Flexible Dieting 101: Benefits and Drawbacks

Nothing kills a diet faster than restrictions. Ask anyone with a diet that neurotically focused on what are considered "bad" foods and see how well they're doing six months after that diet ends. Chances are they fell off the wagon early, and that's a shame.

Sometimes an eating schedule with good intentions fails at a psychological level, as not everyone is capable of rationalising their dietary plans as well as others. Tell someone not to eat cake and that’s all they’ll think about, after all! If that sounds like you, flexible dieting might meet your dietary needs without making you feel like you’re missing out on your favourite foods.

In a nutshell, the concept of a flexible diet is fairly simple: By aiming to fit in certain amounts of carbohydrates, fats and proteins without concerning yourself as much with where those nutrients come from, the stresses of an average diet can be avoided or mitigated. Pizza and cookies are no longer bad foods. Instead, they’re simply carb-heavy foods that should be eaten in moderation and under your nutrient targets, generally referred to as your “macros” in this style of diet.

Self-Control Is a Must

If you have issues tracking what you eat and if power often goes to your head, a macro-focused diet may not be ideal for you. One of the most immediate drawbacks of this style of eating is that you’re susceptible to losing sight of your goals and might take advantage of your eating freedom to the point where your diet totally falls by the wayside.

That’s not a slight against any individual person, either. It’s simply human nature to eat until we’re full and concern ourselves less with the nutritional content of what we eat. Otherwise we might find ourselves craving more salads instead of sugary, fatty foods.

No Food Is Inherently Evil

On the other hand, freedom is one of the nicest benefits of jumping into flexible dieting. Instead of focusing on the appropriateness of a certain food, you just have to eat within certain targets and how you arrive at those targets are up to you.

No food is off-limits and you’re less likely to slide off of your eating plan. The concept of forbidden foods is something of a hot-button issue anyway, so avoiding those entirely helps you sidestep the entire issue.

Just keep in mind your goals should dictate what you eat and in what quantities, not your cravings. Being allowed to eat handfuls of chocolate to meet your goals doesn’t mean that chocolate is your best option. Moderation is, as always, the key.

Counting Fats Instead of Calories

Tired of counting calories? Bad news: Counting your carbs, fats and proteins can take even longer. It’s unfortunate considering most eating establishments don’t display the entirety of nutritional information for their dishes in easily accessible locations, meaning public events and social dining can become a real challenge unless you’ve memorized the nutritional information for chicken thighs and marinara sauce ahead of time. If micromanagement isn’t for you, you might do better on a diet that focuses on food restriction and careful planning.

Even that comes with its own benefits, though, as public events are no longer a no-go for dieters. There’s nothing stopping you from having a slice of cake at a coworker’s birthday party and you won’t have to bring your own food every time you step out of the house, lest you end up in a situation where you can’t find any peanut butter and celery to combine on the fly. When food is simply food, you lose the stresses of planning several steps ahead and are free to eat whatever you have available without as much guilt.

Deprivation vs. the Human Mind

Cutting out food deprivation could be a serious step towards helping people battle unhealthy relationships with food, especially those with eating disorders. Again, no food is technically evil unless you eat nothing but handfuls of lard three times a day. A cultural mindset about fitness, ideal body types and how we approach what we eat has led to unfortunate mindsets regarding what is acceptable to eat and how we should feel about eating.

This helps cut down on the binging and guilt that comes with traditional restriction-based diets. If you only stay on your diet long enough to make it to your next binge you’re probably not going to be losing weight or maintaining your figure as efficiently as those who aren’t tempted to roll into a buffet and completely destroy their past week of progress due to unshakable cravings.

Conclusion On Flexible Dieting

As with most diets, you’re going to have to weigh the benefits and the drawbacks yourself. Speak with a dietitian or other qualified expert to help you ascertain what your best dietary plan should be and remember that an ideal diet is something you can actually live with and comfortably stick to over time.

It might be time to leave cravings behind and try flexible dieting to see if pizza fits into your ideal weekly food groups!

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