If you’re trying to get in shape, a competitive athlete, or just try all the latest and greatest fitness trends and dieting fads, then you’ve more than likely heard of IIFYM (If it fits your macros) and Flexible Dieting.
WHAT IS IIFYM?
The quick overview, and the premise of this popularized diet, is that as long as you eat the correct amount of macro nutrients, (proteins, fats, carbs) that fit your daily ratio caloric intake goals, then the source of those macro nutrients is irrelevant.
That’s right! According to IIFYM, we’re talking strictly numbers, which basically gives you the right to eat whatever you want, whenever you want as long as your meeting your personal macro nutrient goals. So instead of eating apple slices with peanut butter (carbs, fats) you can replace that healthy snack with lets say, a chocolate glazed, Cap N Crunch encrusted fried doughy masterpiece from the local doughnut shop, since it consists of the exact same macro nutrient profile (carbs, and fats). Which leads me to why IIFYM and Flexible dieting is complete bullshit, reason number 1!
1. NOT ALL FOODS ARE THE SAME
Let’s be perfectly and abruptly honest! More than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults have obesity. The obesity epidemic in America today is recorded as the worst it’s ever been and to put this statement in perspective, 1 in 4 young adults are too overweight to even join the military. The idea of IIFYM and flexible dieting can be directly attributed as one of the main systemic causes. How? Well let’s first start with the absurd mentality and mind-set that it brings to a person with no knowledge of any best practices when it comes to nutrition.
Telling someone that pizza is a perfectly well-balanced meal according to its macro nutrient makeup, can set someone up for failure, and fast. Just because a pepperoni pizza has Carbs, Proteins, and Fats, does not make it a well-balanced meal that you should be eating everyday, if your goals are to lose weight, get lean, or maintain a healthier lifestyle. A double-double cheeseburger with fries from In-N-Out Burger (1065 calories & 59g fat), may have the right macronutrient mix to meet your daily caloric intake, but do you really believe that substituting a baked sweet potato (180 calories, 0g fat), lean steak (213 calories, 13g fat), and a side of avocado slices (161 calories, 14g fat) can possibly be the same thing? Absolutely not, and here’s why.
American diets have shifted towards decreased nutrient density with less than 20% meeting USDA guidelines for a clean diet including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Most people consume more calories per eating occasion when food is prepared out of the home with processed foods and are higher in total fat and saturated fat.
Which brings me to my next reason, why this diet is complete and utter shit.
2. YOU ARE NOT A PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE
Reading articles entitled “Eat Junk Food and Lose Weight” may sound like the iconoclast version of progressive forward thinking, and a dream come true, but in reality and all forms of common sense, it's backward thinking, and counterintuitive.
The thing that most people don’t realize is that when you see Instagram profiles of athletes, and CrossFitters eating ice cream, munching on doughnuts, and slamming a whole pizza, these people are PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES. During the 2008 Summer Olympics, Michael Phelps downed a daily 12,000 calories in the training days leading up to his race. Usain Bolt eats 5,500 calories, 281 grams of fat and 237 grams of protein.
More realistically speaking, when you have a caloric deficit of 1,000k calories because you crushed your workouts out for 3+ hours, a slice of za and a doughnut isn’t going to have that big of an effect on the way you look, or your nutritional and athletic goals. But! If you’re like the majority of people who work an 8-hour day and have a couple of kids screaming their heads off at home and you’re working toward a goal of eating healthier, losing a few pounds or getting more fit in the 30 minutes of spare time you don’t even have;
replacing your chicken and broccoli with a cheeseburger and apple pie because you saw your favorite athlete do it might be the stupidest shit you’ve ever done.
Which leads me to why IIFYM and Flexible Diet is complete Bullshit Reason #3!
3. YOU'LL GAIN EVEN MORE WEIGHT
Only a few generations ago, the amount of obese people in America were few and far between. In 1980, no state was above 15% obesity; today there are 41 states with obesity above 25%. Now if you visit any public venue, you’ll see that obesity is much more prevalent. Just visit the DMV or Wal-Mart and you’ll get a good dose of what we’re talking about here. Obesity is linked to more than 60 chronic diseases. Today, in adults ranging from 35-45 years old, the rate of heart attack, and coronary artery atherosclerosis is increasing. According to the American Cancer Society 572,000 Americans die of cancer each year, and about 1/3 of these cancer deaths are linked to excess body weight, poor nutrition, and/or physical inactivity.
In addition, over 75% of hypertension cases are directly linked to obesity. TIME Magazine reports that 2/3 of U.S. adults with type 2 diabetes are overweight and/or obese. A toxic lifestyle, built upon the belief that we can lose weight from eating pop tarts for breakfast, and hitting the gym for a quick 30 minutes, is not helping! It’s one of the psychological and systemic causes leading to an increasingly unhealthy lifestyle.
But what about before the massive obesity epidemic and before IIFYM and Flexible Dieting? People have always had access to an innumerable amount of calories, yet most of us weren’t overweight. The majority of people weren’t counting calories either. So what’s changed? According to a study done by Harvard University. Too many fast processed foods, not enough exercise, and bad sleep schedules.
According to the American Heart Association, “Highly processed food is absorbed too quickly into our blood streams, inducing abnormal insulin responses that in turn lead to exaggerated swings in blood sugar. This has us walking around hungry, consuming excess calories to combat that hunger, and storing the excess energy in our bellies as fat. That belly fat is linked with inflammatory factors that are associated not only with heart disease but also with many forms of cancer, arthritis, dementia, macular degeneration, and other chronic diseases.”
It's simple. Adding highly processed food, refined grains, trans fat, and refined sugars with a minimal amount of physical activity, will absolutely lead you to gain more weight. Now, if gaining weight and getting stronger is your goal, then by all means get a McDonalds McFlurry for breakfast, eat a couple of clean meals between 10-5 and finish off the day with some Chicken and Waffles since you didn't hit your 3,000 caloric goal for the day.. But you may want to consider Why IIFYM and Flexible Dieting is Complete Bullshit reason number 4.
4. THE LONG-TERM HEALTH EFFECTS
Replacing wholesome nutrient dense foods, with foods that have the same macronutrient profile, can be detrimental to your long-term overall health and well-being.
Added sugars, trans fatty acids, and increased sodium levels are all attributed from foods with low nutritional value, which is exactly what you’re doing with IIFYM and flexible dieting. Replacing wholesome food intake can greatly increase your chances of contracting heart disease, increasing cholesterol, and gaining weight, NOT losing it!
Reference: Bahadoran, Zahra, Parvin Mirmiran, and Fereidoun Azizi. “Fast Food Pattern and Cardiometabolic Disorders: A Review of Current Studies.” Health Promotion Perspectives 5.4 (2015): 231–240. PMC. Web. 7 Oct. 2016.
With the overwhelming evidence, linking trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and processed foods to heart disease, type 2-diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and high cholesterol it’s hard to believe that no one seems to be concerned with the long-term detrimental effects that IIFYM can have on your health. If you don't believe me here are 6,000 hidden dangers of processed foods.
Just because you work out for 3 hours a day, and supplement your diet with cheesy gordita crunches (490 calories and 38g fat) from Taco Bell and somehow still have washboard abs, does not make you healthy. Far from it! Don’t get me wrong; your body composition is one indicator of how healthy you are! And with the right workout plan, and calculated calories, you might achieve your aesthetic and fitness goals. But in the long run, you’re killing yourself, from the inside out.
5. YOU EAT OUT MORE OFTEN
Listen! I'm not saying that you can't eat out, but since IIFYM and Flexible dieting are built upon the belief that your diet just needs to fit an overall macronutrient profile, more and more people are eating out, and not cooking at home. The year 2015 was the first time ever that people in the U.S. spent more money dining out than buying groceries
What does that mean? Well, If I go out to the local microbrewery and decide to eat a turkey burger, on a wheat bun, with sweet potato fries, and honey aioli dipping sauce, then I’ve probably made the best choice compared to the other options on the menu. However, what you don’t know is what’s actually hurting you. The uncontrollable variables such as hydrogenated oils, sodium levels, and hidden nutrient contents, are all factors in your diet you don’t have control over, which can be detrimental to your overall health and well-being. These ingredients include more than 3,000 food additives comprised of preservatives, flavorings, colors and other ingredients Don’t forget about these either:
Artificial sweeteners – shown to lead to even greater weight gain than consuming sugar, is a neurotoxin, and can literally attack your cells and inflame your digestive tract.
Synthetic Trans Fats – contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil found in crackers, chips, fried food, most store-bought baked goods, and promote inflammation, cancer, diabetes, decreased immune function, reproduction issues, and heart disease.
Artificial Flavors – contribute to brain health, triggering Alzheimer’s disease, and manufacturers do not have to tell you the ingredients that make them up
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) – flavor enhancer in Chinese food, frozen dinners, salad dressings, snack chips, and meats that can trigger or worsen learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and more.
Artificial Colors – Nine of the food dyes currently approved for use in the US are directly linked to health issues ranging from cancer and hyperactivity to allergy-like reactions
High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) – ends up taxing and damaging your liver in the same way alcohol and other toxins do and is stored in your fat cells leading to obesity and obesity-related diseases.
Preservatives – lengthen the shelf-life of foods and shorten the length of yours. They are linked to health problems such as cancer, allergic reactions and more.
But fuck it right? It doesn't matter what I eat, as long as I hit my caloric goal and workout for 20 minutes.
The fact is, Not All Nutrients Are Created Equal
Hitting a daily caloric goal may be a simple straight forward approach when it comes to cutting or adding calories. It even takes the work out of worrying about what foods you're eating, and if the foods you eat are considered "Clean foods." But if you eat wholesome food, fruit and vegetables, and lean proteins, that are organic and nutrient dense, then what's there to think about?
The types of Carbs, Protein and Fats you eat DO MATTER. Just read the statement below from Harvard Universities article on Obesity Prevention.
Macronutrients and Weight: Do Carbs, Protein, or Fat Matter?
When people eat controlled diets in laboratory studies, the percentage of calories from fat, protein, and carbohydrate do not seem to matter for weight loss. In studies where people can freely choose what they eat, there may be some benefits to a higher protein, lower carbohydrate approach. For chronic disease prevention, though, the quality and food sources of these nutrients matters more than their relative quantity in the diet. And the latest research suggests that the same diet quality message applies for weight control.
To repeat the main premise and latter half of this statement, the QUALITY OF YOUR FOOD SOURCES MATTER. IIFYM and Flexible Dieting, directly attribute to teaching people, that the food sources don't matter, and that you can replace your nutrient dense, wholesome foods with whatever, so long as it meets the right macronutrient makeup.
I'm not saying that you have to "Eat Clean" all the time, that would be impossible. However eating your favorite ice cream, having a pizza, or crushing some cheescake is okay IN MODERATION. But basing your diet on eating these foods, because they meet your daily caloric goal IS NOT OK.