Flexible dieting is a nutrition philosophy and lifestyle that I truly believe in. It provides you with the ability to enjoy life and food without feeling restricted but also allows you to reach your fitness goals as well.
The idea behind flexible dieting is that no foods are off limits and you can eat the foods you enjoy as long as they fit into a macronutrient split. Macronutrients are proteins, carbs, and fat just in case you weren’t sure. I would like to point out however that this does not mean you are free to fill up your diet with ice cream and oreos and whatever other junk you can squeeze it. Normally I find it helpful to follow an 80/20 split where 80% of the foods you eat come from whole food sources (lean meats, grains, fruit, veggies) and 20% are fun foods like oreos and ice cream.
The thing about flexible dieting is it is NOT a diet, it is a lifestyle and something that is maintainable month after month and year after year. If you are currently dieting and cannot see yourself maintaining that diet long term, I suggest you seriously rethink what you are doing. Many short term diets can often lead to weight regain plus some, especially if you do not have a plan for what happens after the diet is over. But that is a whole other topic.
If you are interested in flexible dieting there are a few easy steps to get started.
- Track everything you eat for a couple of weeks. This doesn’t mean alter your usual habits, its just so you can get a realistic idea of what your current macronutrient split looks like and how much you are eating. Yes, this does mean weighing food and using an app to track. I recommend My Fitness Pal or My Macros Plus. Although using an app to track your food might seem tedious at first, it soon will become habit. You have to consider what is more important, reaching your goals and taking an extra minute here and there to put food into an app or continuing with your normal habits that may be preventing you from reaching your goals.
- After tracking for a week or two, take a look at how much you are currently eating. This is not the time to start cutting calories if you think they are too high! We just want to try and adjust macronutrient ratios. Maybe protein is too low (This is usually the case for most people). Maybe carbs or fats or both are too high. Take this information and slowly adjust from there. There is more in depth information about how to figure out your macros here.
- The last and probably most important is to plan ahead. Whether you choose to follow a flexible dieting approach or something else entirely, planning will help lead you toward success. When you go grocery shopping, have an idea of what meals you are going to prepare for the week and make sure you buy enough ingredients to last you. Also make sure to have good snacks at hand such as single server greek yogurt, fruit, or protein bars. This way, if you get hungry between meals, you will be prepared and won’t have to resort to a bad of chips or a candy bar. If you are going out to eat, have a look at the menu ahead of time and if the nutrition information is available, scan it over so you can go in knowing what will be a good choice to help you achieve your goals. Another planning ahead trick I like to use is if I know I want a treat, like ice cream or some cookies, I will log those foods into my food tracking app at the start of the day. It gives you something to look forward to and it allows you to make your other food choices around the treat you will be having later. This way you can still have a food you are craving, but it doesn’t mean it has to mess up your entire day.