Remember when I raved about the dietary approach called If It Fits Your Macros, or flexible dieting? I experienced some significant personal growth with respect to the way I approached and related to food. I still believe that others can experience these breakthroughs via IIFYM as well. Not to mention, I and countless others have achieved significant changes in our physiques. But, at what cost? And were those changes sustainable? As I alluded in my How-To: Take a Break post, following IIFYM for a long-term, continuous basis is not feasible or sustainable. Like all diet plans and program, “flexible dieting” or If It Fits Your Macros has both benefits and pitfalls for its followers. I’ll be exploring the less desirable aspects of this program (and other “restriction diets”) in this post.
You might think from my previous How-To posts on How-To: Track Your Macros and How-To: Track Your Progress that I’m an advocate for relentless, unyielding pursuits of fitness goals, striving to be ever leaner/fitter/faster/stronger. I’M NOT. You simply CANNOT continue to push the body without expecting it to push back. Your body is smarter than your brain, and it is HIGHLY efficient. Ever wonder about weight loss and/or strength gain plateaus? You reduce your intake/increase your workouts and yet that one last pound gets harder and harder to lose or lift? Your body, marvelous machine, has reduced its metabolism and has gotten smarter and more efficient about fueling its required processes with LESS fuel, because you are supplying it with LESS fuel. Very smart (if only our cars operated on the same principle!). Similarly, your body has adapted to the stress of the workouts and doesn’t experience the same muscular hypertrophy and strength gains as it previously did under the same or lesser loads. VERY, very smart!
So, what do we do about this? Well, in a word – nothing! That’s right, there’s virtue in kicking back and relaxing! It’s time to talk about the value of knowing when to strive and knowing when to stop.
As I mentioned in my How-To: Track Your Macros post, you’re going to get a wealth of information about your macronutrient intake. But generally people are only going to put in that level of effort if they have a goal to achieve, in terms of physical performance and/or body composition. And the very best goals are S.M.A.R.T goals: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely/time-oriented. So, if you confer with your trusted health professional and decide that a realistic goal for you is to lose 10 lbs in 6 months, then you’ve covered off all of those attributes. But you won’t know whether you’ve achieved that goal unless you MEASURE – in this case, you have to step on that damn scale! You won’t know whether the actions you are taking (the input), such as eating a certain macronutrient ratio/target each day, are working as intended unless you look at the output. And progress is multi-faceted – so the more measurements you take, the more you can see progress and successes in areas you might have otherwise missed by focusing on one measurement exclusively (i.e. only ever looking at the unchanging number on the scale without realizing that you’ve lost several inches by decreasing body fat and increasing lean muscle mass and/or gotten noticeably stronger at back squats).
So, that’s my case for tracking progress. If you’re a believer, follow along!
Alright. You’ve heard about it. You’ve seen the acronym a few too many times, and far too many photos in your Instagram feed of “bikini athletes” mowing their way through deep-dish pepperoni pizzas as part of their show prep. If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) is a food/nutrition/diet movement that looks at food at the macronutrient level: proteins, carbohydrates and fats. P-C-F, in IIFYM short-hand.
There is no more “clean” food vs. “junk” food or “good” food vs. “bad” food. No more cheat days or treat days; no “earning” carbs or calories. Food is food. From an apple to an anchovy, a chicken breast to a Cheez-It, all food is comprised of the same three basic macronutrients (yes, there are also micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals to consider, but we’ll worry about that later). The idea is that your body needs a certain personalized ratio of these three macronutrients for optimal performance and body composition. Figure this out and then make small changes over time and you can reap lasting changes in your strength, physique and body composition.
This post is NOT about figuring out YOUR personalized macronutrient ratios. There are other websites for that and frankly, that can actually be the easy part. The harder part (as always) is putting information into action and taking the steps to actually eat the desired/required macronutrients in the run of a day (or week). The only way to know whether you’re actually doing this is to TRACK WHAT YOU ARE EATING. Everything you’re eating and ALL of what you are eating. THAT is what this post is about.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” This axiom is attributed variously to the late war-time British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and to self-help guru Alan Lakein. Regardless of who said it, it rings true in many realms, not the least of which is health and wellness. “Fitness starts in the kitchen,” is another popular adage. I believe both of these statements to be patently true, especially when you are first starting out with healthy eating and active living.
Changing habits is hard work, and until better-for-you choices become reflexive and automatic (this comes with experience and practice), it can be nice to set yourself up for success in as many ways as possible. Planning and preparing for healthy meals (and snacks) can help to take the guesswork out of your day and help you to make good decisions when hunger pangs strike you at 2:43pm on your way past the vending machine (or even 2:43am when the middle-of-the-night-munchies strike). Being able to get healthy, family-friendly meals on the table in less time than it takes for the pizza delivery to arrive also means that you will be less likely to pick up the phone for takeout in the first place!
This post is dedicated to bringing you guidelines, tips, tricks and suggestions for healthy meal planning and preparation. This will support your wellness goals and hopefully save your sanity during the weekday dinner rush!
So, you want to learn MORE about healthy (or “healthful”) snacking? (For the grammar buffs, healthful snacks make healthy people). I’ve already given you lots of great healthy snack ideas, but just what is it that makes a particular snack choice “healthy” or at least “healthier than” other snack choices? A lot of this is unique to each of us as an individual and varies depending on time of day, previous and anticipated energy expenditures and type of exercise, etc., etc. But without writing a dissertation (although you might want to pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee because there is a lot of great reading ahead), here are some general guidelines and principles that can help you to plan, pick and prepare better-for-you snacks, even in a pinch!
Let’s face it: we’re ALL busy. Busy at home, busy at work, busy with friends, busy with family. Busy, busy, busy! Sometimes the closest I get to three “square” meals a day are the square Tupperware containers I use to transport my meals on the run. For many of us, gone are the days of leisurely sit-down family meals with lots of time to prep, cook, eat and clean up after them.
So, what fills the gap? SNACKS! And lots of experts in the realms of nutrition, dietetics and fitness advocate for eating more frequent mini-meals (a.k.a. snacks) throughout the day as a great way to keep your metabolism up and running and to keep you from getting over-hungry between meals (and therefore stave off over-eating at those meals). And, if you’re anything like me, I can’t really go more than 3 hours without eating without getting seriously “hangry” (an angry state brought on by being hungry: hungry + angry = HANGRY). Snacks are my anger (and hunger) management solution!
This post is dedicated to bringing you guidelines, tips, tricks and suggestions for healthy snack options at home and on the go! I’ll start with a host of healthy snack suggestions then you can choose to read on for some of the science behind healthy snacking. This will kick-start your learning to help you determine satisfying, nutritious and delicious snacks on your own!