*Disclaimer: much of my nutrition philosophy is based on following Layne Norton and Sohee Lee. I feel they bring the right amount of science and personal experience to the topic and thus the “slant” of this blog post.
I had a post similar to this one (Snacking and “Bad” Foods) but I want to reiterate what I have found to work: controlling the amount of food trumps whether or not you eat a bad food literally every time. While there can be further discussion about what’s used to make food, (GMOs, hydrogenated oils, organic etc.) from a fitness and weight loss standpoint it just comes down to carbs, protein, and fats. Focusing on the three elements or macro-nutrients (macros) as the primary element of a nutrition plan is known as “If It Fits Your Macros, IIFYM”, “Flexible Dieting”, and “Counting Macros”. So we’re on the same page, here is my list for what this means:
- Set a budget for your macro nutrients and hit that budget consistently
- Eat enough whole foods to hit good fiber numbers (35-50g) and micro nutrients from veggies
- Work in treat or “bad” foods into your budget instead of cheating
- Enjoy foods you normally wouldn’t see on a diet list
- SUSTAIN THIS FOR LONGER THAN 6 WEEKS! (It’s a lifestyle change that’s sustainable)
This seriously works – I have used it for a year and a half and when combined with consistent exercise – have had great results. It all comes down to controlling amounts consistently but not necessarily drastically. This is different than “clean eating,” which simply put, is saying that eating any amount of “good food” is fine and avoid “bad” foods (an extensive list). Here is a video discussing the two concepts by Layne Norton. Layne is a huge advocate for IIFYm and thus it is certainly slanted that way. He also works with bodybuilders so he bring up “shows” and “stage weight” but the same concepts still apply to anyone looking to get more fit. That said, he has a PhD in nutritional science and I trust what he has to say because it is backed by both research data and anecdotal accounts:
Tracking your macros also puts you into a position to accurately gauge the correct amount of food for your budget even if you’re on the go. I wrote a post regarding eating out if you haven’t gotten to check it out. In that post I bring up “guesstimating” once you’ve tracked macros for a little while. The video below explains this very well!
Eat Out Example – Restaurant with no macros listed:
– 6oz of salmon as the menu states
– 1.5 buns because I have seen buns similar in size at more calories
– Mayo sauce on the side so I could eye it more accurately
– Fruit side, roughly a cup by eye
– Bun seemed buttered lightly
Now I come to the point of this post. That is, spreading the word that there needs to be a paradigm shift from thinking of foods as “healthy”, “good”, “low-fat”, “clean” or “bad”, “fatty”, “sugary”, “unavoidable cheats” and rather as foods to simply fit into a daily budget. Is it healthy to eat Twinkies, protein powder, and peanut butter 24/7 if it fits your macros? No. If you hit your fiber, have some left over carbs and really like Twinkies, can you work one in? Absolutely. You just have to think of your food as if it’s on a budget and eat to those guidelines. Planning is important and you might notice me turning down a surprise doughnut but those of you who know me well know that as long as I can plan, I can fit most food choices (within reason) into a day.
I will say that as much as it gives flexibility, it’s not necessarily “easy” to start. It takes work to track, especially at first and it means that you have to plan ahead. You won’t be perfect at first but it gets easier over time (from personal experience) and the more you do it the faster you get at figuring out how to fit your food in correctly.
Lastly, this obviously something that I haven’t always done. I have learned how to do it and made mistakes along the way. I started with a simple free app and basic tracking and now have graduated to a more advanced tracking app and try to hit exact grams. I say that because I am happy to help anyone from beginners to more advanced who are interested in knowing more about counting macros.