“If It Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM) sounds like a gimmick at first. “Eat foods you love with no guilt!” “Restore a healthy relationship with food!” “No food is bad for you or off limits!” All of this sounds way too good to be true. For some reason, diet culture has tricked us into believing that eating along strict meal plans will produce the best results. After all, the more effort you put into something, the more likely you’ll see changes, right?
This is a mantra I live by – work smarter, not harder. I’ve done both low-carb and low-fat approaches, both while eating less than 1200 calories a day and not focusing on getting enough protein intake. I had very minimal success with those approaches. I was extremely restrictive and gave up entire food groups, like dairy and gluten.
It took a few months of me being consistent with my diet – making sure I got enough protein first and foremost, and then making sure I stayed under calories for me to actually start dropping and keeping off weight.
Mentally, I don’t do well with restriction. I do the best when I’m allowed to be a bit more flexible with what I eat and when I eat. When I’m allowed to eat a little bit of calorie-dense foods, I get the urges out of my system and I’m able to be more consistent. All it took for me to be consistent was allowing myself a small ‘treat’ every night – not a ‘cheat’ – like half of a serving of chocolate. Sounds crazy, right? I had such a hard time staying consistent because I would be incredibly restrictive for a few days, and then eat whatever I wanted as a dieting ‘break.’
I started following ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ as a general lifestyle approach, and I’ve managed to prevent gaining all of the weight that I lost in 2016. Because I’ve been able to stay consistent for a few years now, I look the best that I’ve ever looked. This strategy also works very well during contest prep when my calorie budget is extremely low and there’s less room for bingeing or other errors.
About 90% of my diet comes from ‘whole’ foods – most of my meals are lean protein with a hefty serving of green vegetables. 10% of my diet is whatever I want it to be, provided that it fits within my macro budget. Sometimes this is one serving of Halo Top, a low calorie ice-cream, or pretzel chips. I give myself a small break and then continue on my ‘diet’ as usual. Sometimes, I’ll even go out to eat with friends. Don’t believe me? Check out MyFitnessPal food diary. Add me as a friend if you want a non-judgmental accountability buddy! Disclaimer: What you may notice is that my calories are pretty low – this is because I am in bodybuilding contest prep and I need to get really lean. I do not eat at this level of calories year round because it is not metabolically healthy. I hover at around 1500-1600 calories in the off season. My numbers are also mine only, and should not be used to guide your own macros as we all have very different metabolisms.
For more tips on eating out while sticking to your plan, read here.
Because of this approach, my competition prep is not as restrictive, and I don’t binge and rebound in the off-season. I’m able to maintain a body that I’m happy with, year-round.
I’ve made a handy infographic walking you step-by-step on how to start a IIFYM lifestyle.
The biggest mistake I commonly see is not getting enough protein in. If you don’t eat enough protein, you’ll just have weight loss in general and risk losing the shapely muscle that you worked so hard to build. If you notice in the photos above, I’m the exact same weight, but I look much better in October. This is because I was able to simultaneously build muscle while losing fat at the same time. This would not be possible if I was not eating enough protein.
If you’re overweight, a recent study (with over 600 participants for 12 months!) has shown that it doesn’t matter if you do low-fat or low-carb, as long as your calories in are less than your calories out. Here’s Examine.com’s summary. In other words, the best ‘diet’ for losing weight is whatever you can sustain. If you like a high fat approach, do that. If you like a high carb approach better, that’s fine too. It’s a matter of whatever suits your lifestyle best.
To get more ideas on how you can eat well while eating right to meet your goals, follow my Pinterest board – “Healthy Eating!”