Flex dieting has become one of the most popular fad diets to date in America. There are countless numbers of guides, videos, and books promoting it.
But before you try flex dieting, let us narrow down what it is for you, along with some of its pros and cons.
So what is it?
Flex dieting is sticking to your very own ratio of protein, fat and carbs to achieve weight loss. Most people use this method to control their carbohydrate intake. In the body-building world, this is what is known as "if it fits your macros" (or IIFYM).
There are three main attractions that draw people towards this craze:
- Effectiveness - by means of calorie deficit.
- Flexibility - because you can rationalize whatever you eat to ‘fit’ your plan.
- Sustainability - due to not ever having to get out of your comfort zone.
A few of the main principles flex dieting promotes are:
- No Calorie Counting - simply calculate the ratio of protein-fat-carbs you would like to consume (ex. 25% protein, 20% fat, 55% carbohydrate).
- All Foods are Equal - flex dieting takes a material approach to food by grading off of quantity, not quality. A salad and a hot dog can be counted the same by tweaking portion sizes.
Sounds great, right?
Almost too good to be true?
Weight Loss vs. Optimal Health
While it is impossible for me to be too judgmental of this diet because it has helped bring to light the big difference between weight loss and optimal health...I just can't let it off the hook that easily.
This vague eating plan does not help anyone trying to overcome food addictions, get more energy out of their meals, or help protect against any diseases or colds. It's already difficult enough to know how much protein, fat, and carbohydrate you need, let alone calculate that for each meal (somehow this is different than calorie counting?). And if you are going to be eating ‘whatever you want’, best believe you will need precise portion control!
Can you lose weight without eating healthier? Sure. Can you lose weight while eating junk food? Absolutely.
During what is called the ‘twinkie diet’ a nutrition professor lost a significant amount of weight by only consuming 1800 calories a day, which could be a piece of junk food every 3 hours. This proves the point that as long as there is a calorie deficit (using more than you’re consuming) you will lose weight.
Similarly, you could expect a car that is low on oil to run a few extra miles down the road by peeing in the radiator, but we all know that is not going to get us where we want to go long term!
You should know
Dr. Robert Lustig has spent the past decade showing the world that not all calories are created equal. For example, thanks to fiber and resistant starches in almonds, only 120 of its 160 calories per serving are making it into the bloodstream (that’s 25% of its calories you don’t have to burn off!).
Fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds are all notorious for their amount of fiber and / or water content. These qualities allow us to cheat our calorie counter at the end of the day. Foods like animal products, sugary beverages and other processed food do not have these biological cheat codes ingrained.
The more choices we make within these food groups leaves off the extra calories while actually filling your stomach up much more.