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What is Flexible Dieting?

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

A term used by gym goers and average fitness enthusiasts, flexible dieting has taken over the way the fitness industry looks at nutrition and dieting. From bodybuilding and power lifting to tri-athletes and the everyday Joe partaking in the odd exercise session, flexible dieting is more popular than ever.

Why is this?

Who would it benefit?

Should you try it?

The foundation of flexible dieting generally revolves around three principles.

1. Calculating your calorie needs, so your daily energy expenditure. General recommendations are 2500kcals for the average male and 2000kcals for the average women. Give or take the demands of individual activity levels and personal lifestyle factors. You can find easy online calorie calculator through google that will give you a generic starting point.

2. Tracking Macros and/or calories, revolving your food intake around Macronutrient targets i.e. Fat, Protein and Carbohydrates or simply overall calorie consumption. Those with performance or physique goals would benefit more from a macronutrient orientated approach. For general maintenance or weight/fat loss, a calorie approach would be easier to sustain. I will explain the reasons behind this in another post as that is a whole topic in itself!

3. Eating whatever you want! Really, whatever I want? Well yes and no, never restrict yourself from an enjoyable meal, snack or social event. However, your food choices must fit into your macros and/or overall calorie goals. There are several approaches to this, some use high and low food days, others restrict meals or reduce food intake earlier in the day saving their calories for that favourite treat or evening meal. The main rule here is consistency, daily or weekly budgets if you will.

As simple as 1, 2, 3 ... or is it?

So, I can still reach my goals eating snacks and fast food?

Yes, but you’re going to have a hard time doing it. These foods are less filling and in large quantities not exactly good for long term health.

It’s suggested to base your diet around healthy nutritious whole foods, and then add in what you want, i.e. that chocolate cake you wanted for desert. Aiming for 2/3 or 70-80% ‘clean’, nutritious foods and the rest... well, whatever you like.

You can see were the appeal comes from, though it’s not all as easy as it sounds and may not suit everyone.

Before deciding whether a specific diet or lifestyle is right for you, you must be honest with yourself and think about how you will implement it and if you could consistently maintain it without it effecting your health and well-being.

If you do better with structure and routine, then the principles of flexible dieting may benefit you, after all there is nothing wrong with eating similar meals most days with a naughty snack here and there.

If you have more of an emotional attachment to food or lack control when certain foods are restricted, then flexible dieting may also be beneficial as it allows more freedom than general diets and popular weight loss approaches.

Though flexible dieting may not be best for those that have very little self-restraint when high calorie snacks, drinks or meals are consumed, leading to overeating or binging. Those with eating disorders or behavioural issues may warrant a more structured approach to diet with more restriction on food variety, not necessarily calorie restriction. If you do have any of these issues, then it may be best to seek out help and advice before embarking down a new diet and lifestyle route.

Tracking your food intake can be time consuming and confusing at first, but soon becomes easier with practice and routine, building positive habits.

Overall, I think flexible dieting is fantastic for those that like a little of the sweet things in life to keep them on track, after all not everyone can go cold turkey and give up all their favourite foods. If you can be consistent, you will see results. Give it ago, happy snacking!


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