Wouldn’t it be amazing to lose weight without feeling frustrated because you’re stuck on a rigid meal plan? A meal plan that doesn’t allow you to eat certain foods or go out for meals with friends and family? A meal plan that leaves you envious of your co-workers enjoy pizza Fridays! There really is a way to lose weight while still eating everything you love and it’s called flexible dieting or IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros).
The Science Of Weight Loss
You will have people argue that calories don’t matter but in reality they do for weight loss. When it comes to weight loss it’s calories in vs. calories out – that is the science. For example: let’s say you’re a small female who wants to lose weight and you calculate your calories for weight loss to be 1500. You can now eat 1500 calories of poptarts per day or you can eat 1500 calories of chicken, rice and broccoli per day or you can eat 1500 calories of beans and tofu per day, the end result is the same, you will lose weight. Now this example isn’t discussing overall health and energy so when it comes to being healthy as well that is where the type of foods you choose to eat play a role. But in terms of losing weight, your food selection actually doesn’t matter.
This flexible approach allows you to eat essentially whatever you would like as long as you stay within your daily macronutrient budget. Your macronutrients are your proteins, carbohydrates and fats – these will total up to your daily calorie intake. One gram of protein = 4 calories, one gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories and 1 gram of fat = 9 calories. Flexible dieters will use apps such as MyFitnessPal or MyMacros+ to keep track of their food intake, along with using measuring cups and kitchen scales for the best accuracy. Using this flexible approach you can now eat those cookies or chips, or have a donut at the office, or go out to a restaurant or eat with your family and still lose weight! While strict meal plans work for some, they are not maintainable in the long-term, they don’t teach people how to eat on their own and they have been known to cause eating disorders. Those who “fall off” of these strict meal plans because they had one little treat usually feel guilty and throw in the towel – they either go all out and eat everything they can or give up completely until perhaps the next Monday rolls around. So why not incorporate a bit of chocolate or a few cookies in the day and make the whole process easier and more enjoyable? It’s accountability with flexibility. Think about the 80/20 rule for your nutrition. Whole foods should make up 80% of your diet and treats can make up 20% of your diet. This will keep you sane and you’ll be more likely to stick to your weight loss plan without losing your sanity and social life.
One Quick Note: Fat Loss vs Weight Loss
Now, I don’t want to confuse weight loss with fat loss because these are two different things. Sticking to a calorie target will ensure weight loss (muscle, water and fat), but if we want to make sure we are losing mostly fat then we need to have a balance of our daily macronutrients. An increase of protein at roughly 0.8-1.1 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day is a good starting point. Eating adequate amounts of protein will spare muscle loss when you’re dieting and the body will use more fat as fuel instead of breaking down muscle tissue. A few examples of great protein sources are your lean meats, eggs, fish, protein powders, tempeh and lentils. There are several more but I will save that for another article.
What To Do At Restaurants
With the flexible approach there are a few things you can do:
* plan ahead by having a look at the restaurant’s nutrition information and eat according to your targets
* if there is no nutrition information available stay flexible by using your best estimations or find something similar in your app
* occasionally you can interchange carbs and fat (total calories) while keeping the protein the same. For example: if you didn’t have much fat allowed for the rest of the day but decided on a higher fat meal then keep carbs lower as long as you stay under your total calorie target
* structure your day to include more protein and vegetables because your “meal out” will most likely be higher in carbs and fat
* consider intermittent fasting (more advanced approach) to allow for more calories to be eaten later in the day
* just enjoy the meal in moderation and get back to your plan the next day
There you have it, it IS possible to lose weight (really we should focus on fat loss though) and keep your sanity and social life. Stay accountable with your nutrition but have some fun, live life, be happy and remain flexible in your approach.