Friday, July 17, 2015

Having Your Cake and Eating it Too: A Flexible Approach to Nutrition

How many of you can say you've tried every new fad diet you hear about on the news? Every time I turn on the television, I see some new self-proclaimed nutrition expert who proposes a new philosophy on why people gain weight. Carbohydrates are often the first macronutrient to be held accountable for excess body fat.

I'm not gonna lie to you--I've been one of those girls who was afraid to eat a multitude of different foods that we proclaim to be "bad." I cut out gluten for a long time. I stopped eating dairy. I did sugar cleanses. In my own mind, I felt better, but realistically, I didn't really see any results. I would binge eat on the weekends, and then my previous efforts were null and void.

Recently, however, I made the shift to a more flexible style of nutrition. Many people have used acronyms such as "IIFYM" (If It Fits Your Macros) to refer to a more lenient diet.

Now, I want to first start by explaining what flexible nutrition is not. Even though a more flexible diet allows you to include a wider arrange of foods into your macronutrients for the day, that doesn't mean your body can, or should, subsist on a tremendous amount of crap. PopTarts taste amazing, but they provide hardly any nutritional value. You won't get your vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) from eating Ben and Jerry's. There's almost no fiber in a slice of pizza.

Because, let's be real, who doesn't love PopTarts?
What flexible nutrition allows you to do, however, is to "budget" some of your calories each day for foods that will keep you from going crazy. If you just eat brown rice, asparagus and chicken all of the time, it's going to start to taste pretty bad. No one likes monotony or restriction. Let's face it...the more someone believes he or she can't have something, the more he or she will want it! Previously, when I would limit my refined sugar intake, I would feel an overwhelming sense of shame when I would go off track. I saw cookies, and I would eat the whole damn container, because I had deprived myself for so long.

Now, I allow myself options. I first get my daily intake of Vitamin A, calcium, iron, Vitamin C, and so on, in check. Once those numbers have been fulfilled, I have some fun with my carbohydrates. I treat myself to some ice cream when my glycogen levels are low after my workout and I need to refuel. I have a cookie if I feel so inclined.

I track my macronutrients everyday, meaning I aim to get a certain number of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Anything that falls within those numbers is fair game. I get creative and enjoy the foods I eat.

For so many years, I spent time obsessing over food and feeling guilty for making poor choices. Now, I feel so much less inclined to over-eat, because I'm not limited in the types of foods I include in my meals. I prioritize whole foods first, and then I use my intuition to make great choices. I have, slowly, over 3+ months, lost 10 pounds. I spared muscle and strength loss, because I was eating according to my goals. This, for me, has been the most sustainable and mentally healthy way of eating. Dietary choices should be about sustainability first. Yeah, you may be "healthy" physically, but you also need to prioritize your emotional needs. If your diet is making you feel miserable, then what's the point? I want my clients to follow a nutrition program that they can maintain for life, not just something that will give them quick results until they inevitable crash and drown themselves in a mountain of pizza. (As wonderful as that may sound...)

Limiting your own restrictive eating habits can make a huge change in the way you think about food. You will improve your body composition, while still sparing your mental integrity. I think that sounds pretty awesome, no?

If you'd like more information about this, the website has some great articles. Also, feel free to e-mail me at

Works Cited:

  1. Cagney, Krissy Mae. Flexible Dieting 2.0: A Flexible Nutrition Philosophy for the Modern Athlete. N.p.: n.p., 2015. Print.
  2. "Eat to Perform -." Eat to Perform. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2015.

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