Before we get started, I want to take a moment to state that this is the last “diet” you will ever attempt. The formula is simple, and like most things: IF YOU DON’T PUT IN THE WORK, YOU’RE NOT GOING TO SEE THE RESULTS! ALL you have to do is be consistent, hit your “macros’, and throw in some effort. It WILL be that easy!
What’s outlined below is a step-by-step guide to get you started for the first week with flexible dieting. I am sure you’ve all heard of the terms “FLEXIBLE DIETING” AKA: IIFYM
Let’s start here: in case you don’t know, the acronym “IIFYM” means “if it fits your macros”. “Macros” or “macro” may also be a new term, but it’s easy to understand and through flexible-dieting, you will have your own set! “Macros” refer to a specified amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats determined to help your body perform according to a set of goals. These macros help our bodies by providing energy, growth, metabolism speeds, and other natural bodily functions.
Now, to dig a little deeper into this explanation: each element of a set of macros, has its own macronutrient profile – the certain amount of calories in each gram. This idea is defined below:
Protein = 4 kcal’s per gram
Carbs 4 kcal’s per gram
Fats = 9 kcal’s per gram
Alcohol: We often forget about alcohol when it comes to tracking our macronutrients. It’s not specifically a separate macronutrient, but it has 7 kcal’s per gram.
Flexible dieting is literal: it is all about eating with flexibility, so that ALL foods can be factored into daily intake, NO RESTRICTIONS! However, this does mean that one should attempt to eat only hamburgers, fries, pizza and ice cream according to their macros? Definitely not! It is important to meet our daily fiber needs and intake a variety of whole and nutrient-dense foods, as well as micronutrients and vitamins for our bodies to function properly.
That said, the beauty of flexible dieting is that if one is craving a candy bar, as long as fiber needs are met and the bar (or a portion of it) can fit into your daily macros, then there’s no reason to feel any guilt that you might have felt during other prior diets. Flexible dieting allows for this incorporation of “dirty” foods to avoid the common practice of “cheating”, giving up, and deciding to “restart the diet on Monday.” Almost everyone who has dieted has experienced this, and it’s ok! But it’s time to explore something more aligned with the reality of life while nurturing positive mental health by not restricting. Flexible dieting allows for this!
After learning the tools that Flexible dieting provides through the guidance and coaching of qualified and experienced coaches, this practice often transitions from weight-loss to “maintenance” once goals have been reached. I want all of my clients to be able to utilized strategies and tools so they are able to track/maintain weight-loss goals for the rest of their lives!
Step 1: Download Your Favorite App
Why not utilize technology to support your weight-loss? There are many digital and phone apps to help track macros while on-the-go (especially when eating out!)
Start off by downloading your favorite tracking app. There are many out there but here are a few examples:
-My Fitness Pal
-My Net Diary
These are all great apps, but my preferred app is the most commonly used by macro trackers: MyFitnessPal. It’s an integrated system that has its own user profile that connects to a massive professional and user-developed food database filled with nutritional information for produce, packaged items, and even common meals at restaurants and food chains. However, word of caution: there are many entered data inaccuracies, but utilizing cross-referencing strategies gaining more tracking experience over time will help in using the app with great success. See this video link for more information:
Step 2: Track Everything You Eat For 3 to 5 days
Another word of caution: many of these tracking apps assume information about your body and activity type, then make recommendations for calorie/macro/food intake. I suggest avoiding these digitally-generated and general recommendations as they utilize digital formulas and algorithms instead of in-depth personal information. For example, by adding activity information into the app, often extra calories are added to the macro daily total to accommodate for the caloric expenditure—that’s problematic for those WANTING to lose weight!
Next step after downloading the app and entering personal information would be to simply track food intake for 3-5 days (without trying to hit specific macro numbers) and record body weight daily. This provides you with an understanding of current levels from consistent eating and food patterns, and a baseline of how to determine realistic goals and recommending appropriate strategies for success.
Continue to utilize the app to learn the ins and outs of how it functions, and if you can, build a database of commonly eaten foods and meal combos. By creating this database, the use of the app becomes more time-efficient and allows one to become creative with their meal-preparation in advance. Be on the look-out for apps that allow for scanning of nutrient labels for commonly use food products (just make sure the nutritional information matches because the system isn’t always perfect!) Once the database has been established, meeting macro numbers can be attempted.
In order to be fully successful, it’s important to know how to read a nutrition label with clarity and use a kitchen scale. Having the knowledge, experience, the skill of reading labels and measuring will give the greatest potential for success.
Another thing to consider when tracking food is to be truthful about food intake. Did you know that the average person is off by how much they think they are eating by 30-40%? This is part of the reason why 98% of those that go on a “diet”, gain all of their weight back and then some within two years. Because we are eating way more than what we think!
Additionally, many come out of diets severely misinformed and unknowledgeable about nutrition. My goal is for clients to come out of coaching with tools, experience, and knowledge to continue their rates of success in maintenance programs.
Step 3: Find the Average
After tracking for 3 to 5 days, find the average of total calories from total protein, total carbs (not “net” carbs), and total fats. With the knowledge of 3-5 days’ worth of food and body weight tracking, one will have a great baseline for consistent data to determine average daily macros. If one loses 5 or more pounds from the initially determined macros after a week, then add more food and calories to slow down the weight-loss (slow and steady wins the race!) If one has gained weight in that initial timeframe, then cut a small amount of calories and food to allow for maintenance or progressive Loss of weight. Remember: consistency is key!
Step 4: Start Aiming For Certain Macronutrients on a Daily Basis
After determining a baseline of average macros, you can begin attempting to hit those numbers daily and consistently for a few weeks to see how the body adjusts and fluctuates. It’s supposed to be a slow and steady, and a learning process! You get to “captain the ship” and regulate your own progress, but in an informed and enjoyable way by consuming the food you love, with consistency, without overeating, binging, cheating, or restricting.
It is common for this process to take a few weeks to master and implement for long term success. The progress will come! If weight-loss isn’t happening, it’s easy to make small adjustments to the macro ratios to facilitate this progress. Also…sometimes it just takes time!
Step 5: Activity
One of the most important philosophies aligned with flexible-dieting is the idea of letting your metabolism do the work for weight-Loss goals, before relying on intense cardio activity. This is an incredibly misinterpreted topic in the fitness industry, and it simply isn’t necessary to maximize cardio daily.
It is true that cardio facilitates weight-loss and change quickly, but it won’t progress what your metabolism needs to be healthy on its own. Flexible-dieting allows for metabolic healing, which is what may need to happen after years of “crash,” “fad,” or restrictive dieting. Cardio and other fitness activity will always yield positive results for health and athletic development, but for nutrition, it’s only an additional tool and not a main feature for flexible-dieting.
Once macros and nutrition is at a healthy Level, intensity of activity can increase. My recommendation is as follows: for weight-Lifters, lift a few times a week for 30-60 minutes. For non-Lifters, add in some steady- state or low-intensity cardio, but no more than 30 minutes to start. But of the two, lifting weights OR cardio, I will always advocate for lifting weights for strength development, endurance, toning, and some cardio like activity.
If weight has stalled for at Least a week or two, then activity can be increased by one or two sessions the following week without making changes to the diet. This is assuming that tracking has been implemented with 100% accuracy and consistency.
I hope this ebook has offered enlightenment and inspiration towards a healthier approach for fitness goals and improved your approach to attempt flexible dieting with macros.