Raise your hand if you’ve ever banned a particular food from your diet. A food that gets you into trouble every time because once you start eating it, you just can’t stop.
Have you ever successfully given up that one thing for good?
Yeah, me neither.
After successfully avoiding that food you’ve deemed evil for a while, temptation starts creeping in. You start making deals with yourself, thinking one bite couldn’t hurt.
But what starts out as giving yourself permission to have just one bite of your favorite food–or two, or three–turns into an ugly, guilt-ridden scene. A scene that usually ends with you demolishing an entire package of said food, hating yourself with every bite.
But you feel powerless to stop it. I’ve been there.
There is a way around this guilt fest. It might sound crazy. Are you ready for this?
Let yourself have the food.
Yep, you read that right. Restricting certain foods and food groups only ends in disaster. When you deprive yourself of something, your body tends to want it more. This is why, when you let yourself have a bite of that forbidden food, it all goes terribly wrong, and you end up eating way too much.
If you eat the foods you like, in moderation, binges will become a thing of the past. IIFYM can help make this a reality in your everyday life.
What is IIFYM?
IIFYM – If It Fits Your Macros
IIFYM is a flexible dieting aid. It isn’t a miracle weight-loss scheme. It is simply a tool for those wanting to win the battle with their diet, while keeping their sanity intact.
The basis of this plan is counting calories. Before you moan and groan and say that’s too hard, or it’s over the top, give it a chance. Counting your daily calorie intake is what enables you to eat what you want, within reason.
So often it’s foods like cake, cookies, pasta, and bread that get a bad rap, constantly blamed for weight gain, or lack of weight loss. True, they are viable culprits, but it’s not because of what they’re made of, it’s because of the amount of calories they contain.
Just as we gain weight on “junk” food, it is entirely possible to gain weight eating “healthy” foods, too. If you eat healthy, but go over the amount of calories your body actually needs, you will gain weight.
Am I advocating eating junk all the time? Not at all. Far from it. But if you take your healthy diet and add in some of the things you love, you’ll be that much more successful on your weight-loss journey.
So What the Hell are Macros, Anyway?
Macros – Macros, or macronutrients, are the building blocks of the foods we eat, needed in large quantities for survival of the human body. These macronutrients are protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
Tracking calories through macronutrient intake is the key to IIFYM.
Protein: 1 gram = 4 calories
Carbs: 1 gram = 4 calories
Fat: 1 gram = 9 calories
Fat – So right off the bat you can see the reason fatty foods are villainized (aside from the heart-health aspect). The fact they contain more calories per gram than their other macronutrient counterparts puts them right at the top of the list in the weight-gain blame game, and rightly so.
We can’t cut fat completely from our diets, however. There is a certain amount of fat the human body needs for everyday health and important hormonal processes.
Carbs – Carbs are important as well, but have earned their own bad reputation when it comes to weight-loss. Because carbs cause your body to retain excess water, fat loss is not always immediately realized. It’s very possible to lose a couple pounds of fat, but have it not show up on the scale due to water retention.
Can you survive without carbs? Yes, this is the only macro you can do without, but it comes with a price.
It isn’t pleasant trying to cut out carbs completely. Your energy takes a nosedive, and you feel like you have the flu. Your mind feels cloudy, and concentration goes out the window. When you cut out carbs, you cut out the glucose your brain so desperately needs in order to function properly.
Thankfully, this doesn’t last forever, and protein starts to take up the slack, providing much-needed glucose to the brain. Though I’ve never tried it, I hear it’s brutal and takes a while for your body to even out.
Protein – This is the most important macro of the bunch. Your body cannot function without it. Protein is responsible for muscle-gain and retention. It’s also a key player in bone health and the health of the hair, skin and nails.
Related Reading | Protein: Your Complete Guide to a Muscle-Building Powerhouse
Everything in Moderation
There are smart ways to go about this, and dumb ways. IIFYM isn’t a free-for-all, giving you license to eat your weight in fried chicken and chocolate cake.
These things can be included in your diet, but you’ll need to go about it the right way.
First you’ll need to calculate how many calories you need daily for weight loss, or maintenance. You can find that info here.
Then you will assign a calorie amount to each macro, in order of importance. Protein is the most important macro, so you’ll want to account for it first, then fats, and finally carbs.
Protein – For an in-depth idea of how much protein you need, read here. But for a quick calculation, we’ll use 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.
Fat – You need at least .45 gram per pound of body weight.
Carbs – After accounting for protein and fat, you can fill in the remainder of your daily calories with carbs, or any combination of the 3 macros.
Daily Calorie Intake Example:
(The following example is based on a 135lb woman with an activity factor of 16. For info on what numbers you should start with, see here.)
Daily calorie intake for weight-loss: 1,660
Protein: (135 X 1) 135 grams per day
135 X 4 (calories per gram) = 540 calories
Fat: (135 X .45) 60.75 grams per day
60.75 X 9 (calories per gram) = ~547 calories
(P) 540 cals + (F) 547 cals = 1,087 cals
1,660 (total daily cals) – 1,087 (P+F) = 573 (remaining daily calories)
What you do with this remaining 573 calories is up to you. You can assign all 573 cals to carbs, or divvy them up among protein, fat and carbs.
If you decide to divide them up, I would recommend getting at least 100g of carbs daily. This will keep the brain fog and body fatigue at bay.
Related Reading | Who’s Counting?
Eat What You Love, Lose Weight
Now it’s time to put IIFYM to work for you.
The easiest way to do this is by using a calorie tracking app, such as MyFitnessPal or FatSecret (pictured below). With these apps you can track individual macros. The program does all the calculations for you. You plug in the food you want to eat and it puts the breakdown of each macro into their respective columns.
As you can see, on this day 1,682 calories were consumed. Going by our example above, that’s about 20 cals off our goal. And that’s okay as long as you account for it as the week progresses.
There’s nothing that says you can’t track the entire week’s worth of cals as opposed to daily cals. This way you can give and take cals from day to day.
The protein was a little high at ~155g and fat was a bit low at ~49g.
But the great thing about these apps is your ability to input foods ahead of time, enabling you to play with the numbers a bit in order to hit your macros for the day.
In this example, I’ve swapped some things around, dropped some foods, and added others. Now the fat is up, the protein is down (a bit lower than 1g per pound, but that’s okay), and we are still close to our daily calorie goal.
This is an actual example of what I would eat on a diet. Even with Cheetos, whole eggs, mayonnaise, bread, and chocolate, I still manage to lose weight.
One more example here to show how I would fit ice cream (my favorite!) into my daily cals:
Funnily enough, this example is the closest to the actual numbers we were going for. And I got to eat ice cream. Bonus!
With so many foods available, there are countless combinations that can be done to include even more of what you love. Sometimes you just have to get creative.
For a complete explanation on counting calories, including calculating your daily calorie needs, tracking-issues that could come up, and tracking apps, see my previous article, “Who’s Counting?“.
Yummy Food – Guilt + Weight-Loss = IIFYM
Who wouldn’t want to eat foods they love while losing weight? With just a little work, that dream becomes reality. When you first start counting calories it seems a bit arduous, but after a while it becomes like second nature.
Eventually, you’ll get to a point where you’ll start eating to satiety, no longer counting every morsel you eat. You’ll get really good at listening to what you body needs, as opposed to what it wants. And you’ll be eyeballing serving sizes like a pro.
For now, though, you’ll need to give calorie counting some time. Learn how many calories your body actually needs.
Give IIFYM a fair shot, and banning your favorite foods will become a thing of the past. There will be no more insane mind-trips and making deals with yourself in exchange for the foods you love to eat. Say goodbye to those weight-loss woes you’ve struggled with over and over again in the past.
Give it a try. The only things you have to lose with IIFYM are pounds.