Let’s talk Dieting strategies today. And how they evolved throughout the years.

Starting with the old school dieting method: the EATING CLEAN!
What does it mean? Basically, years and years and years ago, bodybuilders or fitness freaks developed this “safe” dieting plan in order to come out of their “building/growth” phase & lose the extra weight/fat.
So, as you know “bulking/building” phase is where you eat extra calories to grow bigger & fatter (based on how much MORE you eat). For them to lose the extra fat gained through this bulking season, they created this method of removing all foods that were considered “bad” to them.
So, to reduce their calories, they used the method of banning food groups and restricting their meal plans.
Which mean that this eating school divides food into two groups:
Good food & Bad food (which is one of the downsides of this method). A dieter following this school will clearly develop the mindset of allowed vs forbidden foods!
Associating food to emotions & judgments is not the best thing you could do for a healthy-living.

Practicing the above, you’ll be looking at food as either bad or good; thus create negative emotions like guilt when consuming food items from the “bad” list.
This will take us to another downside of this dieting method: the word “cheating” or “failing”! Every time you consume one of the “forbidden” foods, you’ll feel bad & feel the need to be punished. This creates a negative & self-harming cycle in your mind: food & emotions, food & behavior!

Here’s a simplified example of food items you would find in most of their diet plans:
– chicken, egg whites, protein powders
– broccoli, asparagus,
– rice & rice cake
– almonds, maybe
As you can see, the list above is pretty restricted (Although it’s not the full list, just to give you an overview  of the food items so you can get the bigger picture of it).

For this reason, “cheat meals” even “cheat days” got popular at this same time; this will be the #3 downside of this dieting method.
Since this dieting strategy uses limited meal choices, the dieter is pretty much restricted  & feels deprived from so many food choices. What will eventually happen is:

– Either end up having a food item outside their menu plan & feel the guilt! Unplanned cheat-meal which created the the need to be punished (over exercise, try to diet even harder, or even binge-eat everything on sight…)
Scheduled cheat meal (one meal in a single day) or a full-day-of-cheat (more than one meal) to consume all the “bad” foods they desire to, in order to give them a break to enjoy tasty “bad” foods and satisfy their cravings! Then of course, they’d go back to their limited diet menus.
The risk here is that some would not recover well from this freedom-day! How come?
Some dieters will face difficulties to stop their “cheat” meal/day and this will end up as a binge-eating behavior for several days, weeks.
As a result? ruin the progress they made dieting very strictly for weeks & most importantly develop bad eating habits: restriction & binge cycle, food-fear, unhealthy eating behaviors, etc.

Worth to note that, some very committed dieters would stick to this restrictive dieting plan, get the cheat meal/days done & achieve their goals.

The big question is! Is this NEEDED to reach your fat-loss goals? Yes, this method can get you to your fitness goal but is it worth risking your mental health? Is it the ONLY way to lose fat/weight? Is there a “better”, maybe even safer/healthier (mind, psychology & behavior related) way to diet?

Let’s see.. The second method of dieting, the recent one, is Flexible Dieting!
What’s flexible eating? Basically, this eating strategy was developed to spread a more healthy approach to eating. Trying to fix the downsides of the “bro” eating-clean method, this new school emphasizes on food being food. PERIOD. Not good, not bad.

– So, in order to lose weight/fat, you need to eat less calories, less macros (protein, fat, carb) without defining what food items you can eat! No list of forbidden/allowed foods. You can choose the items & ingredients that you like eating, what matters is to stick to your daily caloric limit.
– So, you can make your own free meals, enjoy your dishes, and satisfy your cravings as much as your macro-calorie allowance lets you.

Mini Conclusion:
» YES! You can & you will LOSE WEIGHT eating broccoli, chicken & rice ONLY. But, is this THE ONLY WAY to do it?
Why not try a “better” approach, easier approach, that will still get you to the SAME WEIGHT LOSS results?

In practice, how does “flexible dieting” look like?
When dieting, on lower calories, you are on a macro-budget. So, you should plan well your menu! If you use your macros/calories very generously, you’ll end up using you daily allowance and be left with ZERO macros too early in the day.
But, if you are wise & strategic, you can build a meal plan that has a good amount of low-calorie/macro foods while adding a small portions of “fun” food that usually are high-er in calories. This way you can have them both!

∗∗∗∗ NO! Flexible dieting is NOT about eating “junk food” for every meal, day & day out ∗∗∗∗
Here’s a start-up rule of 80/20 (or70/30)

Some attention on the key words here 🙂

∗∗ Boring food like chicken, veggies, fish, rice, quinoa, oats etc would be the base of your diet most probably! Why? because they fill your stomach without killing your budget.
– These are the VOLUME-FOODS: for bigger portions (plate size), they make lower-calorie meals. For instance, egg whites, or cauliflower, or oatmeal, or rice cakes, bowl of salad, greens, fish, low-fat dairy, chicken breast etc.. So you better use these items more in your meal plan to keep your tummy full. 80% of your diet,maybe?

∗∗ The new element in this strategy is “FUN” foods or treats (not cheats, since everything is allowed).
Fun foods are the calorie dense foods: for a smaller portion size, they make the meal higher-in-calories. For example, a chocolate bar (40g), biscuits, cookies, full-fat dairy, chicken thighs, fried foods, cereal etc
– When you are craving a certain snack, you CAN have it. All you need to do is fit it in your daily macro-calorie allowance, control its portion size.
– Practical note: try to limit the quantity + the serving size, so it doesn’t take away A LOT from your daily macros/calories (so you won’t end up hungry the rest of the day). Aiming for 20% of your diet to be “fun” is a good approach.

     So, if eating one or half snicker-bar, a small bowl of ice-cream, a portion of lucky-charm cereal, a bagel etc can fit in your macros for the day, then you better enjoy it with NO GUILT.
There’s NO food restriction. It’s about portion size, quantity of the food based on your total calories.
As a result? No mental restriction, no deprivation, you are allowed to eat whatever food you choose to, as long as you don’t exceed your caloric limit.

This takes us to “cheat” meal! The concept of “cheating” on food does not exist, since everything is allowed.
Another positive side of this is that it teaches the dieter about loving-food, looking at food as fuel. This can heal the dieter’s mind from “restriction & binge” cycle, from “punishment & guilt” behavior.

In conclusion, flexible dieting can be a good way to avoid developing unhealthy relationship with food, harmful eating behaviors & negative association with food.

All in all, you can still lose weight/fat without restricting yourself to a “good” food list. You can practice mindful eating, portion control & building healthy habits.
The degree of flexibility in your diet depends on your caloric budget. More calorie-allowance you have, more “fun” food you can fit in your daily menu.

Take home message:
Let your diet get you to your body-goals without jeopardizing your mental health! It needs time, patience & practice to learn mindful and conscious flexible eating. But it’s totally worth it.

Healthy mind & healthy body! That’s the ultimate goal ♥

Diane Jilenkrian