Flexible dieting, also known as IIFYM, is the most polarizing diet protocol in the fitness world right now. Users punch their information into a total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) calculator, which then spits out a caloric value and individual macronutrient totals. The idea behind flexible dieting is that weight loss and weight gain is based primarily on calorie (and subsequently macronutrient) intake. Thus, food choices are considered somewhat irrelevant as long as one hits their daily macronutrient goals. It’s hard to argue this point since any intelligent dietitian or nutritionist will tell you that thermodynamics is the basis of any successful diet. Even the ketogenic diet, which completely changes the body’s primary fuel source, brings thermodynamics into play. It’s unclear whether or not ketones are metabolically advantageous. Even if they are, the question becomes ‘how advantageous are they compared to carbs?’ Odds are: not enough to make a considerable difference, but I digress.
The reason flexible dieting is so polarizing is because of an assumption about the diet that is often ignored. The assumption is that the dieter is getting adequate micronutrients and fiber every day. If the person is fulfilling this need, then quite frankly it’s hard to eat ‘junk’ all day. You need a variety of nutrient dense whole foods to get the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that is vital for optimal health. The problem is… most people aren’t doing this. And it’s not just a few people ruining the reputation of the diet for the noble IIFYMers either. Social media makes things very transparent. Our precious fitspo and fitfam hashtags reveal that people are doing this on a daily basis.
I call this phenomena ‘macro hoarding.’ It occurs when someone consumes mainly protein during breakfast and lunch, thus leaving a ton of fat and carbs left to be used on desserts, pizza, candy, etc. at night. This is fine once in a while; like a night out with friends where a drunken diner run is almost inevitable. This is actually a smart, strategic move to keep yourself on track. Doing this on a daily basis however is not what this diet was designed for, and quite frankly may be a precursor to an eating disorder or at the very least a warped relationship with food. Flexible dieting is about freedom, not a free-for-all.
Don’t be the one to take advantage of the system. Do it with your diet and it’ll be a matter of time before it translates to other aspects of your life.