IIFYM. If It Fits Your Macros. Flexible Dieting is a great concept that went horribly wrong!
If It Fits Your Macros, or IIFYM for short, or Flexible Dieting, whatever you want to call it! Basically, it was beautiful dieting concept that became completely misunderstood and turned into a monster! I have personally used a form of IIFYM with myself and others, and it works great. But it is probably NOT the type of IIFYM that you are thinking of. Let me tell you a story.
My old way of dieting
When I used to diet down for bodybuilding contests, it was a very boring process. I would eat nothing but “traditional diet foods”. Cheat days / cheat meals were out of the question – junk food was for the weak! I would eat egg whites, oats, chicken breast, tinned tuna, sweet potato, low fat cottage cheese, and copious amounts of broccoli and cabbage. There was no reason to question my food choices. This is what was required to get the job done.
Did I get cravings? Yes of course I had bloody cravings! I’d have killed at times for a bit of chocolate or a bowl of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes!
In fact, I used to even get cravings for foods you wouldn’t even consider as cheat foods, like cheese on toast! Or even a nice crunchy apple! Why was I craving foods like these? Because they were off limits, of course. Naturally you will crave and desire what you are denying your body of.
Ironically, it was only when I was done bodybuilding competitively, but still liked to keep in shape and help others get in shape, that I came across a life changing revelation. On one of the several bodybuilding internet forums that I was member of (this is before the days of social media), there were these guys posting about still having great results while “cheating” on their diets. I couldn’t believe it!
A new way of dieting
These guys were saying that they were still keeping within their set calorie allowance. And they were in fact still making sure to stick to their daily macros of “x” grams of protein, carbs, and fats each day. But what they were doing differently was leaving just a little bit of leeway in their diet to allow themselves a few “treats” every few days (or even EVERY day). They would still follow a traditional bodybuilding diet. But they would lower their portion sizes so provide them with leftover calories, to use on a little bit of ice cream, or even on a whole hamburger.
I was shocked! No way could this be true. But then these guys posted progress photos to prove it. And lo and behold, they were still getting the same results as if they had stuck to a strict traditional bodybuilding diet. This was ground breaking. Soon others followed suit and were reporting the same results. Most were remaining 90% strict to their diets, but then leaving 10% for treats. Or some would stick roughly to the Pareto 80/20 principle, and would be 80% strict to their diet, leaving 20% to “cheat”.
I began experimenting myself, and I too reported the same findings. I was sold! This was amazing! This was totally awesome! And this is what became known as If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM), or Flexible Dieting. Goodbye cravings. Hello “normal food”.
What went wrong?
Then social media happened. And calorie counting apps happened. The general public got hold of the news of Flexible Dieting. And that’s when it all went wrong.
Next thing you know, people are posting on social media pictures of meals consisting of a Whey protein shake, Coco Pops, and a spoon of butter. Or posting videos of a whole day’s food intake, consisting of nothing but chicken breast and doughnuts. Other “civilians” absorbed this like a sponge, and a monster was created. All of sudden, IIFYM had taken on a new meaning that “a calorie is a calorie”. And that it doesn’t matter where the calories come from.
The worst part
The worst thing is that the present distorted form of IIFYM / Flexible Dieting still “works” for weight loss. It appears that even if your diet consists of nothing but junk, as long as you track every calorie meticulously, with an OCD level of precision using your calorie counting app. And keep within a calorie deficit, and you will still lose weight.
But the average Joe Bloggs fails to ask what a diet of junk food is doing to their insides. What about their health? What about the non-visible impact junk food has on the body? You might look lean, fit, and in shape. But what about the impact on your health? Even if you temporarily still feel healthy in the short term, do you honestly believe that you can carry on eating such notoriously unhealthy foods and not suffer the health consequences?
And what about when you try to change your diet for the better, and start substituting crap for real food. Do you think this will be easy? No, it won’t be. You will have failed to create good habits of eating good healthy food. So you will now struggle to “retrain” your body to get into the routine of following and sticking to a healthy diet.
If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) / Flexible Dieting is a great thing. But the concept got horribly misunderstood along the way. If you want to get in shape without depriving yourself of any foods, and remain healthy? Then stick to a diet that consists of 80% – 90% whole minimally processed, unrefined healthy foods. And allow yourself some wiggle room in your diet for the occasional treat, making up the remaining 20% – 10% of your calorie budget.
Just don’t eat like a dick, eating nothing but junk food, and try telling people that you are healthy. You might lose weight and be lean, but you will NOT be healthy.