Flexible Dieting vs IIFYM

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Written by Coach Austin Current

Original article posted on N1 Training, written by Coach Austin Current.

I have spent time getting shredded and winning a pro card while eating nothing but pop tarts, ice cream, and some protein. I have spent time eating mainly nutrient-dense foods without eating much that I was “not supposed to eat”. Both of these approaches came with their benefits. Both of these approaches came with their downfalls.

This world is not black nor white, it’s grey. This topic should be thought of in a way where we have a healthy mental and physical continuum in which to live. Where exactly we choose to live within that continuum will be dictated by our goals and where we are at in our lives at the current time. I am tired of seeing the pressures of which “team” you are on or needing to weigh and track everything you eat because we know this is not needed to have success.

To have success in creating a flexible approach, you will need to keep three valuable things in mind: attitude, approach, and perspective. Next, I will let you guys in on where I see Flexible Dieting and If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) as an athlete and a coach. I will do my best to let you in on where I see one of the two going in a direction of restriction, much like the days of clean eating, but with less nutrient-dense food.


The Comparison


I do not think Flexible Dieting and If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) are the same things. I do think that we need IIFYM principles to adequately teach a person to gain the nutritional freedom and physique they desire through Flexible Dieting. If you would like to learn more about what I mean, please continue reading.


Flexible Dieting/IIFYM – we assume that these terms are synonymous when they are not. Flexible Dieting is the attitude in which we think about the foods we are eating, and ultimately the lifestyle that we are choosing to live. Keyword: lifestyle. Here is where I see things start to differ between the two: diet vs lifestyle. IIFYM can teach us more about what we choose to put into our mouths, but Flexible Dieting helps us explain why we eat what we do and our attitude toward food in general.

It is definitely true that we can say IIFYM is a less restrictive model when compared to something like Clean Eating. However, IIFYM is still restrictive and can be more or less extreme-based on the individual practicing it or the teacher who is teaching it. When looking at the population who needs this message most, we need to think of the non-competitor or every-day person who just wants to be healthier or change their physique.



We cannot just tell them to focus on hitting these 3 numbers (protein, carbs, fats) and assume that all of their questions will be answered or that all the troubles they have had with food or dieting will be solved. This will send them down a road of short-term success and long-term confusion like everything else. It may seem like I’m bashing IIFYM. I am not. I am just trying to help you understand that these words, or titles, are not synonymous. When looking past the little world of competitors trying to get shredded, there is a world of people out there looking for answers on how they can change their lifestyle, not just attempt another diet. As a coach of that non-competitor demographic, I can promise that sending people three numbers to stick to from day-to-day is not helping them create a life-long change in their lifestyle or their attitudes toward food. IIFYM is a piece of the Flexible Dieting puzzle if you will. It is a crucial stepping stone in a long-term process of change.

IIFYM can be a tool in learning portion control or learning what foods contain certain nutrients, etc. – all very crucial to long-term change. That change they are yearning for will come after the IIFYM principles have been learned by the individual. The real change will be made when they learn how to make this a long-term and sustainable approach to the rest of their life. If you are interested in reading more about how I view IIFYM vs Clean Eating, please read the article HERE! It may surprise you.


Written by Coach Austin Current, BSc, CSCS, IFBB, Pn1

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