I’m not a huge fan of diets!
There are heaps of dietary trends or patterns of eating out there these days that have gained popularity in recent years, like paleo, keto or clean eating diets, or fads like soup diets or lemon detox diets. We are also bombarded about the benefits of superfoods, like goji berries, quinoa, chia seeds, blueberries, or kale.
Whilst some dietary trends have merit, most are simply fads and may not be right for you, especially if you don’t stick to them, as you are likely to regain the weight you lost when you stop or binge eat on the weekends! They are also likely to make you feel less energetic and moody as many cut out essential foods that our bodies need to function.
Fads therefore give people false hope that if they stick to the diet, they will achieve their weight loss goals, however, these trends do not take a holistic approach to healthy eating and living. What you eat is not the only thing that will impact weight loss and determine your health and fitness – as you probably know, exercise also plays a very important role amongst other factors, such as your body composition, the amount of nutrition or fuel you make available to your body, and how your body uses up, stores or burns that fuel.
This is where the fundamental principles of healthy eating and flexible dieting come into play. Healthy eating should therefore be a lifestyle choice that you just do every day as part of your daily routine, not a diet that might only last for a period of time and only give you short term gains, not long term benefits.
So what are the fundamental principles of healthy eating and what is flexible dieting?
The Fundamental Principles of Healthy Eating
Healthy eating is simple – enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups every day. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend the number of serves a person should have a day from each of the food groups, as well as some examples of a standard serving size for each food group.
Check out the link for more info on this: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines
But, you may feel like you are eating right based on the five food groups and exercising regularly, but you still find it hard to lose or maintain your weight. If this is you, it is important to remember that sticking to the healthy eating principles also means drilling down into the amount of food you are eating, and in particular the amount of macronutrients or sources of energy you are eating, that is the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats that you are eating. This is where flexible dieting can be beneficial!
What is flexible dieting?
I cover the basics of macronutrients in a previous blog, so I won’t go into this again – you may want to check out this blog first:
So basically, flexible dieting is NOT a diet but an approach to nutrition. It is simply counting and tracking your macronutrients (but only for a short period of time!) that are calculated for you based on your age, height, weight, gender, and activity level. What you choose to eat is up to you as long as you meet your daily macro goals. BUT, before you reach for that packet of TimTams, you still want the majority of your food choices to be nutritious whole foods, whilst also enjoying those little pleasures if it fits within your daily limits. For example, if you love chocolate or have been craving pizza, you can plan a small amount into your macro allowances for the day.
What are the benefits of Flexible dieting?
- The most obvious is that it is flexible – so you can attend social events or go out to a restaurant with friends and eat what you want, in controlled quantities, and fit food in around your lifestyle;
- It’s a more effective way to change your body shape because you track everything that enters your mouth, taking the guesswork out of food and helps you take more control over what and how much you eat, which educates you on what you are putting into your body;
- It’s sustainable in that you are more likely to stick to it without obsessing over food, or bingeing, or starting diet after diet, so it helps to develop a healthier relationship with food.
What do I need to do to follow the flexible dieting principles?
Although it sounds painful tracking everything you eat, it’s actually not that hard once you get into the swing of things and you only need to do it for a short period of time before you understand what and how much you are eating. So, flexible dieting involves just 2 easy steps:
Step 1: Calculate your Total daily energy expenditure or amount of calories you can have per day, as well as the ratio of protein, carbohydrates and fats you should be having.
My blog on body composition, metabolism and weight loss has a few links to online calculators that can help you with this.
Step 2: Track your food intake and try to meet your calories and macro limits each day.
My blog talks about using apps like “My Fitness Pal” to help you record what you are eating and help you stay on track.
It might also be helpful to buy a food scale if you don’t have one so you can more accurately work out proportions. It may seem like hard work at first, but once you start tracking your food for a week or two, you quickly learn the right portion sizes for you and the right foods to be eating and you can then pull back from weighing and measuring everything! And apps like My Fitness Pal help you save frequent foods, recipes and meals, making it easy to add foods to your daily diary.
So, if you are sick of yo-yo dieting, then flexible dieting may be for you. Remember, life is about balance and enjoyment, so, eating what you want, in moderation, is far more sustainable than short-term fixes and is something that you can incorporate into your lifestyle for the long-term to help you reach your health and fitness goals.
And, if you need any help with working out your calories and macros, just drop me a line.