Reflex Nutrition athlete Gauri Chopra explains why taking a flexible dieting approach to your diet could mean more success in the long run.
These days our social media platforms are saturated with all sorts of diet protocols - ‘clean eating’, ‘low carb’, ‘sugar free’, ‘ketogenic’, ‘paleo’ just to name a few. Whilst each have their own place in the world, they all have one thing in common. They all involve a certain level of restriction. Whether it’s cutting out entire food groups or limiting one to specific foods. For some, having a new dieting style like those mentioned works, at least for a little while anyway… Lets face it, we all know the ‘New Year New Me’ diet to eat 100% healthy food for the entire year will eventually begin to wear off as the monotony of chicken sweet potato and broccoli sets in!
If like me, you are not one of those who can see themselves cutting what most people call ‘bad’ a.k.a ‘junk’ foods out such as chocolate, pizza, ice cream, or passing on a dinner out with friends or family because you’re worried it may throw your hard work down the drain, then you may want to consider the ‘Flexible Dieting’ approach. It’s one that I have adopted for a good few years after experimenting with almost every dieting protocol under the sun, and now advise to all of my clients.
What is Flexible Dieting?
Flexible dieting is a nutritional concept that doesn’t or shouldn’t feel like you’re ‘on a diet’. It involves monitoring your macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate, fat) intake in order to reach a body composition goal.
Of course it’s not as black and white in the sense that you can expect to lose weight or build muscle by filling your macronutrient (macros) with chocolate, ice-cream, and protein shakes. You can eat them, however for it to work you need to get the basics of being in a calorie surplus to gain muscle, or calorie deficit to lose body fat first. From a health and longevity perspective, healing yourself from the inside out by ensuring essential micronutrients such as adequate fiber intake for gut health, and vitamins for proper immune function for your body to function optimally should also be considered.
Why does flexible dieting work?
- No food is considered good or bad. Every food has its place whether it be for health, performance, or sanity!
- It allows you to fit food around your lifestyle as opposed to fitting your lifestyle around food. Forget having to midnight meal prep numerous perfectly portioned meals after feeling brain dead from work at an ungodly hour. With this way of eating, the stress of feeling like you’ve completely messed up your diet from not sticking to a rigid ‘five meals a day’ meal plan becomes non-existent.
- The more you restrict yourself from the foods you love, the more you’ll think about them, only to eventually cave in and end up losing control over your rigid structure. With this way of eating, you can incorporate that tea time biscuit you love, or that burger you’ve been craving without the guilt, because ‘it fits your macros’!
- It’s a lifestyle approach as opposed to a ‘quick fix’. Once you get used to balancing your nutritional needs with an active lifestyle, eventually you wont have to count macros. It’ll just be a case of being mindful of your protein, carbohydrate, and fat portions in relation to your goal.
My top tips
- Start simple. Build good habits like reading the ingredients and nutritional breakdown of packaged food, drinking 2L of water a day, or getting at least three portions of vegetables. Diving straight into counting macros can be quite overwhelming if you’re a complete newbie!
- Aim to get 80-90% of your food intake from wholefoods to maintain a good level of health.
- Learn to be smart with portion sizes. If you know you’re going out for a big meal in the evening, eat lighter throughout the day and save the calories so you can enjoy feasting with no regrets!
- Download an app where you can track the macronutrients of foods you eat throughout the day. It’s a lifesaver when you’re out and about with no meals prepped and don’t want to detriment your goals with a poor diet!
- When you know you’ll be dining out, look up the menu before hand and put what you’ll be having into your food diary, then structure the rest of your day’s diet around it!