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Flexible Eating: The New Calorie Counting

by Christie Stelly

Is it really possible to lose weight while indulging in junk food? Yes it IS possible… kind of.

Diets typically include restrictions, meaning you are required to eat certain types of “healthy” foods and stay away from the ones that likely made you diet in the first place.

There is a new diet  program in the fitness industry called “if it fits your macros (IIFYM),” also known as “flexible dieting.” I first encountered flexible dieting two years ago and it has created a healthy relationship with food that I never thought I’d have.

It is no secret that America has an obesity epidemic and diets are part of the reason why. Researchers at UCLA have discovered that dieting can actually be more harmful than beneficial.

“You can initially lose 5 to 10 percent of your weight on any number of diets, but then the weight comes back,” Traci Mann, associate professor of psychology at UCLA, said in a statement.

“We found that the majority of people regained all the weight, plus more. Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or healthy benefits for the majority of people,” Mann said.

One of the reasons why people cannot stick to diets is because they are unsustainable and unrealistic. For example, the Atkins diet claims on their website that a low carb lifestyle is the best way to lose weight.

No carb or low carb diets may work for some people in certain circumstances but overall they are not sustainable for the majority of people. Even if someone sticks to this diet for a month or two, they will most likely end up going back to their old habits and gaining even more weight.

“Eating in moderation is a good idea for everybody, and so is regular exercise,” Mann said.

This is where flexible dieting comes into the picture. The IIFYM “diet” focuses on the three energy sources our bodies use to function properly: carbohydrates, fats and protein.  IIFYM is considered by some to be a step up from typical calorie counting.

An individual who is practicing flexible dieting would be given a percentage of each macronutrient to eat per day based on their goals. Each day they will track their food to ensure they reach a daily calorie goal.

According to The Washington Post, “you’ll start by aiming to get one gram of protein for every pound you weigh. Then based on whether you are naturally slim or tend to store more fat, you’ll adjust your calories from fat to be 25-35 percent of your daily energy. Carbs will make up the rest of your calories.”

You can calculate your macros online by going to www.iifym.com/iifym-calculator. Keep in mind that these numbers are an estimate.

MyFitnessPal is a great application that both Apple and Android users can take advantage of. It is free and allows you to track your food, water intake, weight, measurements and overall progress. The premium version of the application ($50/year) will allow you to track your specific macronutrients.

Advocates of flexible dieting claim that a calorie is just a calorie and other experts disagree, saying a 300-calorie piece of cake and 300-calorie piece of meat have two different effects on your weight loss results.

The whole purpose behind flexible dieting is to have a balance between healthy foods and the occasional treat. For example, coworkers are celebrating a birthday with cake. Instead of being the only person not to enjoy a slice, with flexible eating you can indulge a bit. Plan the rest of of your meals for the day around it. Choose healthier options, lower in fat and carbs. Instead of feeling guilty about enjoying a piece of cake with friends, you can go about your day feeling good about staying on track while keeping balance and moderation in mind.

In order for you to reach your weight loss goals and keep the weight off, lifestyle changes must be made. That is why macro-counting has worked for me, as well as so many others across the world.

Once a person becomes familiar with tracking their food, they can typically move to a more intuitive style of eating if they wish to do so. Flexible dieting has allowed many people to take their lives back when it comes to their up-and-down relationship with diet and food.

According to The Washington Post, “there isn’t a single diet that works for everyone, so seeing a dietitian for individualized advice is a great idea.”

Consult your doctor before making any extreme changes to your diet.