IIFYM: Do You Even Flexible Diet?

Do You Even Flexible Diet?
Eating healthy is often equated with eating 3 square meals a day with absolutely no junk food in between. Taking one bite of ice cream means you might as well throw your whole diet away cause I guess you’re a failure. Unfortunately, this notion of strict dieting for that dream body has distracted many people from learning about one of the best eating styles that has helped people lose weight while also indulging in their favorite foods.

Understanding IIFYM (if it fits your macros) and applying it correctly is the key to a balanced lifestyle that will help you achieve that dream body without skipping out on pizza night with friends or enjoying an ice cream with your kid.

What is IIFYM?
Also called “flexible dieting”, this plan has been hailed as an extremely effective weight loss plan due to the lack of food restrictions and its direct focus on energy balance. In case you didn’t know, energy balance is the balance between calories consumed and calories burned.

IIFYM is an eating style that allows you to eat whatever you want as long as it stays within the total daily calorie count as well as the calorie count for each of the 3 main macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Nailing your calories is most important, but getting close with your macros is relevant depending on how specific your goals are.

Each macronutrient has the following caloric values:
  • 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
  • 1 gram of carbs = 4 calories
  • 1 gram of fat = 9 calories

These macronutrients each have a specific function. Protein builds muscle and preserves it during weight loss, carbs give you energy and help with brain function, while fat regulates hormones and absorbs nutrients. Alcohol is also considered a macronutrient and has 7 calories for each gram, but for simplicity, you can focus on the primary 3 for now.

IIFYM does not split foods into a rigid dichotomy between good or bad, so your cravings don’t have to haunt you. Instead, it places the focus on hitting the target amount of calories for each category.

The ratios of each category and absolute amount are adjusted based on the goal. For someone trying to lose body fat, they would reduce their carb or fat intake to lower their caloric intake.

While Somebody trying to gain weight would increase their macros.

Flexible plans like this one have been shown to be more effective in helping people keep weight off over time compared to those who follow stricter plans. It is the opposite of those diet fads that help people lose weight when they’re on the diet and instantly gain it all back once they’re off of it because this plan is meant to be a long-term understanding of food’s caloric value.

Common Misconceptions
Before diving into the IIFYM lifestyle, it’s important to acknowledge what this plan is and what it isn’t.

Although there is the word “diet” in the name, it is more of a lifestyle that focuses on understanding how to eat in a way that achieves adequate nutritional intake while still enjoying the meals you eat. While you don’t have to track forever, thinking of IIFYM as a lifestyle rather than a strict diet means that there are no strict end dates and no specific food groups that are prohibited. If done correctly and consistently, it can be a lifelong habit that is seamlessly incorporated into your daily life.

IIFYM is also not a plan that says you can gorge on all the ice cream, cookies, and instant noodles your heart desires and expect results. The majority of your food should be whole nutritious foods to maintain health and to stay full.

Flexible dieting offers wiggle room for when you want to have occasional treats, but eating nothing but treats is not only impractical but will leave you feeling like a dumpster fire. While these foods may hit the target caloric intake for each macronutrient category, they are lacking in essential micronutrients. Micronutrients supply your body with the vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals needed to function properly, and they also keep you feeling fuller with less calories.

So while dieting on donuts is cute in theory, be sure to eat plenty of fruits, veggies, and lean protein.

How do I start
Now that you know what this plan is all about, we can get started!

Start with your maintenance calories which will likely be your bodyweight x 14-17. If you want to lose weight, you’ll use a smaller multiplier like bodyweight x 10-12.

Prioritize protein because it’s crucial to maintaining and building muscle mass. Protein should be at least set to 0.7 grams per pound of bodyweight or 25% of your total calories. The remaining calories can come from carbs and fat. Choose whichever ratios you feel best on.

As for tracking, you have to track everything that contains calories. This may sound overwhelming if it is unfamiliar territory to you, but the more you track, the less difficult it will be. Getting results with IIFYM is largely dependent on tracking most things accurately so start out.

Implementing new habits into your life is not a simple task. But it will be well worth the effort when you know you can have that late night snack while still maintaining your lean, muscular body.

A food scale will be critical for meats, oats, and foods like that. Next be sure to use apps, like myfitnesspal or MyMacros+. When recording the food, keep in mind that the nutritional information on food labels are for one serving. This means that if an instant noodle package has two servings and you eat the whole bag, you have to multiply the numbers on the label by 2 to track the correct amount of calories and nutrients. The scale will serve as a great guide starting out, and you may find yourself not having to touch the scale at one point because you can track intuitively after only a couple months.

Remember, tracking is not the long term goal of IIFYM. The long term goal is understanding food and learning to be flexible with your behaviors.

By tracking meticulously at first, you will learn exactly what you’re putting in your body, which will lead to more informed decisions the longer you stick to it. For example, you’re eating out at a restaurant and are conflicted between choosing a side of french fries or mozzarella sticks.

Both will satisfy your cravings, but because the fries are lower in calories, you opt for those instead.

Key Takeaways
IIFYM is a highly effective plan that will get you your dream body without sacrificing your social life and your favorite foods. The core concept of this plan is to eat mostly nutrient dense foods like meat, fruits, vegetables, and grains. With most of your diet consisting of well-balanced meals, you can set aside some calories for a boba drink or ice cream. The balanced nature of this plan not only helps with you physically, but it helps mentally by creating a positive relationship with food. There is less stress in trying to control your cravings or restricting yourself completely from a food group.

Getting into the groove of tracking your calories and macros is a small price to pay when you have the freedom to eat all the types of foods you want while shredding fat and gaining muscle.