Flexible Dieting. Just another Diet? By The Macro Wizard
You’ve probably read it or heard it somewhere, “Eat oreos. Get lean.”
Whilst this statement can be right I figured it was worth taking some snaps of what flexible dieting really is to avoid falling into one of these sexy-marketing claims too quickly.
When trying to explain flexible dieting we usually encounter all sorts of arguments and claims, these tend to be the most common:
- Flexible dieting is just another fad. You can’t really eat whatever you like and you’re always restricted and obsessed about numbers.
- It’s just a sexy title to allow people to eat crap all day and share it on Instagram.
- People who follow it only care about aesthetics, if we were to look inside their bodies we’ll surely find disease developing and/or a serious lack of nutrients with adverse health effects.
These are all valid arguments of course so before trying to address them one by one and make this article an essay on how to waste your time trying to get people to think before spitting out words, let’s see what flexible dieting REALLY IS so you can judge for yourself. Ready?
Flexible dieting is nothing revolutionary but our human stupidity tells us that if something isn’t new, revolutionary and/or complicated –bonus points if it hits all three, it’s not worth even trying.
So, what is flexible dieting really?
*IT IS a way to apply what science tells us so far about nutrition in an easy, practical way, providing our bodies with the required nutrients and doing so without obsessing about “clean or dirty food”, the poison of sugar or whether saturated fat is going to kill you tomorrow. This means we should eat a ton of foods full of nutrients without forgetting that ice cream, pastries or pizza can be included in our daily diets without any side effect. EVERYTHING has nutrients and energy, and hey, your body is pretty awesome at using them.
*IT IS a way to help us become more conscious of what goes into our mouth. Knowing what you eat on a daily basis can give you the power to control your body and make adjustments where necessary. Wanna lose a bit of flab? Gain some muscle? You know will know what to do exactly without guessing or playing with some snake oil techniques.
*IT IS a sustainable way to eat, meaning that you could eat like this for the rest of your life if you wanted to. You base your nutrition according to personal preference and knowing what the basics are for providing your body with what it needs. No more eating every 3 hours “because a book said so” or avoiding sugar at all costs because it raises insulin.
If done correctly, eating in a flexible manner means eating tons of foods rich in vitamins and minerals with no compromise to our personal preference or circumstances. Grandma was right; you can eat dessert if you have your vegetables first!
This last bit is key guys.
Most people pursuing health and fitness tend to demonise certain foods, claiming that they harm our bodies and that we should avoid them at all costs. This just creates a horrible relationship with food that could lead to ugly bits of human psychology that are not fun nor healthy.
I have been snapping my meals during these past few days to try and give you a visual idea of what this flexible dieting thing really is, let’s jump straight into it!
Day 1: Eating at home.
- I made a huge chicken and veggie stir-fry with some noodles. Because I know how hungry I am on my first meal (yeah, I don’t eat breakfast usually), I tend to make a salad to fill up my belly and get in those nutrients.
- Protein chocolate cake (The Muscle Bakery has ton of recipes for protein goodies) with casein chocolate “sauce”.
- Some store-bought pizza bases topped with low fat cream cheese spread, canned tuna and spices. That big salad for lunch left me with most of my carbohydrates left for the night so I took advantage of it!
Day 2: Let’s see how we do when going out a bit
- Another protein mug cake topped with low fat greek yogurt, chocolate pieces, M&M’s and walden farms chocolate syrup.
- For lunch I made some chicken with veggies in tomato sauce, topped with two grilled eggs and served on a bed of couscous. A couple of small slices of bread to help push it in.
- Dinner? We went out to grab some burgers, shared a small serving of fries with my partner in crime and opted for a double meat, extra egg and no sauce option from the menu. I had a pretty light lunch so this complemented my day perfectly.
Day 3: How about being out all day? No problem
- Went to a pub for lunch where I opted for a simple steak and sweet potato fries with a side of grilled veggies.
- Dinner was some sort of steak asian stir fry with noodles and veggies.
- After dinner and before bed I prepared some simple protein pancakes accompanied by cottage cheese and berries. Meat portions at restaurants aren’t huge so depending on your goals you may have to complement your day with a pre-bed like this to hit protein and other nutrients.
Try for yourself!
Day 4: Let’s do another one with the majority of foods away from our kitchen.
- Lunch was a huge plate of couscous with veggies, grilled eggs, serrano ham and double portion of chicken. Ask for the condiments to be served on the side to avoid adding a million grams of fat into your day.
- On our way home we grabbed a small cone of delicious gelato. How to track gelato I hear you? Search once for “Gelato” on MyFitnessPal or your app of choice, add the generic serving of 50–65g and then add a waffle cone. It should come up to around 50g of carbs and 20g of fat including the cone.
- This was a pretty early lunch so when 6pm rolled out I was a bit hungry. I knew we were planning to eat out later but did not know where so I took the opportunity to top up my protein for the day with 200g of quark, a spoon of peanut butter, some light jam and walden farms chocolate syrup.
- Dinner happened to be a burger so again, I opted for double meat, no sauce no add ons. We shared some fried chicken with the rest of the table so no biggie.
Believe it or not this day ended up at around 2600kcal and hit my macros pretty much on the spot.
What can we learn from these images?
- There is a clear steer towards the right portion of protein, fibre and veggies at almost every meal.
- When eating something out of the ordinary, portions tend to be small and enough to satisfy our sweet tooth. Do you really need a kilo of gelato for dessert?
- No day is perfect and that is totally fine! We’ve talked about this many times; perfection does not exist. I try to stay close to my goals as best as I can but I don’t stress it if life happens and I end up short on protein or exceeding my calories. Live your life.
- I always eat according to my personal preferences. I absolutely refuse to eat anything I dislike just because someone said somewhere that it’s a superfood or that I will get Arnold’s body by eating pounds of it. There are no magics foods and you do not need to avoid anything in particular to reach your goals.
This particular way of eating tends to be called ‘flexible dieting’ but in reality, it’s just eating.
Eating the foods you love and not stressing about the minutia, use your newly found free time to share moments with your loved ones, read a book or go get tanned at the beach. 😎
The freedom you get from knowing you can eat anything is liberating but it doesn’t mean you have to eat anything! If you enjoy eating chicken and veggies at almost every meal then by all means continue doing so, just know that a chicken sandwich with cheese is not going to instantly make you fat or kill you because of “OH MY GOD THERE’S CHEESE IN IT”.
How can I make this whole ‘flexible dieting’ thing work for me?
You’ve probably seen or read about people who seem to live on cookies, ice cream and donuts whilst showing their rock hard abs and steel glutes to the world.
Don’t let it fool you though. I can guarantee that these guys don’t just live on sugar and processed (tasty) crap. They don’t have a ‘faster metabolism’ either. They just don’t show what they do the rest of their time (come on, photos of chicken and broccoli get boring quickly, Instagram the s**t out of a massive gelato please).
These people control their total calories in a way that works for them, working into their daily or weekly nutrition all those yummy treats without sacrificing essential nutrients or compromising their goals. They may also be 5 times more active than you without you knowing!
YOU can also make this work FOR YOU by following some simple steps:
- Track what you eat every day for a week or two. Even if you don’t plan on tracking forever (good choice), an initial period of learning will give you the tools required for success in the long term. You will be surprised at the amount of fat that ‘healthy salad’ you get from work every day has or that innocent burrito that contains nearly 1000kcal.
- Set up processes to eat enough protein. RDA’s are a joke. They were made with sedentary people in mind and with the MINIMUM amounts to survive as a general guideline. You want to thrive and live a healthier life, eat more protein and you’ll soon find yourself fuller, happier and leaner. Protein will not damage your kidneys and it’s not just for bodybuilders, give it the importance it deserves.
- Manipulate carbs and fat as you prefer to stay within your calorie goal for the week. If you start restricting foods you’ll soon find yourself lacking energy and essential nutrients as well as being obsessed about food ALL THE TIME. Take advantage of the data you are going to accumulate with the diary and make room for your favourite foods! Completely eliminating an entire food group (i.e carbs) is just going to make things more complicated without any added benefits.
- Give yourself a 20% room in your daily calories to eat all those foods you like but you still frown upon. There’s no evidence of any food that causes harm to the body (allergies, and other issues aside). Being flexible allows you to stop analysing if what you eat is “healthy enough” and helps to remove the guilt or any negative thoughts related to eating a donut for example. A 20% is safe enough because it leaves enough room for treats without forgetting about our protein, fruits and veggies.
My quality of life has improved immensely after more than 2 years of carrying food containers everywhere, eating every 3 hours and restricting everything that was off the list of “healthy foods” I was ready to give up on this “being healthy s**t”.
I can now go out to dinner with friends, attend a BBQ or eat some popcorn cinema with my girlfriend without a problem. You just have to be smart about managing your daily/weekly calorie budget.
Traveling is no longer an issue and I don’t need to carry protein with me wherever I go. Yes, it may be practical, but I also now that I can step into ANY restaurant in the world and get some meat, veggies and a dessert of my liking with the exact same effects on my body.
Enjoy your food guys, life is much more than nutrition and fitness!
Quality of life matters.
After losing about 65kgs (and succumbing to a period of obsession) Mr Macro Wizard decided to go about his diet the scientific way, leaving all the fads and nonsense behind him. Since then, he has earned himself a PHD, appeared on Mens Health, travelled the world, ate many a burger and most importantly, is reaching out to others to help them on their own journey.
Article written by The Macro Wizard, if you have not checked him out… what are you waiting for?! You can find him on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and most importantly via his website. (His Instagram may make you a bit jealous though with his travelling and epic foodscapades).
You can also find his previous blogpost ‘Eat More Protein’ here.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article, get involved… tweet us @themusclebakery & @themacrowizard #NotAnotherDiet and tell us your thoughts!
Need help getting started? Here’s some recipe inspo:
Choc Chip Bake