• 5 Tips That Will Make Flexible Dieting (IIFYM) So Much Easier

    January 23, 2016

    Hi there, I’m CrossFit trainer and nutrition coach, Courtney Worthington. As a 2014 CrossFit Individual Regional Competitor and former CrossFit affiliate owner, I understand first-hand how important nutrition is and the impact it has on body composition, energy levels and performance. I offer IIFYM/Flexible Dieting nutrition coaching via my blog, The Petite Athleat.

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    So, what is IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)? It’s a way of eating that offers flexibility in the kinds of foods you eat (doughnuts are allowed!) as long as at the end of the day, you reach the specific amount of calories and macronutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats) you have allowed to you, by weighing, measuring and recording all foods eaten. Want more nitty gritty details? Check out this post here.

    I love seeing my client succeed! I have found that these five pieces of advice have proven most helpful and are the first things I recommend to anyone embarking on the flexible dieting train!

    1. Plan your day ahead of time.

    This sounds too easy, right? A total “duh” moment. But it’s like a light bulb turns on when I recommend this tiny little tip to my clients. Example: If you have $100 to spend at Lululemon – do you just pick up a pair of Wunder Unders, a Scuba Hoodie and a head band, walk up to the register with fingers crossed, hoping you didn’t spend more than $100? What, no! Does that seem logical?

    Of course not! You’re checking the price tag of each piece (praying for sale item) and mentally adding everything up so that you can stay within your budget.

    Flexible Dieting is the exact same scenario. Budgeting your macros so that at the end of the day, your check book balances. Sorry, you don’t come home with new Wunder Unders, instead, you come home with better energy, better performance in the gym, and fat loss all over (abs, anyone?)

    It’s easy to do. When you’re laying in bed tonight, open up your food journal and swipe to tomorrow. Enter in everything you need for breakfast, lunch, dinner, post-workout snack, etc., adjusting as necessary, to hit your goals. Tomorrow, if you need to adjust a little bit here and there, that’s ok. What you have set up is a beautiful plan, and now all you have to do is follow it (and hope that stress cravings for chocolate don’t get the best of you. But that takes me to the next tip).

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    2. Stop eating what you want to and start eating what you need to.

    Do you really need another pair of Wunder Unders? Do you really need another Scuba Hoodie?

    No.

    Do you really need another scoop of ice cream? Do you really need dark chocolate covered caramels?

    No, you want them. Your desire for instant gratification is stronger than your desire for long-term results.

    80% of the time, eating should be considered a job and not a past-time. Mindless eating when you’re flexible dieting should become a thing of the past. Everything you put in your mouth has a purpose and each morsel is either hindering you or helping you.

    3. Log it before you eat it.

    If you can’t log your whole day in advance and follow your own journal (aka Mini Meal Plan, see Tip #1), then at least abide by this rule: log it before you eat it. I promise you, 100% of the time, if you log it before you eat it, you will be very, very successful in hitting your macros! We fail when we try to add up too many random things AFTER eating them throughout the day; after inputting everything you thought had you on track, you discover you ate all of your carbs and now you’re stuck with 39g of protein and 2g of fat for dinner. Have fun eating A LOT of egg whites and another protein shake.

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    4. Use the Scanning feature in MyFitnessPal

    I work with my clients using MyFitnessPal. It’s easy to use and has the most extensive food database I have found yet. The neatest feature I believe is the UPC scanner. It makes food logging immensely fast; which is good for all of us that never have enough time in the day. You simply open up the app, click the scanner, and scan the food UPC label of the food you’re about to eat. So simple. This is the best feature they’ve come out with for folks who struggle to follow Tip #3.

    5. Add some volume to your diet.

    At the end of the day, IIFYM is still a diet. If you’re doing it for weight loss, that means you’re most likely in a caloric deficit. You might feel hungry some days. The best way to combat that is to mix in some vegetables with your protein and carbohydrate sources. Mix it up a little though, it doesn’t always mean you have to have another boring salad.

    Instead of a one cup of spaghetti noodles, why not do a half cup of spaghetti noodles and a full cup of zucchini noodles, mixed together with your marinara sauce? Instead of one cup of brown rice, why not do a half cup of brown rice and one cup of cauliflower rice, mixed together? Vegetables are your best friends when you’re looking to feel “full”, they should be your go to. They’re rich in water and fiber and micronutrients.

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    Flexible dieting is a way of eating that allows you the freedom to eat the things you love, but still reach your body composition goals, enjoy new energy levels, and train harder than you have before. Like any new habit, at first it can seem daunting and overwhelming, but eventually it becomes a habit, probably one of the healthiest and most helpful ones you can adopt. If you need help calculating your own calories and macronutrients or staying on track, I’m here to help!

    Happy Eating!

    Courtney

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    { 28 comments… read them below or add one }

    Rachel @ Simply Rachel Nicole January 23, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    I love the tip to plan ahead. It is so simple, but so important!

    Reply

    Erin January 24, 2016 at 2:34 am

    Hi,
    Great article and suggestion. I usually write down what I eat as I go, but I think I will try it your way. I am struggling with lower belly fat. I eat healthy, I workout hard, and do different kinds of workouts. Cardio, weight lifting, pilates reformer, and,swimming. However, it seems unless I starve myself, that belly fat is there to stay. I haven’t starved myself on purpose, I went through a divorce, death of my brother, awful boss, and back surgery in the span of a year and a half. I will say I am sleep deprived and have tried so many different things. Any suggestions on the stubborn belly fat? I haven’t drank in almost 2 years. Thanks.

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    Kacie January 24, 2016 at 7:28 am

    This post kind of upsets me! It doesn’t seem that Courtney has any training/education in nutrition so I feel like she’s not in a position to be telling people what their diet should be. There are a lot of factors involved and without a background in it, how can she really be equipped to give out advice?

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    Wendy January 24, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Unfortunately, I have to agree with Kacie. Tina, I usually enjoy your content and guest posts, but this seems to be in direct conflict with things you “preach” about health and wellness (moderation not starvation, eating whole and satisfying foods, not worrying too much about an “off” day). The habits Courtney suggests sound more disordered than helpful, in my opinion. Not trying to criticize, just voicing my concerns– thanks for the work you do and opening a forum to discuss this type of stuff!

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    Christi January 25, 2016 at 1:07 am

    I agree 100%!

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    Jessica January 25, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    @Wendy: I had the exact same thoughts.

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    Erin January 26, 2016 at 10:30 am

    @Kacie: @Wendy: I am not sure you understand how IIFYM works. I’ve been using it for about 8 weeks now, and it is by far the easiest “diet” I’ve ever used. The whole point is everything in moderation, if it fits your macros, you can eat it. I have literally had days where I’m craving a donut, so I make it fit and I don’t stress about it, and I’m still consistently losing. They preach that no food is inherently bad or good, but instead everything in moderation. Obviously to hit my numbers, it makes the most sense to eat real, whole foods to get those numbers, but it is flexible and allows me to never feel deprived.

    There is no starvation, even in a cut, I’m still eating almost 1,900 calories per day, with a healthy mix of carbs, fats and proteins. The plan was tailored to me by someone just like Courtney, who is a certified nutritional coach.

    I guess I am biased because I use macros, but I truly feel like IIFYM is a way for most people to be successful with not only weight loss, but body image. It makes me conscious of what I’m putting into my body to fuel it for workouts, but it allows me to eat foods that I enjoy every day.

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    Megan January 27, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    @Erin:

    Ditto Erin. IIFYM is great. Definitely no starvation here. And it’s all in moderation! How is that disordered eating?

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    Ginger G. January 30, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Completely agree!!!! Registered dietitians have the education, credentials, and experience to provide this advice, not some self-proclaimed “nutritionist” or “health coach” (who it also appears sells some sort of nutrition-type product via her website). I’m a longtime reader of this blog, but posts like this quickly make me lose respect for it.

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    Katie January 26, 2016 at 11:41 am

    @Kacie:

    I completely agree, although maybe adding in some different reasons. Macro counting is a valid method of weight loss- I’m down almost 60 pounds because of it. But a lot of what Courtney is saying here (“stop eating what you want and start eating what you need”) goes directly against one of the main tenets of IIFYM, which is that you DON’T have to give up the things that you want to eat, just track how much of them you’re eating.

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    Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious January 24, 2016 at 7:37 am

    Very interesting! I’ve been counting calories for years and just switched to macro counting. While the discipline of recording everything I’m used to, it’s still been an adjustment. Thanks for the tips!

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    Catie January 24, 2016 at 9:10 am

    I’ve been counting macros for three weeks now. These tips were awesome! Counting macros is very tedious but I’ve been seeing a big deference already.

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    Melissa Preston January 24, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    This post is so out of the ordinary for you, Tina. I love your blog because you promote health, being body positive, and eating according to hunger and fullness. IIFYM is directly in opposition of all of those things. I am a registered dietitian and licensed therapist who works with people with disordered eating and body dysmorphia. IIFYM promotes eating according to certain macro ratios, rather than hunger and fullness. What if you are still hungry but have “used up” all your macros for the day? What then? If you follow this plan and get abs, does that mean you are healthy? Of course we know the answer is no. Also, is that really a life when you are counting and putting inputting everything you eat in your phone? Talk about getting obsessed with food. I could go on and on about this. I encourage you to put a disclaimer above the post such as “if you are at risk or have a history of disordered eating please read with caution”. Tina, you rock. This post does not.

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    Jessica January 24, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Thank you, Melissa, for pointing out that those of us with histories of eating disorders or disordered eating would find this information triggering.

    “Stop eating what you want to and start eating what you need to” is precisely what drives disordered behaviors around food. While I agree that nobody needs chocolate all the time, it’s ok (and even healthy!) to choose a food with less nutritional value than another available option because you want it at the time.

    Obviously if someone finds IIFYM works for them, go for it. But I do not consider it practical, healthy, and generally applicable nutritional advice.

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    Mel January 24, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    @Melissa Preston:

    Couldn’t agree more, Melissa.

    “Do you really need another scoop of ice cream? Do you really need dark chocolate covered caramels?

    No, you want them. Your desire for instant gratification is stronger than your desire for long-term results.”

    This particularly disappointed me. There’s nothing wrong with you for wanting a dessert.

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    Kerry January 24, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    @Wendy: @Mel: I really appreciate these comments, as I am a registered dietitian who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. I am also a personal trainer and yoga teacher and I am no stranger to the realm of fitness professionals giving too much nutrition advice and plans. Tina, I LOVE your blog and your posts are always rockin’! I struggle reading posts like this because it can definitely trigger those who suffer from an eating disorder, or even stir up thoughts for someone who is more likely to develop an eating disorder. Again, Tina, I always love your blog posts but felt the need to leave this comment. Thanks!

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    Molly January 24, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    Melissa, THANK YOU! This is wonderfully said!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Zoe January 27, 2016 at 10:08 am

    @Molly: Agree!! Thank you for pointing this out Melissa. I myself have casually used macro counting as a ballpark guideline for different foods that I may want to consider adding or removing from my diet- it did show me that there are meals where I may not crave a source of protein but if I work it into a snack I’m much more satisfied. I very roughly would stay within range of my macro guidelines and go by fullness cues. This post is highlighting one interpretation of using Macro counting and the author could have included a section on how or why to use vegetables to feel fuller or how to use this system with intuitive eating as well.

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    Erin January 26, 2016 at 10:35 am

    @Melissa Preston: As someone who definitely has/had disordered eating, IIFYM has been a God send for me. I was someone who always labeled food “good” and “bad,” and I would judge myself so harshly for eating anything bad, and then usually a binge ensued. IIFYM has allowed me listen to my body more than ever before, and to not feel horrible for eating “bad” foods. I truly feel better than I ever have before, and I’m properly fueling my body every day. To each their own, of course, and I do agree that posts like this should definitely include a disclaimer.

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    Lucia January 27, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    @Melissa Preston: I 100% agree with this comment. I’m not an RD myself, but it is common sense that Macros are not be all and end all. What about the Micronutrients your body needs? What about essential vitamins and minerals? Just because donuts, ice cream, power bars and protein powders “fit your macros” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look at the rest of the nutritional profile. It makes me angry that uninformed people may read this story and apply it to their own lives.

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    Sky @ Blonde Freedom January 24, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    I’ve been doing flexible dieting since August. A coach at my CrossFit box gets me my numbers and is great at answering any questions I have. I’ve tried paleo and have tried simply eating “healthy” without any real guidance. Neither of those worked for me mentally and physically. Since starting flexible dieting I’ve seen a huge difference in my performance in the gym (so much more energy!). I’ve also seen a change in my body composition. I weigh the same, but my body has been changing in a great way! Flexible dieting is hard and intimidating at first. I don’t track 1-2 days on the weekend so I get a break from it. I eat so much more food with IIFYM and I love it. And it’s not full of doughnuts like you see on Insta. I think there are a lot of misperceptions about IIFYM. You can’t really know what it’s about until you try it. And based on the other comments you also need the right coach.

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    Bethany January 24, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    I love this idea. It’s much like the intuitive eating approach, but with the calorie and macro counting. One question I also have when it comes to these types of diets is ‘How many calories do I need?’. Some say 1500 and some say 2500. We are all so different. How can we know what is right for us?

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    Rina January 24, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    I absolutely disagree with the idea that you should eat what you need instead of what you want. That is a quick and easy way to begin restricting–it is far, far too easy to rationalize any good-tasting, pleasurable food as something that we “want” instead of “need.” The truth is that we psychologically “need” a piece of chocolate cake or a bag of potato chips from time to time because it gives us pleasure. We need happiness as well as physical health.

    As for logging/preplanning/adding more “volume” foods to one’s diet, they are not bad ideas in principle, but again, they easily can turn to restriction. No one needs to log or plan one’s food 24/7. For example, if I feel hungry during a 16-mile hike and eat X amount of trail mix to sustain me for the hike, but don’t have MyFitnessPal on me, I am not going to freak out. My body knows my needs better than my mind, in this case. During a routine day, yes, tracking is OK because consistency counts, but at the same time I don’t ignore my hunger or skip out on a meal because I’ve gone over my caloric allowance for that day. Life is much, much more than just food, macros, and nutrients.

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    Christina January 25, 2016 at 1:12 am

    I can’t agree. You may get great results but this kind of behavior encourages disordered eating habits. Tina, I love your blog but in my opinion, this content does not reflect your views and approach to eating which I generally really like.

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    Amanda Frey January 25, 2016 at 9:16 am

    I’m currently utilizing IIFYM- I am a competitive powerlifter, so food is a huge player for my strength and my recovery. I understand certain people might not appreciate it, but IIFYM has worked wonders for many people. I track 95% of what I put in my mouth- yesterday I wanted a donut and I had a donut. I also ate chicken, fish, rice, sweet potatoes, and enough veggies for 5 people. I used to only count calories, and I would eat 1200… That is 100% an eating disorder. Now, I can eat freely what I want as long as I hit my targets. Prior to IIFYM, my diet was mainly carbs and not protein, Now I’m eating 186gs of carbs, 65gs of fat and 135g of protein to get me ready for the next powerlifting meet. This is all in the eye of the beholder- whatever works for you may not work for me!

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    Erin January 26, 2016 at 10:37 am

    @Amanda Frey: Well said! I have found IIFYM so incredibly helpful!

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    zaman January 26, 2016 at 12:25 am

    It told me something I did not know before.

    Reply

    Reginald Greene May 5, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    I stumbled upon this website very informative will pass on to my fiance.

    Thanks

    Reply

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