Friday, November 23, 2012

IIFYM vs other weight management strategies


First off, conventional crash / starvation dieting. We all know by now that this doesn't work. You might even know this from personal experience. By definition, when you talk about "going on a diet" the implication is that it is a temporary measure, and a temporary measure can only produce a temporary result... unless you count the actual long term result which is actually GAINING weight when you come off the diet.
There's about 8 million different versions I've seen people (coworkers when I was a corporate square) go on and off. Soup diets, yogurt diets, cabbage diets... the list goes on and on but they're all boil down to the same thing; eating as little as possible. Also known as "starving yourself to lose weight". Something we all shake our heads and say "oh isn't that terrible" when there's a story about teenage girls with eating disorders, but as grown adults we'll adopt the same unhealthy, unsustainable and self-destructive habits in order to shed some weight.
I've already talked about the VLCD (Very Low Calorie Diet) products as well, which also push this false notion of "eating as little as possible to lose weight". As I've said, it's not a good strategy for weight management in the first place, and it's a TERRIBLE idea if you are remotely interested in being healthy and / or happy.
Here's another article I've published about why conventional weight loss methods and in particular Very Low Calorie Diets are dangerous and ineffective. If you could give it a rating of "awesome" when you're done reading, that would be nice.
Since you're here reading about how to lose weight through sensible nutrition and exercise I'll go ahead and assume that you're not interested in these phony "quick fix" products anyway so we'll move right along.
What is IIFYM, anyway?
IIFYM stands for "If It Fits Your Macros". Macros being short for "macronutrients", better know as Proteins, Fats, and Carbohydrates. The idea is pretty simple; at the end of the day you are either (a) consuming the appropriate amount of calories (and appropriate ratio of Proteins, Fats and Carbs) or (b) you are NOT consuming the appropriate amount of calories to achieve and maintain your goal weight.
So when people might ask "is it OK to eat [insert particular food here] while I'm trying to lose weight?" the answer is "if it fits your macros". In other words, will eating that food mean that you end up consuming too many calories over all? If it won't, then it is OK.
There's an article on my business site about how to reach your goal weight with IIFYM dieting, so if you go and read that one it will save me from repeating myself too much here.
To summarise though... there's a lot of talk about needing to time your meals in this way or that way, not eat certain foods at the same time, not eat certain foods are particular times of the day, glycemic index and so on... let me put it to you like this:
Let's say I have a client who needs to lose 20kg to get down to our primary goal of BMI 23, which for the sake of example we'll say is 60kg. So I crunch the numbers and come up with a plan of 1700 calories with 40% from protein, 40% carbs and 20% fats which should be about right to support a healthy 60kg and get results from training. Now, you're trying to tell me that's not going to work unless she spaces her meals precisely 3 hours apart, and we can forget the whole thing if she eats a fucking potato after 4pm?
Ridiculous! If your body requires x amount of calories and you do not exceed that amount, it is going to utilise those calories regardless of what time of day you consume them. Especially when we're eating at a calorie deficit (ie - less than required to maintain current bodyweight), as if your body is going to say "wow I could really use this fuel for energy and recovery from that workout this afternoon, but it's late in the day so instead it goes straight to the love handles". Preposterous.
What about "clean eating" though?
Absolutely. If you're currently indulging in high calorie junk foods, and you "clean up" your diet by eliminating these and replacing them with more nutritious choices you are quite likely to lose weight. Of course no matter how "clean" you eat, too many calories is too many calories. And I must reiterate that too few calories is no better than too many. Personally I want to be certain. I want to do the maths and come up with a plan and be 100% confident of success.
The other issues with "clean eating" are that (a) it is such a vague and subjective term, and (b) people can get far too carried away with it and it becomes something more like orthorexia.
Remember; results come from what you do habitually.
This is important because it should take some of the stress and pressure out of dieting. If you are in the habit of consuming the right amount of calories to support your goal weight, the results will come. So having a small slice of cake at your friend's birthday party doesn't spell the end of your progress even though it might mean that you exceed your targets on that particular day. Even if you do go a bit overboard, as long as you get back on track the next day it is barely even a bump in the road.
Keep it in perspective.