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

Filed under Counting Macros

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.


  • 140 page step-by-step guide.
  • Achieve fat loss without starvation.
  • Individually tailored to your body composition.
Learn More

The flexitarian approach counts macros and calories.
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


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.


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 guesswork 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)

A 2021 study compared the flexible diet with more rigid diets and the researchers found that participants lost the same amount of weight with a flexible approach as they did with a strict approach. Plus, the flexible dieters ended up with more lean muscle mass. Why all the sacrifice if you don’t have to?

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 are 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). I 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 is 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 I dropped to 8.6 percent body fat by using flexible dieting.

Accelerate Your Diet and Fitness Goals with My Macro Solution System

Step-by-step self-guided program -or- fully customized personal macros coaching. Feel exhilarated as you conquer your goals!


  • 130 page step-by-step guide.
  • Achieve fat loss without starvation.
  • Individually tailored to your body composition.
Learn More

    Scientific References:

  • 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
  • Conlin, L.A., Aguilar, D.T., Rogers, G.E. et al. Flexible vs. rigid dieting in resistance-trained individuals seeking to optimize their physiques: A randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 18, 52 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-021-00452-2
Ted Kallmyer is an ISSA certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition, author, and macros coach. He has helped hundreds of clients reach their body transformation goals.
Updated July 2, 2021


  • Renee

    Hi Ted, I am 5,6 and big boned and heavy all my life. I have lived in diets, loose weight only to put it back on again. This has been my life cycle I am 48 now and have to loose 80lbs for the sake of my health. I have an extremely hectic job so I was wondering, are the meals complicated ? Also can I eat the same thing at least mon to Friday as it would be easier to prepare? I am interested in trying this but just making sure it’s something I can stick with. Many thanks

    • Ted Kallmyer (Certified Macro Coach)

      Hey Renee, You are not alone. So many women have been dieting most of their lives and I hope I can show you how to finally get off that ride. This is a really flexible and allows you to eat anything as long as it fits your macros. The meals can be really simple and usually, you want to shoot for a protein source, a carb source, and some fat with each meal. I promote a healthy approach which means that 85% of your diet should be coming from whole food sources with plenty of fresh veggies and some fruit. You can eat the same thing but by tracking your meals you can enjoy a variety of meals and foods so that you don’t get bored and give up.

  • Holli

    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

    • Ted Kallmyer (Certified Macro Coach)

      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.

  • Barb

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

    • Ted Kallmyer (Certified Macro Coach)

      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.

  • 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??

    • James (Moderator)

      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.

  • Madre van Zyl

    Hi , im female, 21 yrs of age, 5’9 and 97 kg. I’d like to drop the unwanted mass while building a healthy lifestyle and physique. Is there anyone that can recommend a good eating program and fitness program for me ? Will be much appreciated!

  • Emma Balneaves

    Am I supposed to meet my Marcos to loose weight or be beneath those numbers?

  • Emma Balneaves

    Hi! I’m 19 and weight 150 lbs and I’m 5.6 feet. I have no idea how to work out my carbs, fats or protein- would someone be able to help🙈

    • Ted Kallmyer (Certified Macro Coach)

      Hi Emma, We have a calculator that works everything out for you. Use it here.

  • Debbie

    Hi. can you still have alcohol on this program? also, I have been tracking Macros in my fitness pal and in one part it says I still have a percentage of carb, fat, protein to get to but then when I go to macros the percentages show different. what should I be looking at , am I supposed to be reaching the calorie/macro on the view page. (I have set it up to show the macros I have remaining for the day.
    I hope that makes sense?

    • Ted Kallmyer (Certified Macro Coach)

      Hi Debbie, you can have alcohol, but be sure to track it. MFP will add it to your calories but they won’t deduct it from your macros. You should take your alcohol calories from your carb allotment. As for tracking, you should be looking at grams and not percentages for tracking purposes. MFP is always changing percentages based on your total intake so far for a day.

  • Mike

    “When food enters your stomach your body isn’t thinking ‘Healthy or unhealthy?’ it is simply breaking down the food and processing the macronutrients.” –Food is much more than just macronutrients. Whole and minimally-processed foods contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, zoochemicals, and other health-promoting agents. Highly processed foods are missing a lot of these compounds while being packed with trans-fats, texturizing agents, stabilizers, and artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. If someone values their long-term health and what they look like on the INSIDE, they would be wise to compose 80% of their diet from whole and minimally-processed foods and leaving the other 20% for whatever they want. THAT is what flexible dieting is about.

    • Mike

      People need to be taught to understand what they’re putting into their bodies and that food is not just macronutrients.

      Brown Rice and Tuna ingredients: Brown rice, tuna fish.

      McDonalds Chicken Sandwich ingredients: Chicken [Chicken Breast Fillets with Rib Meat, Water, Vegetable Oil (Canola Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL), Wheat Flour, Bread Crumbs (Wheat Flour, Vinegar, Sea Salt, Baking Soda, Inactive Yeast, Natural Flavor), Potato Starch, Buttermilk (Cultured Nonfat Milk, Salt, Sodium Citrate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D3), Salt, Citric Acid, Rice Starch, Palm Oil, Corn Starch, Rice Flour, Yellow Corn Flour, Natural Flavors, Spices, Baking Soda, Sugar, Garlic Powder, Xanthan Gum, Maltodextrin]; Roll [Wheat Flour or Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour or Bleached Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Malted Barley Flour, Water, Sugar, Yeast, Palm Oil, Wheat Gluten, Dextrose, Salt, Contains 2% or Less: Natural Flavors, Corn Flour, Soybean Oil, Calcium Sulfate, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Monocalcium Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid, Calcium Peroxide, Enzymes, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Vegetable Proteins (Pea, Potato, Rice), Sunflower Oil, Turmeric, Paprika, Corn Starch, Wheat Starch, Acetic Acid]; Sauce [Water, Soybean Oil, Maltodextrin, Modified Food Starch, Enzyme Modified Egg Yolk, Distilled Vinegar, Salt, Sugar, Spices, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Lemon Juice Concentrate, Polysorbate 80, Natural Flavor, CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA to protect flavor]; Tomato; Lettuce.

      • Jess

        Thank you, someone had to say it wtf

  • Michelle

    Hi there, I’m feeling a bit stumped. I’m a pescatarian (and at that fish isn’t even a daily thing in my diet) and I have no idea how to get 75 gm of protein per day, which is what was calculated for my macros on the low end of protein. I feel like 95 gm (the normal amount) is completely unattainable for me. I workout about 6 x/week which is a change from 2 months ago, and I’ve certainly upped my attempts to get more protein. But I think at my best day maybe I’m around 65-75 gm.

    • Ted

      Hi Michelle, It is difficult for vegetarians to get all the protein in without going over on carbs especially. I would recommend a high-quality vegan protein supplement and do some research about how vegan athletes meet their protein requirements.

    • SimplyMo

      If you are ok with using supplements, you can buy a lot a of plant-based/vegan protein supplements from chain stores like target and wal-mart. You’re not alone in struggling to hit your protein goals. I eat meat and I still have to use protein supplements

  • hcornetto

    I’m curious if, when counting carbs, it is done similar to how low carb diets do where the “net carbs” are calculated, or if this plan does not differentiate between carbs and net carbs.

    • Ted

      Hi there, In a technical sense only net carbs are the carbs that are supplying energy so they should be counted, But, this is difficult because many nutritional labels and trackers don’t take this into consideration. It’s easier to just count total carbs and then use your fiber amount as a bit of a buffer. If you go over your total carbs by 15 grams, but have eaten 25 grams of fiber, you’re still in good shape.

  • Gina Visser

    Does flexible dieting only work for weight lifters & cross fitters? I’m not allowed to lift heavy, but I do have a bit of weight to lose so I’ve started a cardio and resistance training regimen, and would like to know if iifmm works for ‘normal’ active ppl as well as bodybuilder types. Can’t find anything on the topic.

    • Ted

      Hi Gina, It sure does and even works if someone does no exercise. Please see the weight loss edition of my book. It will guide you through the process step-by-step. https://healthyeater.com/macro-solution

    • Danielle Dunn

      I did my macro calculations and it is saying I need to eat 155 grams of protein in a day! I am looking and didn’t see anyone else’s totals that high. I would have to eat constantly and have enormous portions I am very confused over this and how I can possibly meet that goal and achieve weight loss. I am 5’1 and weigh 188 lbs. Please advise.

      • Ted Kallmyer (Certified Macro Coach)

        Hi Danielle, Because you have at least 50 pounds of fat tissue, this skews the protein calculation. It’s really more accurately based on lean mass than total body weight. You would be fine with around 100 grams or roughly 30% of your total calories coming from protein.

        • Graham

          I’ve just had my calculation of 185 grams of protein per day which is even more – I’m a 61 year old guy, 224 pounds and don’y eat chicken or meat just fish

          • Ted Kallmyer (Certified Macro Coach)

            Hi Graham, You don’t need that much protein. I would guess somewhere around 130-150 would be more appropriate depending on your exercise. If you’re using our calculator use the low protein setting. If you are mostly a vegetarian you may even want to use the adapted recommendations here.