Hey there, here’s an intriguing thought to chew on — you can lose weight by eating some of the things you like. It’s called flexible dieting and it gives you choice in how, when and what you can eat.
It may free you from the shackles of rigid dieting. You might no longer need to put butter in a goddamn coffee just because some “holistic nutritionist” on the internet told you.
Here are three reasons why flexible dieting can be a game-changer for you:
1. Flexible dieting allows you to enjoy foods you like with little restriction
Think about any diet and it will be based on restriction.
Some diets tell you to starve yourself as thin as a rail with 700 calories. Others want you to eliminate all carbohydrates. And sometimes it’s about traveling back in time to the Paleolithic period where gluten wasn’t a thing.
Most diets have idiotic restrictions about foods you can and cannot eat.
But what happens when you’re overly restrictive with your food choices? Well, research has consistently shown that the more you place a particular food on a list of no-nos, the more you crave it:
Eventually, your willpower to resist dwindles from a roaring flame to a dull burn, you say “EFF IT,” and binge. You binge on the exact same foods that you couldn’t eat.
And it’s not something I pulled out of my rear — increased dietary restraint is highly correlated with binge eating behavior:
It’s different with flexible dieting. It’s related to lower BMI, less frequent disordered eating behavior, and healthier body image:
Hold on, there’s more — flexible eating can lead to greater weight loss because for many folks it’s easier to sustain it long-term:
If you wonder why is that, Mike Doehla, an owner of Stronger U, answered this beautifully:
This is the basis of flexible dieting — no foods are off-limits. YOU have the freedom to eat what you want. Just not as much as you would like to. As Sohee Lee, CSCS and MS once said:
Now, just because you can eat whatever you want doesn’t mean that deepthroating 5 burgers each day is a good idea ‘cuz the second reason why flexible dieting is cool is…
2. Flexible dieting prioritizes good food choices
Flexible dieting follows the 80/20 rule — around 80% of your food choices should come from whole, minimally processed foods like lean meats, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, etc. The rest can come from less nutritious foods (and there’s no reason to beat yourself up for it):
Keep in mind that 20% is just an option available to you. You’re not required to “spend” them on junk food if you don’t want to. It just means you have to “budget” for it as long as most of your diet is on point and your calories are controlled.
Flexible dieting is realizing that you’re a goddamn adult and you don’t need some ketosis-inducing diet to tell you what you should and shouldn’t eat. You can make your own decisions when it comes to food.
3. Flexible dieting doesn’t delineate between “good” and “bad” foods
One of the few rules I have for people who I work with is to not label food as “good/healthy/clean” and “bad/unhealthy/dirty.” The only term we have for food is less nutritious and more nutritious:
No, I’m not being a pedantic douchebag — words matter. As Alan Aragon, a nutrition researcher, observed:
Go ahead and ask Alan why can’t we just label foods as “good” and “bad.” Let’s pretend that you did and so let’s welcome back AA-dawg to reply:
This black-and-white or dichotomous thinking towards food may seem harmless in the short term. However, it can mess up your beautiful head in the long term. For example, this study found that:
This dichotomous thinking sucks the fun out of food. Food goes from being something that should be enjoyed to a detested enemy.
With flexible dieting, there are no “good” or “bad” foods. It tells that you can lose weight on more than chicken, brown rice, and goddamn broccoli.
Flexible dieting takes the guilt out of food — if you want a donut, you eat a friggn donut as long as it fits your daily calorie “budget” and most of your diet is comprised of whole foods.
Remember that you’re what you repeatedly eat. Be consistently good enough with your food choices (80%, remember?) instead of inconsistently perfect when you go full-blown “clean eater” for a month and binge for another.
“Yeah, flexible dieting sounds cool, Egis. Where do I start?”
If you have had enough of eternal torment following keto diet and you want to try flexible dieting, here are some foundational principles you should follow:
- Eat mostly whole, minimally processed foods, and be aware of your calorie “budget.”
- Eat enough protein to support muscle growth (I’ll make an optimistic guess that you lift weights).
- Eat enough fiber because shit happens because of fiber, you know.
- Eat enough fat to keep hormones in check.
- Eat enough carbs because they are tasty and make your workouts awesome.
- Or don’t eat lots of carbs. It’s your choice, remember? Stop placing a hill of unnecessary restrictions on what you can eat.
Most diets are based on restriction and deprivation and quite frankly, I would rather take my own appendix out than live a life based on deprivation.
Give yourself permission to live a life. Try flexible dieting. If you want.
Originally published by me on Medium on July 23, 2021