By Victoria Frosini, NLC
Diets that promise you can lose weight while continuing to eat all of your favorite meals are nothing new. And the latest to gain traction is IIFYM, which stands for “if it fits your macros” and is also referred to as “the flexible dieting approach.”
This popular dieting trend has picked up steam on the internet for a few years and is now wildly popular on social media, especially Instagram. If you search the #IIFYM hashtag, you’ll find over 10.8 million posts championing “food flexibility” and the idea that you can reach your fitness goals while still eating cheeseburgers and your favorite breakfast pastries.
The philosophy behind IIFYM is that all foods fit in a specified caloric range. So as long as you reach your target goals for the three main macronutrients—carbohydrates, proteins, and fats—you can eat whatever you want. Many people promote IIFYM because they say it offers freedom from food restriction, as long as you plan and track your meals according to a set proportion of nutrients.
Although the idea of breaking free from food fears and limitations sounds liberating, is it really possible to attain ultimate health while tracking macros? I don’t think so—and here’s why.
Why IIFYM Won’t Help You Get Healthy
1. Calories are not created equal
While weight management was once thought to be as simple as calories in versus calories out, research shows that calories from processed foods are not equal to calories from whole foods.
Although it’s tempting to “fit” ultra-processed foods into your macronutrient breakdown, you’re deriving little nutritional value from the calories you consume. In fact, you may be doing more harm than good, according to new research. NIH researchers recently found that when ultra-processed and unprocessed diets were matched for calories and macronutrients, people consumed more food and gained weight eating the ultra-processed diet. In contrast, people consumed less food and lost weight eating a diet rich in whole foods.
Additional research has shown that may be because ultra-processed carbohydrates trigger the brain’s hunger and reward systems. These neurophysiological responses cause blood glucose fluctuations, increased food cravings and the desire to overeat.
Instead, choose fruits, vegetables, and legumes. These whole foods are naturally jam-packed with ideal amounts of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. By choosing whole foods you rely less on food labels and claims, forgo measuring spoons and food scales, and empower your eating choices through conscientious consumption.
2. Macronutrient calculators cannot understand you
IIFYM doesn’t take into account obstacles such as late night snacking, stress eating, or determining your hunger quotient. Adhering to a plan and learning about a food’s nutritional profile can be beneficial, however an online macro calculator fails to account for individual variances in metabolism, genetics, and emotional tendencies toward food consumption and behavior. You’ve figured out a set of macros, but is the ascribed distribution of carbohydrates, proteins and fats right for you? What if the numbers are too high or too low for your needs? What if you’re consuming sufficient calories without essential micronutrients? You are a unique individual, and it’s better to get to know what your unique body needs.
3. Using IIFYM may reinforce unhealthy, obsessive habits
Tracking and meticulously planning every meal is tedious and time consuming. Sooner than later you start to miss out on the enjoyment from eating and sharing a meal with loved ones. Constantly focusing on numbers can cause burnout and may lead to losing track of your body’s signals for hunger and satiety.
While IIFYM touts flexibility in food choices, it can be impractical IRL. The best diet after all is one filled with nourishing foods that will sustain you. So go ahead and forget about numbers, percentages, and measurements and focus on fueling for a Nutritious Life.
Victoria Frosini is a passionate writer, nutrition coach, cooking expert, and ACSM-certified personal trainer. She is the founder of WeCollabnutrition.com, a health & wellness website focused on the burgeoning intersection of wellness, technology and sustainable living.
Victoria earned her Master of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics at Marywood University where she conducted phenomenological research on social media’s influence on weight loss. Prior to launching WeCollab Nutrition, Victoria led popular stadium classes at Flywheel Sports and Ripped Fitness in Westchester, NY. She has contributed to online nutrition and wellness publications and has coached and counseled clients seeking her expertise.
You can find Victoria reimagining family favorite recipes, hosting pop-up fitness seminars, and working with community programs to promote nutrition education and tackle trending health and wellness topics. Visit her website at WeCollabnutrition.com or follow her at @victoria_frosini
(Featured Photo: Shutterstock)