The zero restriction diet
Yes, cheeseburgers and fries are allowed
Fact: diets can be mind-numbingly boring and often impossible to stick to. You’re either asked to eliminate every little thing (goodbye chocolate, wine, life…) or expected to eat more meat and vegetables in one sitting than you would usually in a whole day. Yes, and it’s for this reason that we’re not surprised at all that most dieters fail within the first few weeks of starting.
But what if we told you there’s a way you can lose weight while eating the foods you love?
Enter, flexible dieting. Otherwise known as ‘If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM)’, which allows you to eat what you want provided it fits your macronutrient proportions.
Essentially, flexible dieting means freedom with food choice, or as nutritionist and PT, Tom Fitzgerald, explains, “it’s just another way of packaging up the key requirement for losing weight, by creating an energy deficit.”
“Whether you eat Paleo/clean/dirty/sugar-free/IIFYM/etcetera, if an energy deficit is created, weight will be lost. The flexibility of food choice is a strong point of this system along with prioritising the management of energy intake.”
How it works
Firstly, you need to figure out what your macronutrient proportions (daily energy expenditure) are, based on your current weight, height and exercise.
There’s a formula for this, or you can chat to a nutritionist or sports coach if numbers aren’t your thing. Your formula – that is said to be most effective for muscle growth, fat burning and energy – helps you figure out how to split the proportion of carbohydrates, protein and fat that you consume.
Although it is a zero elimination diet, it doesn’t mean you can eat endless quantities of pizza and cake. But, get the ratio right, and you’ll set yourself up for success.
It’s more than just a weight-loss diet
Chrissy Dask, a personal trainer who has adopted the flexible dieting approach, believes there is more to this way of eating than weight loss. “It’s a way to change your relationship with food,” she says.
“By looking at food for its macronutrient value, there is no longer ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ foods, or ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods. There are just different foods with different macronutrient amounts and different vitamin, mineral and fibre amounts.”
Dietitian, Katie Coles, also recognises the validity of the approach. She believes that flexible dieting – and the process of tracking food to hit carb, fat, and protein targets — teaches you about mindful eating and helps you move away from rigid meal plans that can cause unhealthy relationships with food.
“Flexible dieting pushes you to learn what types of food are high in each macro, and which foods you can have more of or less of to achieve your goals,” she says. “You also become more familiar with serving sizes and the ability to gauge them — a skill that many are lacking in today’s world of super-sized portions.”
In the beginning, the approach requires measuring or weighing portions, however Coles says with practice you’ll become more aware of what you’re putting in your body and become so familiar with your needs that estimating portions will become easy.
“Just like with any diet, a person will need to put in some work,” says Coles, who suggests using an app (think My Macros+ or My Fitness Pal) to make it easier. “The difference is that instead of working to stick to a meal plan or list of foods, a person will work to track their food intake and choose foods and serving sizes accordingly.”
Giving people the option to eat the foods they like can be seen as both the upside and the downside of flexible dieting.
“Some people think that flexible dieting gives people a licence to eat all of the nutrient-depleted junk food they want. This is a misconception,” explains Coles. “Flexible dieting is not all about eating pancakes, cookies, chocolate, and other junk. Because you cannot eat lollies all the time and hit your macro targets. You’ll be woefully low in protein and fibre while far exceeding your carb and fat targets.
“Instead, flexible dieting is a way of eating that allows for the occasional treat, while also giving people the freedom to mix up food sources in the way they see fit. Variety is the key to a healthy diet, and teaching people that they can still have an occasional treat without sabotaging their body composition goals goes a long way in eliminating guilt and fear associated with certain foods.”
She adds: “Flexible dieting is a powerful tool conducive to changing and meeting any body composition goal, because it does allow for this type of personalisation… that’s what makes it both effective and sustainable (elements that may be lacking in other types of diets).”
So whether you choose to try it or not, the take away is that getting a mix into your diet is a good way to improve your health and attitude towards food. And hey, a diet that allows you to be the boss of what you eat sounds pretty good to me.
Liked this? Read these!
Got something to say? Get it off your chest here
The Juice Daily is a Fairfax Media owned website