When I first began my fitness journey, I was a die hard “clean eater”. I felt like anything and everything that went into my body had to be 100% nutrient dense, 100% whole foods, 100% of the time. If I purchased anything ‘packaged’ from the store, I had a rule of 5 ingredients or less because anything more than that usually meant it had chemicals and junk in it.
I preached and preached to family and friends the importance of maintaining a “clean & healthy” lifestyle. At the time, I was under the impression that leading this “cleanliness” was the only way I would ever be able to reach my goals. If I was serious about my fitness, I had to be serious about my nutrition and that meant eating only whole foods… or so I thought.
The Troubles With “Clean Eating
As weeks and months months passed I started to see a shift in my relationship with food and eating in general. I began to resent having to eat a particular way and also started feeling guilty for even thinking about eating an Oreo or a potato chip.
I had anxiety when I would eat out at restaurants with my family, I would pack ALL of my food if I was going to social events & family gatherings, and I noticed I started to crave foods that I once loved so much but would’t allow myself to eat.
I felt isolated and alone simply because of my declining relationship with food. To top all of that off, my progress had stalled and I was beginning to feel weak and worn out. My body was tired, it wasn’t being field properly (even with all that wholesome nutritiousness), and I know I needed to change something.
Discovering IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)
Here is a picture of me 6 weeks into flexible dieting AND increasing my daily intake/calories (reverse dieting)
Just before I was about to throw in the “clean eating” towel and go on an all out junk food binge, I discovered Layne Norton through the power of social media. I began watching his videos on YouTube, researched everything I could, and felt like a whole new world had opened up to me.
Since I was already on the verge of breaking up with food and fitness, I decided to give this IIFYM business (A.K.A flexible dieting) a try. I was reluctant, but hopeful that this might just be what I needed to rekindle my love of food and fitness. At the very least, the idea of getting to eat a few foods I had missed might do me some good as well.
This was my last ditch effort so I decided to jump in head first, figure out what my macros should be for my goals, and set up a new eating “plan”.
Pretty significant difference I think and I definitely felt it as well. I was back to feeling strong again, my training improved, I didn’t feel foggy, I was mentally doing better, and most importantly my love for fitness was back. I was back in track and felt like I was on top of the world!
Flexible Dieting Is A Sustainable Lifestyle
I attribute the shift in my body and mental state were simply due to eating MORE, but the fact that I was able to eat certain ‘forbidden” foods and know my body wouldn’t go by the wayside helped tremendously as well. I began to see foods as macronutrients VS if they were good or bad, healthy or unhealthy.
That was almost exactly 2 years ago and I have NOT looked back. I became a ‘flexible eater’, fell back in love with food (ALL food), lost the feelings of guilt when I ate something that wasn’t considered “healthy”, stopped preaching to everyone about how they were polluting their bodies with packaged cookies and ice cream, and rebuilt my relationship with eating in general.
I learned that the only way to keep a lifestyle truly sustainable was to eat and live in moderation every single day. I realized that if I was serious about changing my life and body for the long term, I would need to learn balance and ditch the feelings of guilt. I feel I have been able to accomplish exactly what I set out to do and my relationship with food & eating have been restored.
All that being said, as I already mentioned I was still initially reluctant to give flexible dieting a try. When I was doing all of my research on macros and all things ‘IIFYM‘, things that I saw over and over again on social media were people showing off foods like pop tarts, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and donuts (oh, Lord, the donuts).
Simply typing in a search on Instagram for “IIFYM” will bring up just about every less than “healthy” food choice thats available in the world. Obviously at the time, I was lured in by all that food porn, but the girls posting had amazingly beautiful and strong bodies so surely there had to be more to how they ate than just junk. Luckily, I trusted my gut and knew better.
I knew there was more to flexible dieting than the junk food. I trusted that eventually I would be able to strike a balance between fueling my body with foods that field me as well as foods that were fun to eat.
After a couple of months of living my new flexible dieting lifestyle, I also vowed to prove to people that IIFYM wasn’t solely just about pop tarts and donuts. I made a very conscious decision to show EVERYTHING I eat on a daily basis which includes a wide variety of foods.
My Philosophy On Flexible Dieting Balance
My philosophy to hitting my macronutrients everyday is 90% nutrient dense, whole foods mixed in with 10% foods that I simply want to eat because I want to eat them.
- I pay attention to the quality of my food, but no longer stress out if I snack on something like a few potato chips or an Oreo.
- If my family happens to be going to a restaurant for dinner, I now feel zero anxiety about what I’m going to eat, how its made, what ingredients are used, etc.
- If I’m traveling, I still bring some staple foods that I love and make up a regular part of my diet, but also enjoy the flexibility of eating on the go and living in the moment.
To illustrate how a flexible eater truly eats, I thought I would share a typical day of my meals!
A Typical Day of Flexible Dieting
Egg & veggie scramble (1 cup egg whites, 1 whole egg, onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, riced cauliflower, power greens, pineapple salsa, fresh guacamole, and 2 slices of toast with sun butter and cinnamon.
HUGE fresh salad with romaine lettuce, power greens, left over veggies from previous nights dinner (grilled onions, bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash), roasted beets, cucumber, chicken, chia seeds, hemp hearts, avocado, and my homemade ‘Strawberry & Greens’ dressing.
I also drink a ‘Green’ smoothie (1 cup cashew milk, 1 scoop Pretty Fit Greens, 2 handfuls of power greens, 1 cup of frozen mango, 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder, and 1 tbsp chia seeds. I usually also have a rice cake with nut butter with my salad & smoothie.
If I’m feeling a little low on energy and/or still hungry after my daily green smoothie, I will also have an ‘Oatmeal’ English muffin with Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter or other nut butter (seriously addicted to this snack).
This would usually end up as my dinner time. I make ONE dinner for the whole family (husband, two kids, and myself). I always add more veggies to my plate, but for the most part, I’m eating exactly the same food as them.
On this particular day we grilled up some turkey burgers, hot dogs, veggies, and had sweet potato fries.
My burger toppings included smoked gouda cheese, Alexia brand onion rings (ALWAYS a must on my burgers), pickles, and Alterna Sweets BBQ sauce.
Final eats of the day and usually my biggest meal! It usually includes some kind of sandwich, fruit, a big bowl of ‘proyo’ (protein frozen yogurt), and a bowl of my healthy “Honey Smacks” cereal.
If I’m not having a PB&J sandwich, my next choice would be a ‘sweet egg white’ sandwich! This is just 1/2 cup of egg whites cooked, a few drops of with ‘English Toffee’ Sweet Leaf Stevia, and cinnamon. Then I add ‘Snickerdoodle’ Buff Bake almond butter to a Thin Slim Foods bagel and assemble!
Example Dessert: ‘Proyo’ aka ‘Protein Yogurt’
‘Proyo’ is made with 4-6 ounces of 0% Greek yogurt, 1/2 scoop of whey protein, a few drops of Sweet Leaf Stevia, and water. You mix all of that together and freeze for 15-20 minutes. I always add a couple of scoops of Wink Frozen Desserts ice cream or Halo Top ice cream, nut butter, fat free whipped cream, and some type of crunchy topping (Oreo for this particular night)!
Nightcap in bed is always a nice big cup of tea with 4 drops of Sweet Leaf Stevia. I tend to go with Dandelion Root tea the most!
Conclusion: Everything in Moderation
See? Sometimes I feel like I’m the “cleanest” flexible dieter I know! Once I allowed myself to enjoy all foods in moderation, I stopped wanting to eat everything in sight.
I’m completely content having 1 cookie, 1 small serving of ice cream, or a handful of chips without going overboard with any foods.
Tell me that something is off limits and I can’t eat it? I guarantee the mind games will start and I will end up wanting them ten times more!
I eat a ton of vegetables EVERY single day. I hit my fiber EVERY single day. I feel properly fueled EVERY single day. I eat an extremely balanced diet complete with the right amount of protein, carbs, and fat for my goals! In the end, this is the lifestyle and way of eating that works best for ME!
Moderation. Flexibility. Balance… key components to making my lifestyle truly sustainable for a lifelong journey!