Is flexible dieting all that it’s cracked up to be? If you have a wider choice of food, you’re more likely to try it all. We have all been to a buffet because there are lots to choose from, you are more likely to overindulge and try everything. On average, an additional 50-60 calories will be consumed for each additional food offered, if at least 5 different foods are available.
The following graph shows the difference in body weight over a 7 week period when you have access to healthy food, a bit of junk food and a wide variety of junk food. Research in the area of dietary variety shows that consuming greater variety increases consumption in calories
At first glance, ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ (IIFYM) is a great concept, the fact that you can eat anything you want and still lose weight. The reality is that it can be harder to manage when you are left with a broad spectrum of foods to eat. Increased food variety has been shown to increase calorie intake by an average of 29%. Some of the disadvantages to a wide food variety include:
- Harder to track calorie intake
- More likely to over eat
- Added stress of knowing the calorific value of the different foods
- Less structure to your nutrition
The advantages of reducing food variety include:
- More educated on the food you are consuming
- More structure
- More consistency
- Less likely to over eat
This is not to say IIFYM is bad, I am personally a fan of it because it creates flexibility with food choices and removes the stigma of ‘diet food’. In my view, many people could benefit from reducing their food choices, especially if you lead a busy life; you can spend more time executing the diet as opposed to stressing about what you are eating.
We need some balance….. there’s a need to straddle 2 extremes of food limitation, for example chicken/broccoli V junk food.
Eating the ‘bro’ way and eating ‘clean’ is not necessarily the most effective way of losing weight as it might cause feelings of restriction and deprivation, resulting in reduced adherence. At the other end of the spectrum, having a wider variety of foods can make it hard to track exactly what you are consuming and may cause a ‘buffet effect’ where you want to sample all of the textures and tastes available.
If you can reduce food choice, you have significantly reduced the potential of consuming additional calories. The most important thing is to ensure hunger is managed and not compromised. If you are full, then you are less likely to eat other foods which can take you into a calorie surplus.
To help create the balance of avoiding restriction and having too much choice, create your own diet that incorporates macro friendly foods that you can enjoy. There are many benefits to this, which include:
- Improving dietary adherence
- More control of your calorie intake
- Educated on the contents of the foods you are eating
- A more structured ‘diet’
- Less likely to over eat due to limiting food choice
- Easily track calorie intake
All of the above the will help to improve dietary adherence, being consistent in a calorie deficit is one of the bigger factors to determine the success of a diet long term. Find out how to improve your adherence for long term results by reading my article on ‘Adherence- The key to long term weight loss’
How to create your own diet:
- Do your homework and find low calorie alternatives to your favourite foods e.g rump steak instead of fillet (save 300 kcal)
- Include high volume foods like spinach
- Prioritise berries over fruits like apples, bananas
- Purchase 1/2 Litre bottles of water for the week. Hydration is key. Buying litre bottles will help track your water intake
- Purchase high protein foods. Eggs, fish, chicken, beef, turkey
- Have a sweet tooth? Find low calorie alternatives e.g snack size bags of popcorn, Cadbury highlights hot chocolate
Yes, creating your own diet might not include your first choice foods, but you have to remember why you’re doing this in the first place. For further reading on creating your own diet, you might want to check out my article on ‘the best diet to lose weight’