Flexible Dieting

There has been some confusion in the past over this term “flexible dieting”. Some people can use it as an excuse to include too much of, shall we say, less nutritionally superior foods than others on a daily basis. This is more of a “if it fits your macros” (IIFYM) approach. Which is probably another blog for another time!

While it is true that if we are in a calorie deficit, irrespective of what were eating then we should lose weight. If someone was to eat 2000 kcal a day made up of entirely mars bars and their maintenance calorie intake was 3000 kcal would they lose weight? Yes , probably. Would it be healthy for them long term?  Would it help their body composition? (fat and lean mass) Would it be fat we lost or something else too? Would it create more problems with eating habits?

We believe it comes down to consistent choice of quality whole foods. What we need to do is look for foods that provide us not only with macronutrients but also micronutrition. While it is great to “look” good we also need to make sure we function properly, perform well, have a immune system that protects us and we generally feel better.

Certain foods may react differently in certain bodies. Someone with hormonal issues, or unstable blood sugars, who is pretty inactive and overweight, would certainly react differently internally to those lesser quality foods eaten. And in some cases if their diet is made up entirely of these choices, it may only confound some of their issues instead of solving them!

The leaner the individual with a higher proportion of muscle mass and ess body fat, the more able they will be to eat “less optimal” choices. Probably a bit more often (daily), without it affecting them as much (again this is more IIFYM). Especially if they are active and training consistently. These people have a better set point. Their ability to deal with foods, digest them, and prioritize them to muscle is probably better (this is called partitioning). Added to this their mental state may be more stable, they will be able to eat certain “trigger” foods without it spiralling out of control for the rest of the day or week.

Flexible structure is what we should aim for. While at first letting someone eat anything to fit their calorie needs may be less mentally stressful (setting up a diet can be a big psychological change for some), as providing macros for example may be too complex. Once people are generally in good habits their taste buds change, and their physical appearance changes providing more motivation, they will start to gravitate towards more optimal foods for their goal. This would be a more structured flexible plan. Consuming mainly whole foods, with minor deviations along the way.

Flexible eating attitudes are certainly known for long term success and adherence in dieting. It has been proven in studies. It certainly works and it's an approach we use at No Limits. As long as there is a emphasis on quality of choice for 80-90% of the time, being flexible with your eating will create success long term.

As always it comes down to controlled eating habits. One krispy kreme a day won't ruin your diet, but a diet consisting solely of doughnuts will take you a little while longer to achieve your goals that's for sure!

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