Avocado, plain chicken and a handful of almonds accompanied by a flamboyant fruit smoothie that would put any rainbow to shame – is this the first Instagram picture that comes to mind the second you hear the word weight loss? Well, then you are one of many who suffer from the common delusion created by modern society, which tells us that the only way to your perfect body is the way of strict, clean and healthy eating. If you are sick of digesting any more avocado, almonds and aforementioned delusions, then the concept of flexible dieting belongs on your plate.
Flexible dieting – what is it?
Flexible dieting is, contrary to the title, not actually a diet, but instead a lifestyle. It is a lifestyle and a tool, that can help you reach your goals whether this goal is weight loss, weight maintenance, weight and muscle mass gain.
When it comes to flexible dieting, words like “healthy” and “unhealthy” are eliminated from the dictionary, and in relation to food it is more a question of nutritious versus less nutritious. The primary focus is on the overall daily calorie consumption which consists of two important terms, namely macronutrients and micronutrients. The term macronutrients consist of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. These macronutrients can, in any given food item, be accompanied by micronutrients. This is where the nutrition part comes in, since micronutrients involve vitamins and minerals.
Now, what determines whether you will gain, lose or maintain weight is not what you eat but rather how much you eat, in terms of your daily caloric consumption. The numbers will vary from person to person, but as an example a given individual could have a maintenance calorie consumption of 2500 calories (kcal).
As noted, these calories are made up of carbohydrates, proteins and fats where 1 gram (g) of carbohydrates equals 3.8kcal, 1g of protein equals 4.1kcal and 1g of fat equals 9.4kcal.
In accordance to this, 2500 calories could consist of around 280g carbohydrates, 200g protein and 60g fat.
This is just an example of how you can distribute your macronutrients (macros), and there are many ways to do so, but what is unique for flexible dieting is that it allows you to be highly flexible in terms of which type of foods you choose to comprise these macros. If you have a maintenance calorie consumption of 2500 kcal and want to lose weight, you could decrease your caloric intake to 2400 calories by cutting your intake of carbohydrates to 255g down from 280g. You would now be in a calorie deficit and slowly start losing weight. If instead you wanted to gain weight, you could increase your caloric intake to 2600 kcal by for example increasing the intake of carbohydrates to 305g up from 280g. You would now be in a calorie surplus and start gaining weight slowly.
Having trouble understanding why you are no longer losing weight, after you recently decreased your caloric intake? Well, whether you want to lose or gain weight you will inevitably hit plateaus which will halt your progress. Plateaus in relation to weight, are when your metabolism has adapted to the adjustments you made to your caloric intake. The simple way to push through a weight loss plateau is to slightly decrease your caloric intake once again. You will now slowly begin losing weight again until you hit a new plateau.
Now you just repeat this method until you reach your desired weight. Easy right? Well, it is always easier said than done and there are certainly a lot of different techniques to dealing with weight plateaus, but this is a very simple and straight forward method that might just work for you.
How is it done and what do I need?
What is essential to flexible dieting is the ratio between the consumption of nutritious and less nutritious food. The overall daily caloric consumption can be likened to a budget: How you distribute your means within this budget is not important as long as you stay within the budget. In theory, the ratio between nutritious and less nutritious food could be 10/90, meaning 10% “healthy foods and 90% “unhealthy” foods, but since we are still in the realm of fitness, this would be ill-advised. Hence, a typical ratio within the flexible dieting concept is around 70/30, meaning 70% of the total caloric consumption consists of nutritious, micronutrient-dense foods whereas the remaining 30% are free and can consist of basically any type of food. So, the ratio between nutritious food and less nutritious food is up to the individual, but what is essential is that the total calorie and macronutrient budget isn’t exceeded.
So what do you actually need to make sure you don’t exceed your daily calories and macros? Not much actually, other than a weight scale, a food scale and a calorie counter app. The food scale you’ll use for weighing out the food you want to consume and you use the calorie counter app to track these foods. The calorie counter will crunch the numbers and provide you a detailed picture of your daily food consumption in numbers, namely calories and macronutrients. Now the weight scale is the pièce de résistance, since it allows you to ensure that your weight is progressing in the right direction and lets you know if you need to make any adjustments to your caloric intake.
Why choose flexible dieting – pros and cons
One of the best pros of flexible dieting is that it allows you to get your cravings satisfied on a daily basis. The lifestyle reduces the need for cheat meals and as well as cheat days, as it gives way to eating foods you normally wouldn’t be able to eat without feeling a sense of doubt. Additionally, it is a very flexible way of living as the name of the concept states. For instance, it makes hanging out with friends and family much less tense and stressful and you will not feel like an outsider for being on a diet, seeing as how flexible dieting allows you to reach your fitness goals while still accepting the foods that would normally be viewed as taboo. In addition to this, if you learn to master the craft of utilizing a calorie counter such as MyFitnessPal and track your macros very precisely, then you will master the craft of controlling your weight and physique completely at will.
As with anything else though, there are also cons, or rather risks, to be aware of. The danger of flexible dieting lies in the ratio between nutritious and less nutritious foods. As previously mentioned the ratio is irrelevant to reaching your weight goals, but filling your daily available macros with a higher amount of less nutritious foods than nutritious foods will increasingly limit you from consuming important fibres, vitamins and minerals.
So, is flexible dieting for me?
It is very important to note that healthy, diverse and nutritious food should always be factored into any diet, but the purpose of flexible dieting is to show that you can obtain your vision of your ideal weight and physique without having to follow a diet that only consists of clean and healthy foods. If you would like to break free of dull, fixed meal plans, food taboos and an overall limiting lifestyle, then you this might very well be for you. To phrase it differently, if you would like to reach any fitness goal imanginable, but still maintain a relaxed and flexible approach to it, the concept of flexible dieting is definitely for you.
Flexible dieters you may know
If you would like to see the results of flexible dieting, here is a list of a few established fitness icons who utilize the concept in their daily lives:
- Christian Guzman (@christianguzmanfitness)
- Ollie Marchon (@olliemarchon)
- Rachelle Lynch (@rachellelynchbuddhafit)
- Chris Jones (@beastmodejones)
- Amanda Bucci (@amandabuccifit)
- Shawley Coker (@shawleycoker)
- Matt Ogus (@mattogus)
- Matty Fusaro (@mattyfusaro)
- Steve Cook (@stevecook)
- Paul Revelia (@paulrevelia)
- Sal Hassan (@salmass228)
- Nick Bare (@nickbarefitness)
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