For most people embarking on a health and fitness journey, nutrition is the most daunting part - and that’s ok! After all, you only need to dedicate 30-90 minutes daily to staying active - and nutrition is something that needs constant consideration, especially initially.
Sounds familiar? Fear not, as we are here to educate and guide you through your journey, every step of the way!
We love teaching our clients a variety of sustainable ways to approach nutrition - and we find that something that makes long-term adherence very comfortable is the flexible dieting approach.
If you’re familiar with the overall principles of tracking your intake, but not sure how to implement flexible dieting - this blog is for you! And if you’re still learning about tracking and macros - not an issue either. Just head over to this blog first, and then come back here - we’ll be waiting!
What is flexible dieting?
Plain and simple, flexible dieting promotes enjoying variety and flexibility in your diet by being able to incorporate your favourite treats while staying on track with your goals. As such, it’s more of a lifestyle rather than a diet, despite the name!
And to be clear, just because you can technically hit your macros by only eating chocolate, ice cream and pizza, doesn’t mean you should! The idea is to make room for those treats while mostly consuming nutritious, filling and satisfying foods.
Why flexible dieting?
There are many benefits to flexible dieting, the most prominent one being its sustainability!
Dietary tracking has been found to be an important component for successful, sustained weight loss. Flexible dieting is an amazing tool that has helped many of our clients reach their body composition goals and maintain them.
Flexible dieting is also incredibly useful for anyone wanting to gain lean muscle! When building shape, a calorie surplus is required - therefore involving eating high volumes of food. Thus, eating exclusively whole foods on high calorie targets can be uncomfortable! In this situation, flexible dieting is an opportunity to have higher calorie options as opposed to a lot of food volume. Many people favour this approach as consequently they don’t feel too full all the time while enjoying their favourite calorie dense foods in moderation.
Here are some wise words from our amazing client Jess Hammond, who has been following a flexible dieting approach through all her challenges:
“I used to be an ‘all or nothing’ type of person for so long! Learning how to create balance for myself has been my biggest win! These photos are 11 months apart. During that time, I’ve completed TLM, Bikini 1, and Bikini 3; currently, I am doing Bikini Build. I’ve found it’s what you do between challenges that matters most, staying consistent with my training and nutrition and utilising all of the information and tools given to us within the app. I don’t follow a meal plan between challenges, instead I opt for flexible dieting as it allows so much freedom!”
Implementing flexible dieting
At BBR, we don’t believe in “good” and “bad” foods. We love to incorporate all food groups, as well as delicious treats, and believe in 80% whole foods and 20% soul foods. This is a really good place to start - simply allocate up to 20% of your calories to your favourite treats daily, while ensuring the rest of your meals are based on nutrient-dense choices.
As such, flexible dieting is a great way to break the potentially harmful “clean eating” mindset and enjoy your favourite foods unconditionally. Your diet doesn’t need to be boring or bland - it’s all about what you can adhere to long term and flexible dieting allows you to do that!
What about my micronutrients?
By tracking and following the flexible dieting approach correctly, you are bound to hit your macros - but what about the micros? It’s a common concern that incorporating potentially more calorie-dense processed foods can make it more difficult to get your vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Here’s why you shouldn’t be too worried if you’re maintaining the right balance in your diet:
- By ensuring your intake is 80% whole, nutrient-dense foods with plenty of vegetables, fruit and wholegrains, you are extremely unlikely to develop micronutrient deficiencies.
- No need to rush to a supp store! Vitamin and mineral supplements are only necessary if you are deficient or unable to absorb particular micronutrients, which has to be confirmed with a medical practitioner.
- By consuming predominantly whole foods from all food groups, you are also ensuring you’re getting enough fibre. Sufficient fibre intake is very important for digestion and gut health! Healthy women should aim for 25-30g of fibre per day, which is a great target to promote optimal digestion and satiety.
Bottom line: just because you’re allocating some of your macros to treats, doesn’t mean you need to overthink the rest of your intake. Simply ensure you’re eating plenty of nutritious foods, enjoy your favourite treats - and you’ll be just fine!
We like to track our food in the Food Journal in the BBR app! However, you can also track in other apps, such as My Fitness Pal and Easy Diet Diary. While all these options are slightly different, each will allow you to track your calories and macros, which is all you need to start on your flexible dieting journey.
A common question we get asked is what to do if you end up going over or under your calories or macros.
Technically, by hitting your macros perfectly you are also hitting your calories, as each macronutrient contains a certain number of calories, and the sum of them all is your energy intake. In other words, they should match up.
However, that’s not always what shows up on your tracking app! Slight discrepancies are possible, and can usually be explained by rounding up values, incorrect user-generated entries, and other factors. We recommend the following rules when tracking your macros:
- Calories: within ±40 calories of your target
- Protein & Carbs: within ±10g of your target
- Fats: within ±5g of your target
We also recommend picking a point of focus if you’re noticing these discrepancies - either aim to hit your calories or macros as closely as possible. This ensures the most consistent approach on a daily basis!
A balanced diet, including 80% whole foods and 20% soul foods, is one of the most sustainable approaches to nutrition. In turn, we believe sustainability is one of the most important determinants of your journey’s success.
Flexible dieting can help achieve that balance, so we highly recommend giving it a go!
Dietitian Em and Team BBR