Flexible Dieting 101
How To Diet Without Dieting
Does that title sound like an oxymoron to you? Let’s clarify what we mean by this. The word diet brings to mind things like restriction, timebound application, boring meals, meal replacements and gimmicks. These are what is encouraged and promoted by popular fad diets.
Here at GymCube we don’t believe that you should restrict yourself or ban foods unnecessarily and although you need to apply control and be in an energy deficit over the week in order to lose body fat, we don’t want you to feel like you are ‘dieting’.
Flexible dieting is as simple as it sounds, being flexible with your food intake while maintaining an energy deficit. How do you do this? It’s simple, you allow yourself to have foods that might otherwise be banned on more restrictive diets, but you do so sparingly. This way, you never crave banned foods and never have to feel guilty about eating something that is ‘off plan’. This takes away the mindset that certain foods are a treat or a reward or that there are good foods and bad foods and there are no ‘cheat meals’ only meals.
One thing that happens for people who have tried various restrictive diets in the past is that their perception of what is healthy or good to eat has become damaged. We see a lot of people who have quite a stressed understanding of food, who experience a lot of anxiety especially when it comes to eating out. This is because they have been led to believe that some foods are sinful and bad and the more sins one accrues the more likely they are to burn in hell… OK, maybe a slight exaggeration there but you get the picture.
So, let us put your mind at rest. First of all, the are no good foods and no bad foods, there is just food. You shouldn’t be made to feel guilty over food and being told that there are good foods and bad foods does just that. Granted, there are foods which are optimal for health and some foods that aren’t so optimal but these non-optimal foods are often the ones we crave the most when we are told we can’t have them. Think of the carrot on a stick scenario, if we remove the stick and just let you eat the carrot the obsession disappears.
Obviously, we want you to be healthy and therefore we encourage you to eat at least 80% (ideally) of single ingredient foods, lots of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, quality meats, etc. This ensures that your diet provides you with lots of micronutrients, phytonutrients and antioxidants. But, we also encourage you to relax and include something less optimal on a daily basis. This might be your favourite biscuit (one or two not the whole packet) a glass of wine, bottle of beer, small bag of crisps, whatever it is that you like.
The numbers don’t have to be exact, it’s just a guide but if you are consuming (for example) 2,000kcals of food per day and you have 1,700-1,800 kcals from veg, meats, fruit, wholegrains, etc. and then, say, 200-250kcals from a chocolate bar, pack of crisps or bottle of beer you are still within your calorie allowance, you aren’t restricting yourself of the foods you love and you’re still eating enough single ingredient foods to be getting all the essential vitamins, minerals and fibre you need to be healthy.
A form of disordered eating that isn’t talked about as much is known as ‘orthorexia’, this is where a person becomes so obsessed about all things healthy that it has a huge negative impact on their happiness and quality of life, we see this particularly with ‘clean’ eating and strict Paleo diets. Eating 100% healthy whole foods, 100% of the time is never going to happen, not in this day and age, and it’s going to become stressful and feel restrictive. But 80% 100% of the time might just be achievable and is certainly less stressful.
The one caveat here is that, although allowing yourself some less optimal foods in limited amounts can help to increase adherance, we all have trigger foods. A trigger food is one that often leads to a loss of control, so if you know that you can't realistically eat that food in moderation don't have it in the house. A typical example of this is nutella, if you can have one spoonful, fine but if that one spoonful leads to you devouring the whole jar then don't buy nutella.
How To Do It
When you do The Journey, you learn all you need to know about nutrition and healthy living. The Journey is what sets us apart from all other online programs and is the reason that you WILL succeed and avoid the inevitable rebound associated with fad diets. Sustainable weight loss, health and fitness comes about as a result of having a healthy lifestyle, one where you prioritise the positive habits and behaviours that are in alignment with your goals.
On The Journey, you learn how to work out your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) which is all the energy you burn, on average, each day. Eating above this on a consistent level is how people gain weight. This usually happens because we don’t track our food intake and are likely to under estimate the energy value or total volume of food that we eat. Sometimes, however, it happens because our diet is too restrictive and we end up having a melt down and binging on all the banned foods. Just one uncontrolled ‘cheat day’ can be enough for many people to place them into an energy surplus for the week.
Calculate your TDEE, if it is on the low side because you don’t have much lean mass (the percentage of your total body weight that is muscle and bone) or are very sedentary then you will have to be more disciplined with your flexibility, the higher it is due to more lean mass and higher activity levels the more flexible you can afford to be.
Let’s use the following example:
Betty weighs 75kg and has worked out her TDEE to be 2,500 kcals but has factored in a 10% deficit for fat loss which means that her target kcals are 2,125kcals, rounded down to 2,100 for ease. Because she doesn’t want to be creating any mineral deficiencies and is quite active with four 45 to 60 minute workouts per week she has decided that she will eat mostly whole foods and is happy to do so. But, she does have a bit of a sweet tooth so on those 4 workout days she will allow herself 200-300kcals worth of less optimal foods. On one day it might be a couple of heaped tablespoons of ice cream, on another day it might be a chocolate bar or a packet of crisps. This way she is still consuming 1,800-1,900kcals of healthy nutrient dense foods but has enough flexibility to indulge ever so sparingly.
Every other week she goes out with her girlfriends on a Friday night and has a meal and a few glasses of wine so that week she saves up those calories. Cutting back on each of the other days by 100kcal. So, on this night out she has a calorie buffer and has eaten a really healthy diet leading up to it. She’s realistic and understands that she’s not likely to lose weight this week but if she’s on point the rest of the month she might still see a downward trend. Therefore, that Friday night won’t be an 80% day but so what? Food is food and it’s there to be enjoyed as well as to nourish your body. Besides, she’s a member of the GymCube family and her friends are already wondering what her secret is. “How can you eat all that and look so good?” They ask, #GymCubeLifestyle, she responds with a gleam in her eye. In reality she just knows how to apply control and moderation to her eating without stressing herself out. Dieting without feeling like she is on a diet, it’s win-win.