FLEXIBLE NUTRITION: MYTHBUSTERS
This is my quick yet purposeful edition of “Mythbusters”. I felt this was important to address this flexible style of eating often comes with a lot of criticism and negative connotation. As of recent, there are so many athletes, coaches, and everyday people following this idea of “IIFYM” or “Flexible Dieting”. If you are one of my clients or athletes, you know that as a company, Honor Your Nutrition NEVER refers to our coaching style as “IIFYM” (if it fits your macros) nor do we use the word “dieting”. In my personal opinion, IIFYM refers to the idea that it is okay to eat junk food, little to no greens and vegetables, as well as processed food in copious amounts as long as it “fits your numbers”. This is something I strongly disagree with as a coach of nutrition and proper fueling practices. I also try and avoid the word dieting at all costs. The word “diet” often carries a negative connotation. It is something that many people view as a restrictive idea, a struggle, and a sacrifice. I want my clients and athletes to be comfortable with their system of nutrition and fueling and I want them to be able to make educated, responsible choices while still achieving balance in their lives and not feeling incredibly restricted.
My intentions in this short piece are to address the 5 most common myths that I often hear about Flexible Nutrition. To ensure you that true coaching of Flexible Nutrition does not include an “IIFYM” approach, and to hopefully encourage someone who has shied away from this method of nutrition to give it a try!
1. Flexible Nutrition is so innovative and brand new!
Although we all like to think that when we discover something was when it came to fruition, that is often not true. Flexible Nutrition is a system of monitoring amounts of macronutrient (protein, carbohydrates, & fats) intake for an individual – specific to their lifestyle, age, activity level, and goals. THIS IS NOTHING NEW! It has been around for years in the bodybuilding world (and the world in general – Weight Watchers is a very successful plan that follows FN ideology!), and then slowly made its way over to performance sports like powerlifting and weightlifting. In the past year, the buzz word “macros” in reference to Flexible Nutrition, has nearly taken over the CrossFit/functional fitness world. However, the Zone diet was actually designed along the lines of a similar concept and was meant to be executed in a similar fashion. I find it amusing when I hear individuals talk about Flexible Nutrition or “counting macros” like it is this incredible new discovery. Yes, it has gained a good deal of momentum and popularity in our fitness circle recently – and I am really happy about that because I think it is a system that can be properly utilized by everyone. However, it is important to understand that this concept is nothing new! It has been around since the beginning of nutrition education and is the very basis on which most successful nutrition plans work.
2. It is too time-consuming for me to weigh and measure food.
Often, I hear from people that they want to learn more about Flexible Nutrition but don’t want to worry about weighing and measuring food because it is too time-consuming and too much of an intricate. I get it. The concept of having to track, count, weigh, and measure may seem like it takes up extra time and energy if you are not familiar with it. However, if you 1) already prep your meals, 2) carry around your phone, and 3) are serious about your nutrition as a means to properly fuel your body and help you reach your goals – then it really is not that time-consuming. The things in life that you prioritize and make time for will be the things you will be successful at. It is a matter of deciding if this is important enough to you. It takes little extra energy to place a plate on a scale before loading it up, or to read a nutrition label on those “protein bars” you eat every day! Not every single gram of everything needs to be weighed and measured. But, with this system of tracking intake comes an awareness that is invaluable. You don’t have to be perfect, but the general education that comes from starting to understand how much of each macronutrient goes into your body daily can allow you to make some serious changes in your nutrition and your training. Like the old saying goes – if it is important to you, you will find a way, if not you will find an excuse!
3. Flexible Nutrition only works for high-level athletes or “genetically gifted” individuals.
This myth is often one that I hear whenever I post a picture consuming something that is a “treat”, or a “20% food”. (At HYN, we refer to 20% food as treats that we incorporate into our nutrition plan 20% of the time, ensuring that the other 80% are micronutrient dense foods.) I can’t even count the number of times I have heard “you can only eat *insert 20% food here* because you are an athlete/young/have good genetics”. This could not be further from the truth. As has been stated, the pictures most people see (of my ice cream bowls or amazing pizza-for-one nights) are 20% of what my daily diet looks like (#5 will elaborate even more on that). But, like I always explain, #ChickenPicturesAreBoring – no one gets amused by seeing nightly pictures of my incredibly exciting chicken breasts and asparagus, so those plates get posted less often. On that note, this system really does work for everyone. That is the essence of this style of nutrition – it is FLEXIBLE. It can be tweaked and molded for anyone, of any age, with any history, and any training schedule or future goals. I have had successful clients in all different demographics, and success looks and feels different to everyone. No, I do not make “treats” off limits to anyone, nor do I ever give a list of “restricted foods”. Instead, I teach my clients and athletes the correct amounts of each macronutrient they should be consuming and why – according to their personal situation. I view it as my responsibility as a coach to educate them on how to occasionally fit fun foods or special cravings into their life without feeling guilty about it or derailing their goals. We should all learn to enjoy life and food while not losing sight of our ultimate goals and aspirations… that is being flexible!
4. All “macro counters” eat the same way.
To group “macro counters” in one huge category is like using the word “human” to describe someone. Following a Flexible Nutrition plan simply means that you are tracking intake and trying to meet a specific number of protein, carbohydrates, and fats per day. It does not, in any way, describe what your diet is actually consisting of. Some of my clients are paleo, some are vegetarians, some vegans. I have clients that eat like an 8-year-old on an unsupervised grocery trip (yes, I work hard on helping them change that), and I have clients that consume less than 40g of sugar daily. I have a handful of clients with dietary limitations for health reasons and others for limitations due to personal reasons. I have diabetics, pregnant women, and celiac clients among many others. Flexible Nutrition is not a cookie-cutter system. You cannot simply tell someone “I follow Flexible Nutrition” and have them understand what your daily nutrition is made up of. That is the underlying beauty of this system. It can truly be molded to work for anyone and can be embraced by people who all have different beliefs and needs when it comes to what they put in their bodies! No-one should be ostracized for what or how they eat and I love coaching this system that is all-inclusive and gives people a common platform to jump off from!
5. Flexible Nutrition encourages a diet filled with low-quality foods.
I know this was the myth you were all waiting for. Save the best for last right?! I know, I know, I confused the WHOLE world when I wrote an article entitled “How Donuts Gave Me Abs…” and everyone is up in arms that Krissy Cagney is running a nutrition based company called “Doughnuts & Deadlifts” – because that promotes a poor message when it comes to nutrition, right?! Well… not really. If anyone has spent more than a minute paying attention to look past the blog titles or company names – and actually spoke to me, or her, about the topic – it would be understood. Flexible Nutrition is not a system based on “how many donuts, Oreos, and cake can I eat in a day”. It is a system that very clearly outlines the appropriate intake needed by a person. It then allows them to eat responsibly and fill that intake however they would like. No food is off limits, but quality food is the priority. That statement cannot be argued. It is the same 80/20 rule that so many of us are already familiar with. I do not encourage that an individual fills their daily intake with low-quality food, but I also know it is not always necessary to completely remove it from your intake. By putting a “bad” label on foods, or using the term “cheat” when referring to nutrition, we are implying that a person is doing something wrong by consuming a certain food. That is referred to as “food shaming” which is a very real and serious issue that can lead to guilt, unhappiness, and poor relationships with food. Some individuals have struggled with this their entire lives, and others develop it later on in their life after trying to be restrictive for a certain period of time. Being able to live life and enjoy it’s great pleasures responsibly – like doughnuts, pizza, Oreos, and ice cream – is a lovely ability to have. We are able to keep our goals in line, while also being human and feeling a sense of “flexibility” in our nutrition habits.
If you are interested in reading more on the topic of Flexible Nutrition, are looking for a set of personalized macronutrient numbers, or some in-depth nutrition coaching, you can head over to my website at HONOR YOUR NUTRITION. For recipe ideas and tips follow @honoryournutrition and @ncapurso22 on Instagram.