Dieting has traditionally been looked at as a short term solution to a problem rather than a way to live your life in a healthy way.
That’s why “Cleanses” and detoxes are so popular, as are weight loss pills, extreme diets, and ridiculously convoluted food rules that are supposed to “trick” your body into burning more fat.
But while all of these practices can be effective in the short term, they are not healthy nor are they sustainable.
This means that a lot of the time the participant will lose some weight during the first four weeks, then quit due to the diet being too restrictive, then slowly gain back the weight, and possibly become even more overweight than they were when they first started the diet.
This is known as yoyo dieting, and it is a nightmare.
Many people who yoyo diet end up being very overweight, this is because the type of dieting they are doing is lowering their metabolism, affecting their hormones, and potentially catabolising (breaking down) muscle.
This means that when the unsuspecting dieter ends their latest crazy eating plan they will gain weight faster than they would have normally. This is known as fat over-shooting .
There is another way and it is to eat healthily for the long term, concentrating on following a diet that is healthy, simple to follow, and sustainable.
There are quite a few diets out there that follow these rules, for some people that could be a Paleo diet, or a ketogenic one, or even a meal replacement diet!
Yes that’s true, studies have shown that meal replacement shakes can actually lead to better long term weight loss results. But who wants to drink shakes forever?
For many people IIFYM could be the perfect solution, provided that it is treated with respect and not exploited.
In this article we will go full depth into what IIFYM is and how you can make it work for you.
We will also try to dispel any myths that people believe about it, and help you make up your own mind on whether it will help you or not.
What is IIFYM?
“If it fits your macros” is basically a buzz word for flexible dieting.
The idea is that so long as you are hitting your calorie targets (without going over), and as long as you hit your macronutrient targets (protein, fat, carbohydrates) you will be able to gain/ lose/ maintain weight at a healthy and effective level.
This means that you don’t have to restrict any food that you enjoy, but you instead have to fit that food into your daily calorie target.
So if you want 200 calories worth of pizza that’s okay, but you need to find a 200 calorie food to be replaced. Performed correctly this can allow you to have your cake and eat it (pun very much intended).
What isn’t IIFYM
Critics of “If it fits your macros” say that it is basically an excuse to eat badly, and that people will try to fill their diet with junk rather than healthy foods.
Certainly there are a lot of instagram trainers who showcase all the ice cream, pop tarts, and doughnuts that they eat. And there is definitely a lot of people who are seduced by this idea.
But there are two issues with this theory. The first one is that if your goal is weight management rather than health, it really doesn’t matter what your food is made up of.
If you have a protein target that you are hitting, and a calorie target that you are abiding by, you will get results.
The second issue is that if you wanted to follow IIFYM correctly, it would be impossible to hit your macro and calorie targets while eating lots of junk food.
Anyone who has tried to fit a burger and fries into their daily calories will understand this. You need low calorie foods just to stay full, you need a plate of broccoli because it’s barely any calories and will fill you up.
Proper adherence to IIFYM is self regulating. After a few weeks the participant will be seeking out healthy foods just so they can hit their targets better.
It’s not a magical diet that will instantly solve all junk food cravings. But it is a more realistic and respectful approach to dieting than any other.
IIFYM understands that you can’t live your whole life turning down dessert, or a drink with your best friend, nor does it want you to.
Compare that to the Paleo diet which prevents you from ever ordering pizza, or eating anything that was cooked with modern ingredients.
It’s not for everyone, this should be made clear. One of the big downsides of IIFYM is the amount of work that is involved, to make sure food fits into your macros you’ll need to find out what calories are in that food, you also need to track all your calories for the day, and work out what your calories are supposed to be.
We can help you in this article, but some of you are probably already losing interest!
The dropout rate for IIFYM is probably as high as with any diet, people find discipline difficult, they also find reviewing their food time consuming, and can be defensive about how much they are actually eating.
But the benefit of IIFYM is that once you have started following it, you should find it easier to continue indefinitely (which should be the aim of every diet).
It does involve a bit more work, but it also allows you to live a life that is filled with good food, drink, and health. It doesn’t guilt you into avoiding certain foods, or attach a morality to your diet.
Caution: If you have ever suffered from a form of disordered eating (anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia etc) then this might not the diet for you. IIFYM involves recording, analysing, and being honest with yourself about your diet. This can be very challenging, and while it may be the perfect solution for some, it can also exacerbate issues for others.
How to follow an IIFYM lifestyle
So by now you’ve probably already made your mind up about whether this diet is the right fit for you or not. If you’re reading this now then that means that you’re probably interested in the process.
In this section we will be looking at how you can go about following the IIFYM method. Don’t worry it’s a lot easier than you are expecting!
Job #1. Goal setting
What is it that you are looking to achieve? Weight loss, weight gain, maintenance, sports performance? All of these goals have different requirements.
Most people are looking to lose fat when they start a diet, in which case you will need to create a calorie deficit (more on that later).
Weight gain sounds simple, but doing it properly (minimal fat accretion while building muscle) then you need to be very disciplined.
This is no “bulk” phase where you eat nothing but pizza, ice cream, and protein shakes.
Eating for sports performance involves consuming enough calories to fuel your workouts, while trying not to gain or lose weight, and having sufficient protein to aid recovery from the workouts. A tough task.
Luckily all of these goals can be achieved using the exact same method, which we are looking at now.
Job #2. Measurements
The trick with IIFYM is to be constantly assessing progress, you need to be weighing yourself on the scales each week.
Taking progress photos and using a measuring tape around your waist, chest, arms, legs, and neck can also really help.
This way if you put on 3kg in 2 weeks when you’re only supposed to be putting on 2kg max you can adjust your calorie targets to reflect that.
With most forms of data analysis, the more data you have the easier it is to read them accurately.
Our bodies fluctuate in weight constantly, and each scales measurement is a snapshot of one part of your day. But you can abate this issue by following a strict routine.
If you always take measurements on a Monday at 5pm or a Saturday at 8am then you will at least have some consistency. Alternatively you can weigh yourself every day – just don’t read too much into the numbers.
Job #3. Work out your calories
There are a lot of complicated equations that you can follow to get your perfect calorie measurement, the Mifflin, St Jeor formula being the most popular. But the truth is, there is an easier way to get an accurate measurement of your calories. You can use Health-Calc, an online calorie measurement tool (that’s completely free).
Just visit the site (check it out here ) and fill in your details as accurately as you can.
You might be surprised at the calorie goal that they offer you, but 1) remember that this target is just for maintenance, if you want to lose weight you need to eat less than this. 2) You’d be surprised at how many calories you are actually consuming each day. It’s probably a lot more than you think!
Job #4. Work out your macros
Truth is that your macros aren’t as important as people think, if you are exercising a lot then you need a lot of protein, but everything is flexible. You can go low to mid carb, high fat, low fat, or whichever suits you.
But we’d advise consuming 0.825g of protein per lb of bodyweight. So if you are 200lbs that’s 165g of protein per day.
Fat content should be around 20-30% of your diet, so take your calorie number and find (let’s say) 25%.
If your calories per day is 2,000 then you are going to be eating 500 calories from fat per day. Now there are 9 calories per gram of fat, so we need to divide 500 calories by 9 (56g) to get our target.
With protein being 4 calories per gram (equalling 660 calories for 165g) we just add the 660 calories to the 500 and subtract that number from 2,000. This leaves us with 840 calories for carbohydrates, divide this number by 4 to get the amount of grams required (220g).
If this is too much for you, then you can always add some fat and remove some carbs as there is some wiggle room there.
Trial this new calorie and macro target and measure your progress over the next few weeks, be patient but if you really feel that it is not working then you can adjust the calories or macros slightly.
Job #5. Learn how to use myfitnesspal
There are other apps and websites available for tracking calories, but myfitnesspal is the most well known and therefore the best supported app.
Calorie tracking apps work by users imputing in the calories from their own food, and adding it to the database. So the more popular the app, the more in-depth the database ends up being. Download it and learn how to use it properly.
Job #6. Learn how to read food labels
This is a simple thing to do, but will make a huge difference to your results.
Once you start logging your food you’ll learn how misleading food labels can be.
For example a product that claims to be “a source of protein” but only contains 1g out of 100g.
The more labels you analyse the better you’ll get, which will help you make good food choices.
Job #7. Weigh your food
Not everything, there’s no need to weigh your vegetables or fruit, but weighing rice, pasta, and your meat, can really help you hit your calories properly.
Humans are terrible at estimating food portions with their eyes. Use a small food scale and you’ll be fine.
If this article has you thinking that IIFYM is too complicated to bother with, then please reconsider.
Using the myfitnesspal app and website, and working out your calories and macros is very easy, and the more you do it the easier it will become.
Stick with it and you’ll have better results than you could have dreamed of.
 Dulloo, A., Jacquet, J., Montani, J. 2012. How dieting makes some fatter: from a perspective of human body composition autoregulation. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 71: 379-389