Burgers, ice cream, baked goods…mmm. If you follow me on Instagram (@benfritzfit if you aren’t!), you have, no doubt, seen ridiculous pictures of these wonderful, wonderful things. Along with these you will have seen #flexibledieting or #IIFYM (as I put this on #everything). Although my various meal snapshots may seem like a barrage of food porn at times, I do try to provide some context or informational tidbits on a regular basis. However, regardless of how many pictures I post or tidbits I give, you still may not fully understand what flexible dieting or IIFYM (“If It Fits Your Macros”) is.
So, we’ll start there. What do these terms actually mean? (Later, we’ll get to WHY I track my food intake, to give you a window into my thought process – this is the interesting part! In a follow up post, we will explore whether tracking your food intake is a good fit for you.)
First things first: What is flexible dieting/IIFYM? Flexible dieting, simply put, is a nutritional framework; it gives you structure without forcing you to eat any one particular way. It provides you with individually specific macronutrient goals (hence, “If It Fits Your Macros) and consequently, an overall, daily caloric goal. You are free to eat what you want as long as you hit those daily goals – essentially, it is a macronutrient budget. Everyone’s macronutrient breakdowns are a little bit different, depending on your current lifestyle, health, and fitness goals. It is important to note here that it is not a “diet” in the conventional sense of “here is what you can and can’t eat if you want to lose weight”. The word, “diet” in itself, implies restriction. Flexible dieting emphasizes mindful eating, not restrictive eating.
So why do I do it? Why do I track my macronutrient intake on a daily basis? I do it to hold myself accountable. It’s that simple. Sure, there are other things I like about tracking my intake: I like numbers, I like efficiency, I like optimizing my nutrition for my goals and I like to see how many calories were in that pizza I just demolished… okay, that last one is a lie. Nobody wants to see that.
But I need to see that.
You might be thinking, “Ben, come on, you don’t need to see that, you’re a fitness professional – you know what’s good, what’s not, what’s too much and what’s not enough. It’s part of your job.”
Yes, this is true, it is a part of my profession (and I could probably tell you the amount of protein, carbs, fat and overall calories that are in the sandwich you are eating for lunch with a frightening degree of accuracy) but that doesn’t matter. Just because I know what I should do, doesn’t mean that I always do it – I am human. I am prone to mistakes and slip-ups just like you.
Think I’m being ridiculous? It might sound like it, but what is really ridiculous is the fact that, if I don’t record it, it’s like the calories don’t even exist. One cookie turns into two or three (or 13 – where my cookie monsters at?) and before I know it, I’m a couple fistfuls of calories over what I should be for the day, all because I do not see an immediate consequence for my actions. I have a huge appetite and I love food (especially sweets) and left without clear boundaries, it’s a recipe for disaster (pun intended, obviously).
Side note: Okay, maybe not a total disaster. Due to the amount of time I spend in the gym, my overall healthy eating habits, and my relatively strong willpower, it would likely never become a major issue. My vanity alone would never allow me to gain too much weight, but I digress…
The moral of the story is that having certain parameters for my diet is necessary for my continued health and body composition improvement. The beauty of this system is that it provides guidelines without telling me exactly what I can or can’t do; I have a choice in how I get to the end goal. Of course, there is nothing stopping me from going over my daily intake, but very clearly seeing the recorded numbers is enough to make me pause and choose progress over another cookie or an additional scoop of ice cream.
Is every day perfect? Of course not.
But that’s okay. It’s about progress, not perfection. This mindset is a critical, deciding factor when it comes to long term dietary success (or failure). Say it with me, “progress, NOT perfection”. Good! Now your homework is to remind the next time you make a poor food choice – it’s harder than it sounds…
Flexible dieting is great in that it provides a fresh start the next day, or even as soon as the next meal. Consistency is key for long term results, which is why this method is a winner for me. People may claim that tracking your macros is not sustainable (I’ve been doing it for years now, with temporary, short breaks when I simply don’t have the energy to put into it) but I will counter that by saying that restrictive “clean” eating and/or never knowing if you on the correct path towards your goals, are methods that are not sustainable.
Does that mean that you have to use flexible dieting? That it will be a winner for you too? Not necessarily, but we’ll talk about that in the next post…
I hope this helped give you a little insight on my love affair with tracking my macros. Feel free to add your experiences or ask questions below!
To learn more about flexible dieting, check out my FREE beginner’s guide –> here!flexible dieting, IIFYM, macros, nutrition, tracking macros