Flexible dieting is an approach to eating that I have adopted and one that I HIGHLY advocate for when trying to make changes to your physique. I have wanted to write this article for awhile to help my clients (and anybody with general interest in the topic) understand exactly what flexible dieting is. Here is a great, comprehensive list of things that characterize what it means to be a “flexible dieter”:
- Your eating style is FLEXIBLE! That seems pretty obvious based on the title but what does that mean? It means that you can eat what you want – sort of. It definitely means that you can include your favorite foods into your plan including things like Oreos (my personal favorite), ice cream, pizza, burgers, etc. You know, the foods that have otherwise been known as “non-diet foods”. The key here is making these things FIT INTO YOUR PLAN. Upon beginning a flexible dieting regimen, you should figure out (or have somebody figure for you) your allotted macronutrients, aka macros (fat, carbs, and protein). If that “non-diet food” fits into those allotted numbers, then go for it!
- Practicing PORTION CONTROL. While it is exciting to know that there are no foods that are off limits on a flexible dieting plan, it is still important to practice portion control. If you know that you will binge on pizza or ice cream uncontrollably, then it likely isn’t a good idea to have the food around. I only recommend allowing these things into your diet if you can practice appropriate portion control with it. You’ll find out really quick that a little of these “fun foods” will use up a significant portion of your macro bank. This is why it is a good idea to fill your menu with mostly high volume foods.
- Eat HIGH VOLUME foods. High volume foods are key, even (and especially) on a flexible dieting plan. High volume foods are those with lower calories, more balanced macros, and high nutritional value. Think fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein. If the majority of your diet consists of these types of foods, you’ll have room for more of the “fun foods”.
- MEAL PLANNING isn’t always necessary. Flexible dieting is fantastic for anyone, especially people with busy lives. Let’s be honest, who isn’t living a super busy life nowadays? Flexible dieting does not require you to be on a set meal plan. While I do think (and recommend) that planning your meals is a great idea, flexible dieting allows for you to switch things up throughout your day. For example, you brought your meal to work but the boss decided to buy lunch for everyone. With flexible dieting you have a choice. You certainly can stick to the meal you brought OR you can consciously make the choice to fit the meal the boss is providing into your macros. You should know how much fat, carbs, and protein you have allotted for the day and whether or not the meal will fit. Life happens and with flexible dieting it doesn’t have to be a stressful event.
- No BORING MENU! When you are practicing flexible dieting, your menu never has to be boring. While I do not knock “clean eating”, I do want to emphasize that it is not the only way to reach your goals. You do not need to eat chicken, broccoli, and rice for every meal to see results. On my daily menu (including during my transformation process), I ate things like pizza, chicken, waffles, alfredo sauce, broccoli, cheesecake, chili, cauliflower, enchiladas, strawberries, ice cream, jello, cheese, etc. I simply made sure I knew the nutrition information for these items, I tracked them in My Fitness Pal, and I made sure they fit into my daily allowance of macros. It is like money, don’t spend what you don’t have!
- You can get CREATIVE! I have found that there are some awesome ways to get creative with making traditional “fun foods” a little healthier. By learning some simple ingredient swaps, I was able to fit yummy food into my diet and still enjoy a lot of food throughout the day. One example that I love is making homemade pizzas with low carb tortillas. So good!
- Suitable for all PHYSIQUE GOALS. Flexible dieting is perfect for all physique goals. If you want to lose weight, gain weight, maintain your current weight, put on muscle, and/or lose fat, flexible dieting is perfect for you! Your end goal all depends on the macronutrients you take in on a daily basis and these numbers can be calculated for anyone based on their individual goals.
- Calculate your MACROS. The MOST IMPORTANT part of flexible dieting is knowing your individual macronutrient numbers to suit your goals. There are several online calculators that will help you out with this. Some examples include:
Labrada “Calculating Your Macros”
Calculating your macronutrient needs can be confusing and tricky so you may need to consult with a more experienced person or professional to help you. I offer macronutrient consultations, so feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need some help along the way.
Flexible dieting is a fantastic way to attain your physique goals without following a monotonous meal plan and without depriving yourself. I personally have found a good balance with food that I haven’t had in the past and I think you can too. It is a realistic approach to forming a healthy relationship with food and attaining your health and fitness goals that you’ve been striving for.