach has completely changed how our clients view food. They have the ability to eat their favourite foods and satisfy any cravings without guilt, all while still achieving the results they want.
How do I get started with flexible dieting?
Ready to give flexible dieting a go yourself? Click here to read our article on transitioning to a flexible dieting approach!
If you’re ready to finally ditch the restriction for good and try and sustainable, evidence-based approach to nutrition that works with your lifestyle and not against it, we’d love to help you! Click here for 3 ways to work with us!