What is Flexible Dieting? A Macro Based Diet Plan to Get Started Quickly

Flexible dieting has been recently gaining momentum as a revolutionary new way of eating.

Flexible Dieting Google Search

Flexible Dieting Google Search

My personal experience with many diets led me to believe some foods are good for you and some foods are bad for you. The way you lost weight was determined by the foods you cut out of your diet and so on.

Chicken + Rice = Good. Ice Cream + Lollies = Bad.

“Eat clean” used to be my mantra. Until now.

An Easy Macro Based Flexible Dieting Plan

Quick Start Guide to Flexible Dieting

Get your free guide here.

Flexible Dieting (also known as If It Fits Your Macros or simply Counting Macros) is simply the counting and tracking of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) to achieve a body composition goal.

A Flexible Diet Plan can be started quickly by following three easy steps:

  1. Calculate your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) based on your current weight and exercise.
  2. Calculate your macros in ratios that help you reach your desired goal.
  3. Track your food intake and try to meet your TDEE and macro limits each day for weight loss or muscle gain.

Counting Macros
Macronutrients or Macros make up the majority of our diets.

There are three main macros: Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrate. One gram of each macro has a calorie value.

  • 1 Gram of Protein = 4 Calories
  • 1 Gram of Carbohydrate = 4 Calories
  • 1 Gram of Fat = 9 Calories

Rather than typical calorie counting (e.g. Eating 2000 calories a day) Flexible Dieting tracks macronutrients (e.g. Eating 150g Protein, 80g Fat, 170g Carbohydrate = 2000 calories) which more effectively influences body composition rather than just weight loss or gain.

Flexible Dieting follows the belief that there are no miracle weight loss foods. No good or bad foods, just macro ratios.

For example:

McGrilled Chicken Burger:

  • 25g Protein
  • 33g Carbohydrate
  • 15g Fat

OR

Brown Rice and Tuna 

  • 25g Protein
  • 33g Carbohydrate
  • 15g Fat

Both are the same macros and so both will achieve the same results in your body composition.

When food enters your stomach your body isn’t thinking “Healthy or unhealthy?” it is simply breaking down the food and processing the macronutrients.

Essentially, to change your body flexible dieting allows you to eat whatever you want so long as you hit your macro goals. This was demonstrated in the twinkie diet.

To maintain and improve overall health, although not necessary to change your body, I’d recommended tracking your fiber intake as well while flexible dieting. This will ensure that you are getting enough micronutrients as well. For overall better health, 80-85% of your diet should come from nutritious whole foods

The American Heart Association recommends eating 14g of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed.

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What Are the Benefits of a Flexible Dieting Approach?

As I’ve mentioned before I’ve experimented with a wide range of different diets. All of them have their merits but Flexible Dieting is by far my favorite (and one I continue to follow today).

Below I’ll give three reasons why:

1. Effective

The most important tool in weight loss is understanding that a calorie deficit is necessary for losing weight.

Although quality is still important, quantity is the greater determining factor in weight loss or gain. If you’re not in a calorie deficit you can eat all the “good foods” you want and go nowhere.

Flexible Dieting advocates tracking everything that enters your mouth which stops the guess-work and takes control over how & when you reach your goals. Tracking, whether it’s your macros or calories, is hands down the most effective way to change your body. (Read about how Jim lost 88 pounds by doing this)

2. Flexible (Duh)

Flexible dieting is just that: Flexible.

By focusing on your macronutrient intake rather than eating certain foods you can still achieve your goals while enjoying life with everyone else. You can have your cake and eat it too! 

One of the challenges I’ve always found around dieting was the awkward social element. There’s only so many dinners you can bring Tupperware containers full of rice and chicken to without feeling like a complete a-hole. Research shows that a more flexible approach leads to less anxiety and more successful weight management.

By allowing yourself the flexibility you can join in on meals with families and friends, so long as you keep track of what you’re eating.

3. A Sustainable Flexible Diet

For years my cycle would look the same. I’d set myself a super restrictive way of eating and then “Diet, Diet, Diet, Binge…Diet, Diet, Diet, Binge”.

I had such an unhealthy view of eating and because of that I never really stuck to anything long enough to get results.

I didn’t realize that food is not just physical it’s also psychological.

Flexible Dieting is the first thing that I’ve been able to stick to consistently over a long period of time. From my research and experience, it seems to kill the “Diet, Binge” cycle many of us have found ourselves on.

Because you can eat whatever you want (in moderation) it’s more mentally & emotionally sustainable. 

Four Steps to Flexible Dieting for Weight Loss Success

1. Calculate your Macros

If you are a do-it-yourself kind of person and want to understand the process, then check our 130-page book: The Macro Solution or read the guide on setting your macros.

Or use our flexible dieting online macro calculator here.

2. Count Your Macros

This way of eating is all about tracking and measuring your macro intake.

My Food Diary is a great app for beginners. For more advanced users, MyFitnessPal or MyMacros+  is an option (although can be tricky to set up). We offer a MyFitnessPal tutorial here and here’s a good summary of the best macro tracking apps.

3. Buy a Food Scale

A lot of nutritional information is available on food packaging, however, a scale will ensure you accurately track what you eat.

4. Track your progress

Don’t just rely on the scale to track your progress since our weight can fluctuate for many reasons. Track your progress flexible dieting using multiple data collection.

  • The scale: Weigh yourself at the same time of day after you’ve used the bathroom.
  • Body fat percentage: Calculate how much fat you have and how much lean mass you have and how this changes over time.
  • Body Measurements: Measure various parts of your body, especially the places in which you tend to store fat.
  • Pictures: Take pictures often throughout the process. Wear the same clothes and stand in the exact same spot.

Flexible Diet Success Stories

Flexible diet is a way of eating that helped me a lot. It helped me to control myself in the cravings that I had, helped me to have more healthy habits, and above all helped me to reach my goal while enjoying the foods that I like. Now that I have been doing the flexible diet I was able to lose weight and be in the best shape I wanted. – Camila
Counting macros has been one of the easiest life changes when it comes to getting healthier and losing the baby fat that I was holding onto for 5 years after my 3rd kid. Having the coaching there to help hold me accountable, support, and help make the process so much easier… without coach Ted I don’t think I would have gotten as far as I have so far on my flexible macro lifestyle journey. -Jess
I’ve always struggled with food intake for proper nutrition, portion size, and when I should eat. I’ve felt like a slave to something I needed to sustain myself and my goals to live a healthy lifestyle. This program taught me how to have a healthy relationship with my food and not to have anxiety as to what I should put in my body. Flexible dieting as a valuable tool to help me reach my goals and so far in a month I’m down 14 pounds. Thank you for this invaluable tool to help me reach my goals! -Brent

In Conclusion

Without overstating it, I feel flexible dieting has completely revolutionized what and how I eat. I love having the ability to eat with family and friends, I’m seeing great results and I can see myself doing this for years to come.

MORE: See how Ted dropped to 8.6 percent body fat by using flexible dieting.

You'll Love My Macro Solution Program

Step-by-step ebooks, or fully customized personal macros coaching. Now with complete vegan edition.

    Scientific Reference:

  • Smith, C. F., Williamson, D. A., Bray, G. A., & Ryan, D. H. (1999). Flexible vs. Rigid dieting strategies: relationship with adverse behavioral outcomes. Appetite, 32(3), 295-305. URL
Ted Kallmyer is an ISSA certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition and is our lead macro coach. If you need help reaching your weight loss/fitness goals see our personal coaching options.
Last Updated: April 22, 2020

317 Comments

  1. Holli 3 months ago

    Hi Ted,
    I’ve been switching to and from various links in a few articles of yours and have found answers to questions that I have wondered but never known who to ask or where to look- so thank you. My only question now is how do I track certain things when I’m being flexible? For instance how do I track the order that I get at the kebab shop? Or the breakfast I have at a cafe with the thick shake on the side? What’s the best way to enter this into my tracking app if I have no clue on weights of ingredients and the menu doesn’t say the nutritional value of their meals?
    I do have a second question now that I’m here; what tips would you give for flexible dieting when it relates to alcohol consumption? I always feel guilty if I go out to drink, like everything I worked for through the week is lost and can end in a hungover binge of “well i already ruined it when I had 6 cans of sugary ciders lastnight”
    Thanks in advance

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer (Macro Coach) 3 months ago

      Hi Holli, Glad you’re finding my site helpful. Eating out can be challenging especially at “local” places that don’t publish nutritional info. Either do the best you can by estimating the ingredient amounts in what you’re eating or simply estimate the amount of calories the meal contains( perhaps over-estimate) and then on that day only focus on calories. As far as alcohol, you can drink as long as it fits your calories and macros for the day. Drinking is just like anything with flexible dieting and that’s practicing moderation. 1 or 2 drinks is moderation but 6 is excessive. Just like 1 piece of cake would be moderation but 6 pieces would be excessive. I think you should have a look at your drinking and try to moderate it when you go out. It’s excessive drinking that’s messing you up not drinking in general. If you are unable to moderate then perhaps the problem is a little more complex.

      Reply
  2. Barb 5 months ago

    Can I really have some sugar everyday and still lose weight?

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer (Macro Coach) 5 months ago

      Hi Barb, Yes you can as long as you are tracking it and making sure that it doesn’t put you in a calorie surplus based on your unique stats and activity level.

      Reply
  3. Jen

    Followed plan for 8 months and have lost 35lbs. Current stats: female, 5’7”, 135lbs, approx 23% body fat, 50yrs old. I workout at CrossFit 3-4 days a week. I’m currently happy with the number on the scale. I’ve reached a point where I would like to add more lean muscle mass, but not necessarily lose more weight. I’m concerned that changing my macros count to the “gain” count will increase overall weight and not just muscle. I’ve worked so hard to lose the 35 pounds, and I’m nervous to switch up my macros. How can I maintain this weight loss and add more muscle mass??

    Reply
    • James

      Hi Jen, congratulations on your outstanding results! Your situation is exactly why we wrote the Muscle Gain edition of the Macro Solution. To be honest it is tricky, but it is possible to slowly gain muscle without gaining much fat. That’s what the Lose 10% setting on the calculator is about. In your case your macros would probably be at the “Gain” level on your crossfit days, but then be on the Lose 10% level for your non-workout days.

      This is what we do when we create custom macros for clients (or personally coach them). They have as much as 3 different sets of macros for different days.

      You also would want to start using fat calipers to measure body fat (which, by the looks, you might already be doing), as the scales tell you nothing about your body composition.

      Reply