In this article I will explain how you can get lean and lose fat while still eating the foods you enjoy. That way we can both get lean and keep that weight off. The concept is called Flexible Dieting or If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM), where you still eat some of your favorite foods, as long you eat fewer calories overall and hit your macronutrient targets.
Image:Here is my 6 month transformation picture using Flexible Dieting (IIFYM), where I still enjoyed pizza, tacos, wine and other good things - in moderation.
As you probably already know, if you want to get lean and lose fat, your nutrition is the most important element. You need to eat less calories than your body use. This puts your body in a "calorie deficit".
Because then, and only then, your body will start tapping into your stored energy (i.e body fat) to fuel its daily operations. Now I know what you are thinking, "calorie deficit - that sounds boring and hard. I thought you said enjoyable?"
Well, that is actually good news: because as long as you are in a calorie deficit - you can add some of your favorite foods to make the process more enjoyable - while still losing weight. As long as you base 80 % of your meals on real unprocessed foods, the remaining 20 % does not matter that much as long as we stay in calorie deficit over the course of a week. That is the beauty of flexible dieting (IIFYM). I have a separate video on the 80/20 rule.
Let me explain the first and most important step in my nutrition framework called M.E.A.L, that will help you lose that belly fat, get lean and feel healthy without giving up your favorite foods - following flexible dieting (IIFYM).
Step 1: Measurement
To make the process as effective as possible we need to start with some basic measurements of where you are today, where you want to go and how many calories you need to eat per day in order to predictably reach your goal. Many people ask, "cant you just eat intuitively, without tracking calories and still lose weight?". Well, yes.
But intuition comes from experience. Initially you will lack the experience to eat "intuitively". Therefore, you need to "train your intuition" by doing the following experiment for 7 days: you track your food intake. Not for the rest of your life. But for the next 7 days. To start eating healthy, you first need to develop an awareness of what you eat. Yes, there is a catch with flexible dieting (IIFYM): some tracking must be done initially.
But by writing out your meals for the day, you automatically start making better choices. One study of 1600 people showed that people who keep a food log lost twice as much weight as those who did not. And that is because most of us actually have a distorted view of what we eat. It is a common cognitive bias to think we eat better than we do. But when the evidence is right in front of you on the paper it becomes clear what you ́re actually eating.
So detailed calorie and macronutrient tracking are not always a necessity, but the only way to fully take out the guesswork when first starting out and to make sure you are in a calorie deficit.
So to do flexible dieting (IIFYM) properly, we do the following experiment for the next 7 days. After the 7 days, we can liberate ourselves a bit more from the numbers, but this is how to do it right from the beginning.
1. Find your target numbers:
We start with going to a calorie calculator, for example: https://tdeecalculator.net/ and find how many calories you burn per day. Just fill in your numbers, like weight and estimated body fat percentage. Then the calculator will tell you exactly how many calories and macronutrients you should aim for per day to stay in a healthy calorie deficit.
For example: you burn 2500 calories per day - also known as your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, you subtract that number with 20 % (or 500 calories) to find your daily calorie target. Or if your goal is to gain weight you add 10 % (or 250 calories).
Here you will also see how you should what percentage of calories should come from protein, carbs and fat. While being in a calorie deficit will ensure you lose weight, the distribution of macronutrients will determine if you lose fat or muscle. Most importantly, you want to keep protein high.
Note:To follow If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) strictly, you should aim to eat the same amount of protein, carbs and fat eat day. But to make flexible dieting sustainable, you want to mainly focus on the two most important metrics: overall calories and protein intake.
2. Make a plan
After you have figured out your daily calorie target, for example 2000 calories, you need to distribute those calories and macronutrients into regular meals. The number of meals is irrelevant, just find something that works for you, either that is 3 - 6 meals. Personally, I prefer intermittent fasting. That is; I eat all my calories within a 8 hour time window. At first this might sound a bit extreme, but your body quickly adapts to, and craves, whatever eating pattern or types of foods it gets used to. I have a separate article on fasting.
3. Track your progress
Now that we have set up our plan, we track 2 numbers each day: daily calories using an app like MyFitnessPal and morning weight - for at least 7 days.
Tracking your daily calories in MyFitnessPal is quite simple once you get used to it. You download the free app and add all the foods you eat in a day. Then add the number of calories back into the spreadsheet to keep track of your spreadsheet to ensure you stay consistent with your calories over time. After the first 7 days, you can go over more simplified and less time consuming tracking measures. For example, just writing down your meals, not your calories.
Still, you want to tracking your morning weight to ensure we are going in the right direction. Over time it will be very motivating to see the graphs visually telling you are going in the right direction.