Sixteen months ago I made the decision to fundamentally change the way that I eat. What was this ground breaking change? I decided to start counting my macros. Other common names for this are "Flexible Dieting" or "If It Fits Your Macros" (IIFYM for short). You may have heard about flexible dieting, as it has recently become more popular in the fitness community, and for good reason: it works. Whether you’re looking to get lean, gain mass, change your body composition, get stronger or how to fit donuts into your diet without getting fat, giving flexible dieting might be a good diet to try.
Not Exactly A Diet...
I wouldn’t necessarily call flexible dieting a diet though. I like the way Krissy Mae Cagney, a licensed sports nutritionist and author of the book "FD 2.0: A Flexible Nutrition Philosophy for the Modern Athlete, describes it: Flexible Eating. I hate the word “diet” because in many people’s minds, diet=eliminating foods, restricting calories, and upping their cardio to burn off all their “guilty” food choices.
IIFYM has become much more than a diet for me. It has become a lifestyle change; a shift in views about what fueling my body properly actually means. It has taught me what macros are, when and what to eat during the day (aka nutrient timing) to maximize performance, and on a more important note, it has also taught me how to get lean by eating ice cream and donuts (while still eating whole, nutritious foods too…let’s not get crazy). It has also taught me that all those guilt-inducing foods don’t need to be guilt-inducing. But besides these small lessons, it has taught me much, much more.
A New Way Of Thinking
Flexible Dieting has taught me to love and respect my body and has given me more confidence in my outward appearance than I have ever thought possible. It has shown me how amazing the human body actually is and not to take that for granted. Not only has IIFYM helped me drop 25 pounds (Holy Crap!), it has helped me build strength and has given me the confidence to get under heavier weights again; weights I haven't lifted since I was a solid 175 pounds. Oh yeah, and after three years of swinging on the rings I was finally able to get my first muscle up!!!
Yes, Women Can Bulk Too
I am currently trying to bulk, or gain weight, in the hopes of getting stronger, and building muscle while gaining minimal fat. If anyone had told me a year ago that I would be trying to gain weight, I would have laughed in their face (no seriously, I laugh in people's faces). The good thing that IIFYM has taught me is that, the way you fuel your body, whether it be with oatmeal and apples or burritos and pop tarts, you can change you body composition with a fair amount of ease. By tracking my macros daily (which is not as big of a pain in the ass as you might think), I have come to realize that gaining weight isn’t scary. Cutting weight isn’t as hard as it used to be. I’ve also learned that sometimes, the best way to lean out and lose weight is to eat more.
Subtraction By Addition (Wait, What?)
A year or two ago, I was restricting my calories a lot. I was probably eating around 1800 calories a day. It was frustrating that I wasn’t seeing a change, especially with all the work I put in at the gym. Once I started IIFYM, I was instructed to increase my calories, especially my carbs, which was scary at first. (Then it was awesome, because carbs). My calories increased slowly and I was eating upwards 2300 on my cut and now I’m up to 2600 calories while I’m bulking. I have maintained my body composition for the most part on this bulk and have gained five pounds. But more importantly as my body has changed I have achieved strength, speed and agility gains that have surprised the hell out of me.
My body is beautiful, whether it is 175 pounds or 155 pounds, and not for the way it looks, but for what it does. And while I love that I’m lighter now and pull-ups are easier, and lets be real, I look better naked than I used to, I think the thing I love more is that my body is capable of more than I think. My outlook on gaining and losing weight is totally different, and my knowledge about how to fuel your body for performance rather than aesthetics has improved dramatically. By focusing on performance rather then aesthetics, I've even started to see definition where I didn't think it was possible (hello abs!). There is so much more to learn on the subject, but for now, the things I have gained, from strength to self-confidence, are more than I could have ever hoped for.
Tracking my macros has become second nature to me and I honestly really enjoy it. Hopefully these reasons resonate with some of you, and that you might give IIFYM a try! Have fun…and eat a donut for me.
Disclaimer: This article is about what I have learned along my journey through IIFYM (If it fits your macros). This article isn’t about IIFYM and how to calculate your macros. I am by NO means an expert in the subject matter. I have done my research, hired a coach, and have put my trust in her to help me reach my goals. Here are some great resources to learn more about IIFYM:
About The Author: Kate B.
Kate is a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer and former Division 1 Rower.