Flexible Dieting: The Complete Guide & Expert Roundup

Chapter 1

What Is Flexible Dieting?

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Flexible dieting isn’t actually dieting. It’s just a flexible way of living/eating. Flexible dieting strips away the nonsense that has minimal impact and looks at what is the root cause of fat loss and weight gain. Like the famous saying, 20% of the effort gives you 80% of the results. This is exactly how flexible dieting works. The concept is very simple.

Here’s Dr Layne Norton’s quote on what flexible dieting is:

Layne Norton "Flexible dieting provides a platform for people to truly be able to make their diet a lifestyle. It provides people with a means to be able to still enjoy the foods they love, be healthy, and make progress towards their physique goals."

Your body burns a set amount of calories a day and this is called your maintenance calories. If you hit this number daily, your weight will not go up or down but remain the same. You give the body only what it needs to function.

If your maintenance was 2000 calories and you ate 1500 calories, your body would need to find that additional 500 calories to function. Where does the body source if from? Fat stores. Your body has adjusted and now has the 2000 calories per day it needs.

Now you understand how calories work. What about proteins, carbs, and fats though? If your goal is to lose weight on 2000 calories a day, the 40/40/20 ratio is a good way to start.

The ratio means: 40% protein, 40% carbs, 20% fat. This is equivalent to 200 grams of protein, 200 grams of carbs, and 45 grams of fat. This is your daily target of macro nutrients. It does not matter where your macronutrients come from. As long as you hit those targets each day, you will reach your goals.

It sounds a bit surreal, doesn’t it? You can eat whatever food you want to hit those targets and lose weight, even Twinkies, as seen in this experiment. Do I recommend you only eat sweets to hit your targets? No. I advise you to select wholesome foods that are dense in nutrients as these will help other processes in your body.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t add in your favourite meal or snack each day. Let’s say you love Snickers and it contains 250 calories. If you eat the Snickers, now you have 250 calories less to eat for the day. Chances are, this small bar of chocolate won’t even fill you up!

Food choices are important; the more junk you eat, the less full you will feel due to the low fibre content and low volume of junk food. The best thing about flexible dieting, in my opinion, is that you can save any day. You see so many people diet and eat a chocolate bar on a dieting day. They then throw the entire day out the window because that chocolate bar has now ruined it. With the flexible dieting approach, if you do “slip up” and want that chocolate bar, you simply insert it into your calories for the day and re-adjust. Day saved!

BioLayne Video Log 12 - Clean Eating vs IIFYM (If it fits your macros)

Chapter 2

Why Dieting Doesn’t Work

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Dieting doesn’t work. You can kid yourself as much as you like that the next diet you do will give you long-term sustainable results, but it won’t. Diets should only be applied to athletes, bodybuilders, or anyone looking for short-term results. Expecting long-term results from a diet you’re finding difficult on day 3, for example, won’t give you a stable and positive mindset.

Imagine having to do something you can’t stand doing for the rest of your life only after day 3? That’s how most people feel when dieting! If you have a tangible short-term goal, then it may be worth it. But if your goal is to become a new healthy person and lose weight, this type of dieting and mindset will cripple you.

What does science say about dieting? A recent study showed that the more you diet, the MORE chance you have of being obese. In fact, there was even a survey in the U.S. which concluded that an average overweight American will try to lose weight via diet at least 13 times. You read that right: Dieting often correlates to weight gain.

Why is this? It’s due to something called the “yo-yo” effect or Yo-yo dieting. This simply means that people who diet more often go from one extreme to the other; rapid weight gain followed by rapid weight loss then followed by MORE rapid weight gain to a weight higher than when they began. This cycle is then repeated. The more you do it, the more weight you pile back on. It’s weird to think that the more diets you try, the worse off you will be. Lest we mention the health risks of Yo-yo dieting.

Dieting also gives false hope

Have you ever woken up after a day of eating a lot more carbs than usual and find yourself 4-5 lbs heavier the next day? Did you freak out? This is usually caused by water retention and it can fluctuate down just as easily as it can go way up.

Most diets begin aggressively with low carbs. This can lead to quick water loss of up to 14lbs! Many will see this as the rate of progress they expect and when it rapidly slows down, they become unmotivated. They often then eat badly for a day and the water comes back. After the realisation that the 14lbs they lost returned, they think they’ve gained all the weight back and lose all hope of dieting again.

Here’s the truth: You won’t get lean eating healthy for one day just like you won’t get fat for having a bad day. The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy states that it’s the small things each day that don’t feel like much that end up giving you massive results in the long term.

That biscuit you declined today didn’t feel like much, but what about declining it each day for 60 days and keeping your diet lean? It’s the same for workouts. All those workouts you didn’t feel like doing but did, how much of an effect have they had in the longterm?

Check out the graph below. This shows the compound effect in action. It’s working all the time, regardless if you want it to or not. If you’re not positively working towards a positive compound effect then it may be likely you’re on the downward path.

compound effect

Here’s a quick example of the compound effect in action taken from the book.

You have 2 friends that are happily married.

The first guy is named John. John currently eats at his maintenance calories each day but has decided from now on he will eat 125 calories less each day for as long as possible. This is a tiny amount and all he has to do is eat 1 serving less of oats each day. He is also planning on becoming more active and getting back into rugby training.

The second guy named Phil has decided he won’t be changing apart from getting into his cooking more. Phil loves his food networks tv shows and wants to become the best cook he can be. Phil starts cooking delicious meals he finds on TV for his family. His family are obviously enjoying the meals and this makes Phil feel good. The downside is, Phil is now eating on average 125 calories more than his maintenance each day.

Let’s take a look at these minor changes and how they impact John and Phil over time:

30 days:

John: John has been sticking to his plan and has a net weight loss of only 1lb after a month. Nothing noticeable but he’s in it for the long run and understands this.

Phil: Phil has only gained 1lb after eating all these amazing family meals he’s cooking. He’s happy with himself at the moment.

6 months:

John has now been sticking to his plan for 6 months. He’s lost over 6lbs! He now feels healthier and is far more active. John is now feeling a lot better about life which could lead to future promotions, better relationships etc.

Phil: Phil has now gained a total of 6.5lbs. This is not yet noticeable for Phil but he’s becoming more sluggish. He decides he wants to up his cooking game and goes for 3-course meals often. His calorie intake is slowly on the increase but he’s not noticing it.

After 2 years:

John: John has now been sticking to his plan for 2 years. John has lost over 26lbs! His walking regime has now been upgraded to running. John now plans to run a half marathon. He’s looking a lot better, his wife is grateful for the more energetic and happy John. John feels so good about himself now he has also had a promotion at work.

Phil: Over the last 2 years Phil has put on 26lbs. Not only has he put on that amount of weight but the difference between Phil and John is now 52lbs from a zero difference just 2 years ago. This is a significant difference in just 2 years. This is the power of the compound effect, it works all the time so make sure it’s working in your favour!

What happened?

There was only a 125 calories difference for John and Phil each day but the compounding effect shows later on. 2 years is not a long time and look at the difference. You need to understand the small things matter. When changing your lifestyle it could be as easy and removing one piece of food that’s dense in calories. The compound effect works, at all times. Make sure it works for you.

“Diets don't have much reliability. Five years after a diet, most people have regained the weight. Forty percent of them have gained even more. If you think about this, the typical outcome of dieting is that you're more likely to gain weight in the long run than to lose it.”

Enough is enough! Put those gimmicky dieting books down. Stop reading celebrity magazines with miracle pills and diets. Stop looking for the quick fix, and stop looking at others and blaming genetics. You need to change your life and that begins with your lifestyle.

Are you a dieter? It’s time to change.

Sandra Aamodt: Why dieting doesn't usually work

Chapter 3

Psychology of Eating

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When it comes to dieting, there isn’t a single diet that is best. Everyone states theirs is the best, so why bother looking for the best one in the first place? There isn’t a single way of living better than another. You don’t just read a magazine and tell yourself “I think this is how I will live my life from now on!” No. That’s just wrong.

The issues of genetics, food and training preferences, what kind of work you do, and insulin resistance, for example, are all important factors when it comes to knowing what kind of “diet” to do and what is optimal. The kind of diet you need is the diet your body would pat you on the back for, not some randomly appropriated celebrity weekly menu.

There was a study done that looked over the last 30 years of research into dieting. The study concluded there isn’t an ideal diet for treating obesity or those who want to lose weight but it should be based around wholesome foods such as lean proteins, vegetables, moderate carbohydrates and fats.

You may be thinking “DUH! That’s obvious.” Is it really that obvious? Why do we go looking for the “perfect diet” then? Why can’t be simply understand the psychology of eating and that it is as simple and “obvious” as I mentioned above? The answer to that is because we are becoming lazier.

We seek the cure for things without any effort. We simply fold over and accept life as it is. We accept that we were ‘born bigger’. We trick our own minds into thinking of the easy way out, which is to do nothing.

To exit this vicious circle, you must understand this guide and do what you need to overcome the effect the mainstream media has had on your mind. It has pretty much brainwashed everyone into thinking that a 6-week celebrity diet is the be all and end all, when the reality is they just did it to make more money.

You need to re-think your relationship with food and what it does to you. You need to be able to eat a chocolate bar and not feel bad about it. You also need to be able to feel good about eating a variety of foods every day and not sticking to a specific menu. You need to think of calories in vs. calories out and ‘not good’ food vs bad food.

These psychological changes need to be made before you dare dream of a lifestyle where you don’t over think food again. So sit down, digest the evidence we present, and comprehend the fact that what you need right now isn’t a proven diet but a lifestyle overhaul.

Physique Science Radio Episode 2 - Clean Eating vs IIFYM with Ben Esgro MS RD

Chapter 4

The Clean Eating Myth

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We have arrived at the biggest problem of all, the clean eating myth. It’s actually quite scary how ingrained this myth is in today’s society. I can’t recall the number of times I’ve spoken to the ‘average Joe’ about why I’m having a can of pepsi max or why I’m having my favourite chocolate bar after telling them a few days prior that I’m dieting. They cannot comprehend that I can be consuming sweeteners and some carbs from chocolate and still be dieting. Let’s list some of the commonly heard clean eating BS:

• Those foods are not clean!?
• Sweeteners are worse than sugar! (How many times have I heard this!?)
Check out this study and this study on why sweeteners are not the devil!
• Aren’t you supposed to be eating chicken, rice and veg?
• Don’t eat too much red meat it’s bad for you
• Why are you eating bagels? They make you fat!
• Butter makes you fat, you can’t diet with that!
• How are you having chicken, rice and curry sauce and dieting?
• Eating McDonald’s makes you fat regardless of the amount!

The last one is a favorite. It’s the typical response when I try and explain I can still lose weight by eating McDonald’s but eating under my caloric maintenance.

Some are into believing that clean eating is the only way forward and the only way to lose weight.

What the hell is the definition of clean eating anyways?!

• Food that’s low in fat?
• Food low in carbs?
• Meat only?
• Only food that’s grown in the ground?
• Only green veg and chicken?
• Organic food?

We live in a world where we are judged by whatever it is that makes us happy, especially when it comes to the food we eat. Today, you’ll see people giving you a look that screams “That’s bad for you and you should be ashamed” each time you consume anything they find “unhealthy.”

Foods do not affect you because of the labels humans have assigned to them. Your body doesn’t digest a ‘clean’ meal and think “Clean meal - check!”, and give you a magical health benefit.

There are only 3 ways food can affect us:

1. Eating too much of anything leads to a caloric excess which leads to being overweight and all the health problems that come with it.
2. Eating foods with too few nutrients as a whole will give you nutrient deficiencies.
3. Food that interferes with the functions of the body can cause diseases, fat build-up, increase the risk of certain diseases, and more.

I’m not saying that having a MacDonald’s meal is superior to a chicken breast with rice and green veg. If both meals were to have the same amount of calories I would obviously go for the chicken, rice and veg. Why? This meal will give me more bang for my caloric buck. This means more nutrients and more fibre and that leads to being fuller and having healthier lean proteins.

The problem is that clean eating labels anything out of the realm of chicken, rice and vegetables as ‘bad’ for you. It’s only bad for you when it’s not eaten in moderation. Let me give an example:

I have 2000 calories a day to eat, which is comprised of 200g protein, 200g carbs and 40g of fat. On Monday, my diet consists of only chicken breast, rice, almonds, beef and vegetables to hit my target, but on Tuesday, I have the exact same macro-nutrients, however my last meal is a McDonalds cheeseburger and a McFlurry.

Will there be any difference between to the 2 days? None.

My calories and macros are EXACTLY the same and thus I would get the same results if I followed either day for the next 4 weeks. I would probably PREFER the diet on the Tuesday as it would lead to me not wanting to cheat on my new lifestyle and will give me balance.

Clean eating is dangerous because it is NOT SUSTAINABLE. It encourages eating disorders because it leads to people eating ‘clean’ followed by cheat days that are essentially binge days full of junk food. This isn’t sustainable and shouldn’t be the way you choose your relationship with food.

Research has shown that most people would have to eat roughly 20% of their total calories from refined sugar before it became impossible to meet their micronutrient needs.

Clean Bro Eating v Flexible Dieting IIFYM Intermittent Fasting | MassiveJoes.com & The Online Coach

Chapter 5

How To Structure Your New Lifestyle

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You may be thinking, why do I need structure if you’ve just told me flexible dieting is, well, flexible?

There are a few fundamentals you must have in place before going into this new lifestyle.

1) You need the correct information and to understand it (this guide)
2) You need to take action
3) You need to be consistent

You need to have some knowledge on what foods are high in protein, carbs, and fats, otherwise you’ll be endlessly searching for something high in protein or low in carbs. This comes in time, but you must research foods and understand the basic food groups.

Once you have this structure of food groups, you then need to plan out your day. Planning your food for the day is one of the best ways to ensure you hit your goals. Cook the foods the night before in the quantities that hit your macro targets for the day. This way you simply eat what you’ve measured and cooked the night before.

I know many of you may have jobs that mean you’re on the road a lot or in different locations and working long hours. It’s sometimes hard to have time to do meal preparation, but you can prepare meals 3-5 days in advance. Take an hour out of your schedule each week to cook your foods and prepare.

Use your Sunday evening to prepare your meals for the week.

Once you have your macro targets for the day and you’ve planned your meals, you have the structure in place to achieve the goals you desire. Sometimes it will be hard and you will go off-track. However being prepared by knowing how to read food labels, by knowing the food groups and roughly what they contain, and knowing how to measure foods, will give you the advantage of being able to overcome challenges and become flexible with your diet by understanding the core principles of energy balance.

To recap:

● Learn what foods are generally high in protein, carbs and fats
● Learn how to measure foods
● Learn how to read labels
● Understand the information
● Prepare your meals in advance, if possible
● Be prepared to go off-track and adapt by using your knowledge and tools such as calorie counting apps.

Chapter 6

The Foundations of Flexible Dieting

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The first tactic employed when people try to lose weight is ‘eat healthier’. They turn to eating a few pieces of fruit a day, smoothies, fruit juices, green tea and whatever else they deem as ‘clean foods’

This leads to some initial weight loss as ‘clean foods’ are typically less calorie dense than ‘bad foods’. The initial weight loss gives the dieter a kind of magic answer that the reason they are losing weight is due to how ‘clean’ their new diet is. This is the first stage of downfall.

There is no doubt that these “clean” foods are probably higher in fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and more but the most important concept about losing weight is energy balance. These “clean” eaters don’t account for energy they write off the calories they consume from these “clean” foods because they think that the cause of weight loss is the intake of these certain foods

You must value energy over anything else when it comes to weight loss. It’s simply about burning more calories than you eat.

The foundation of the new flexible way of eating is firmly set in the process that affects your body-weight the most: your energy balance.

Once you understand that energy balance is the most important thing, you will realise that even if you eat as clean as you want to, if your energy intake is MORE than your caloric maintenance you will put on weight.

In the pyramid of importance, flexible dieting follows science and evidence. See below.

Put simply, if you eat ‘clean’ and eventually hit a plateau in weight loss (which everyone does), what do you do then? Eat ‘cleaner’?. There is no such thing, you need to eat less.

The basic principles are set:

● Eat less calories than your maintenance
● Count your calories and macronutrients
● Get the most for your caloric buck, eat wholesome foods combined with your favourite foods, just account for them!

Before we get into how to track your calories and macro-nutrients we first need to be goal setting.

Part 1: Introducing the Pyramid and Level 1 - Calories

Chapter 7

How To Set Targets & Goals For Ultimate Success

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Now that you know why going through a fad diet is not the best choice, the next question is: How exactly are you going to reach your goals?

Goal setting requires the a mindset that accepts that certain achievements can take a long time to complete, whilst also acknowledging the fact that there are plenty of small achievements that can be realised in a short amount of time. These are what you call short-term and long-term goals.

Short-Term goals are goals often have a weekly or monthly timeline.

Examples of short-term goals are:

• Losing a small amount of weight
• Eating one less cookie or chocolate than before
• Adding a piece of fruit or vegetable on your plate everyday
• Improving eating habits
• Becoming more active

Their importance lies in the fact they are readily achievable and only a little bit of time is necessary to hit one, two, or all the goals at once. Short-term goals give you a sense of accomplishment no matter how minor. It keeps you motivated to want more and makes the end result seem easy to reach.

Read The Compound Effect to really understand the importance of large quantities of small or short-term goals. They add up to huge effects in the long-term.

I guarantee you that if you follow the lifestyle of the best athlete or bodybuilder in the world for a few days you will get bored. I mean no disrespect to them, but they will all be doing the small things each day for the huge results in the long-term.

It’s the same with dieting and goal setting. You only see the finished product of someone doing all the minor things consistently when you see them performing on the world stage at the Olympics, for example. You see the glory and think that’s what it’s like 24/7. It’s not.

These short-term achievements accumulate over time and make you fitter and stronger without noticing it.

Long Term Goals

Long term goals are the kind of achievements you want to have after you're finished with your program or after a considerable amount of time. These are usually completed in months or years and consist of multiple short term goals.

Examples of these goals are:

• Being healthily stable
• Have a lifetime fitness routine
• Maintain muscle/weight
• Optimizing health to prevent injuries or sickness
• Being stronger every year

Note: Aim high with your long-term goals. Don’t listen to the ‘realistic’ statements as these always seem negative and infer that you cannot do something so great. They encourage that you come down a level! This is absurd, you should be aiming as high as possible, visualising the goal and working towards it each day. Never let the sense of ‘realism’ come into play. What does “be realistic” mean anyway?

Would Steve Jobs have created Apple and innovative products if he kept a ‘realistic’ mindset? Would Thomas Edison have invented the light bulb if he listened to people who kept telling him to be ‘realistic’ and told him to stop after his 99th experiment? Would Usain Bolt be able to break records continuously if he kept telling himself to be ‘realistic’ and not think he could break any records?

The lesson here is to think big, visualise the end goal of that result and work on the small things every single day.

Plan it all out

The most important part of goal setting is the planning and this will seem easy on paper but can become incredibly difficult in real life. As mentioned prior, having the right mindset is the key to successfully completing each goal. You can write all the goals you want, but if you can’t make it through half of them in less than a week, you may want to rethink your strategy.

Ease into it

The number one thing to remember is to ease into this new lifestyle. You’re not supposed to get this right the first time (but if you do, then congratulations). You have to condition your body and your mind in such a way that having a long-term flexible diet won’t become a chore as much as a lifestyle.

Let your body get used to the routine one small detail at a time. Easing into a healthy routine is more of a mental game where you convince your brain to do things it's not used to doing until such time that it becomes automatic. If you don't condition your brain, you'll get mentally fatigued. That’s where your brain thinks that what you're doing is torture and forces you to feel lazy the next time you try to do something ‘healthy’


Add plenty of small adjustments

One way to avoid straying from your routine is by first doing small adjustments to a variety of your activities.

Going light always comes before going heavy. You don't just go out and run 10 miles; you have to warm up first. You don't just overhaul your whole life the next day; it's next to impossible.

Those who do jump the gun only succeed for a while and end up going back to where they started. It's due to how their mind and body aren't ready for such an extreme change of pace. Your aim here is to make it sustainable for the rest of your life.

Going back to square one every now and then isn't exactly a good long-term approach and you’ll end up just like those “yo-yo” dieters who ended up more miserable than when they began.

Moderate everything

Most people who maintain a moderate approach in life end up keeping their healthy routines longer than others. You can always start 100% and try to keep it at 100% for a few years, but nobody can maintain 100% for the rest of their lives.

What we're looking for is something that won't end up feeling "forced" and 100% every day doesn't really sound healthy. Experts even say 70% is the ideal effort when it comes to exercise as it's the effort that is sustainable for most people.

famous failures

Why it’s okay to fail

Goal setting is important in reaching both short and long-term targets. Not meeting targets means failure, but failure is not the end, rather an opportunity for improvement.

As reasonable as some goals may be, there will always be someone who can't achieve them. Even great athletes and notable people in history have failed at some point in their lives. What made them great is how they learned from their mistakes and decided to fix them, instead of quitting.

Knowing the mistakes you’ve made means you are educating yourself on what not to do. It could be something as simple as not repeating a habit that compromises your targets or something as complex as eliminating distractions that ultimately lead to failure. It could involve listing activities or events in your life that may have hampered your goals and whether you could have avoided them.

It doesn't matter what those mistakes were as long as you seek to know what they were, because you can't fix yourself without knowing what's wrong with you. No matter how many goals you set or how many failures you endure, the important thing is not to quit.

Everyone fails. There is no such thing as a perfect track record to success. Trying something new to have a better and healthier life means not only setting goals but also accepting mistakes. Learn from them, and stand up to become better until this habit becomes a part of who you are.

Goal Setting Tony Robbins When Nothings Working

How to follow through / persist with your Goals? - Tony Robbins [part 1]

Chapter 8

Working Out Your Calories & Macronutrients

chapter 7

You can track calories and macronutrients, but it makes sense to just track macronutrients. Why? Macronutrients are added together to give you your total calories for the day.

● Protein has 4 calories per gram
● Carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram
● Fat has 9 calories per gram

Tracking macronutrients and adjusting them is better for body composition, especially if you’re training. It’s also handy to be able to know how you react to a higher/lower carbohydrates or fats lifestyle. Tracking your macros is easy as there are several ways to track them. Before we start tracking, we need to work out what our macros should be.

There are several online calculators which help and take into account your lifestyle, activity levels, body type and goals. Some are more sophisticated than others. Avatar Nutrition by Dr Layne Norton uses an AI system to adapt to your macro intake and weight throughout your journey. We will discuss this further in a later chapter.

You can use any of the well known calorie equations. One of the most popular calculations is the Sterling-Pasmore Equation:

You need 13.8 calories to support 1 pound of lean muscle mass.

Lean body mass (lbs) x 13.8 calories

You can obtain your lean body mass from body fat measurements.

● Calculate lean muscle mass vs. fat mass:
● Body fat % x scale weight = fat mass
● Scale weight - fat mass = lean body mass

Once you’ve worked out what your caloric maintenance is, you then need to work out your goal. Is it lean muscle gain? Fat loss? This will determine your macro-nutrient breakdown. I suggest using this online calculator to work out your macronutrient breakdown for your desired goals.

You now have your set macronutrient goals to hit each day. Remember, it’s important to get as close as possible to these figures each day. Don’t think that coming under them is good enough; you have these numbers in place to reach your goal! It’s okay to be off by a few grams here and there, but be consistent.

One issue that many people encounter is hitting a plateau after 2-4 weeks on a weight loss plan. This is due to their weight coming down and their new caloric maintenance being lower. You must now re-do the calculations and re-adjust to have a new set of figures to realise.

The benefit of Avatar Nutrition is that it does this for you automatically.

Avatar Nutrition is an AI based system that records many of your details to give you an accurate macronutrient breakdown. You can sync your account to a calorie tracking app discussed below called mymacros+.

Each day of data is then sent to the AI system of Avatar Nutrition. If you come in lower each day, the total macronutrient grams will adjust and go higher to make sure you’re on track with your goals. It keeps readjusting so that if you have low or high days, they are cancelled out. The beauty of this is that you never have to recalculate anything. Just make sure you input into the app what you eat each day. It has a barcode scanner which is super handy. Unfortunately, this app only works with iOS devices.

Tracking your macros is super easy. You just need to learn how to read labels. Make sure you look at the serving size and the total amount in the packet or container. You can scan the barcode for a super simple way to add it to your app or just write down the serving size you consumed plus what the label says. See below for an example of a food label and where to find the information you need. The information you need is highlighted in a red box.

Being consistent with tracking will give you a better eye for serving sizes in the future, which helps a lot when you’re out on the road without your phone or any form of tracking.

Remember, it only takes an extra 5-10 minutes a day to track. These small things add up down the line to being a huge factor in your journey.

Chapter 9

Useful apps and websites

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There are many apps and sites out there that can aid you in your new lifestyle. The first and most important is a calorie counting app. There are several on the market but only two I’ll discuss here:


MyFitnessPal now acquired by Under Armour is one of the most popular apps. It has an easy interface which allows you to scan foods, add to your diet and share with friends. The premium version also lets you to add custom calorie days and other goodies. The free version is good enough though for your goal. It’s available on Android and iOS.


Very similar to MyFitnessPal but works with Avatar Nutrition (featured below). The app of choice if you’re looking for the ultimate flexible dieting solution along with Avatar Nutrition.

Avatar Nutrition

Avatar Nutrition is brought to you by Layne Norton, Mark Springer and Katie Coles. It’s a premium service for flexible dieters.

According to the site it has the most advanced AI system for counting and adjusting your calories/macro-nutrients. It takes you through a process to find out your weight, height, body type, training experience and many more questions you don’t find in the standard calorie estimation equations.

Once you go through the process you then pick a goal. The goal will then dictate the end result of the process. You will track your weight and diet into this system and it automatically adjusts your calories/macronutrients.

It can be connected to MyMacros+ so every time you complete a day on the app it automatically gets sent to Avatar Nutrition along with your weight. It then re-adjusts and makes sure you are as close as possible to the initial goal of losing 1lb a week for example.

Anyone can consistently under or over eat it’s a lot harder to be consistent and stick to the actual goal. This is how Avatar Nutrition comes into play and helps you remain as close as possible. The goals are set for a reason!


Dr Layne Norton has been involved with flexible dieting for over 10 years. He is one of the experts in the field with contiunial research going into the topic. Layne advocates a flexible lifestyle after seeing countless clients ruining their bodies from previous diets and terrible coaching.

His message is simple. The more you diet the worse you’ll be. Change your lifestyle and understand evidence based science. Throw away the magazines and bro-science website articles. Follow an evidence based and flexible approach and you’ll never have to diet again.

Layne even dieted for this shows (which he got super shredded for) by eating ice-cream every day. This helped him keep his sanity as he loves ice-cream but he just made sure it fitted into his macro nutrients for the day. Simple.


Alan Aragon is one of the leading names in sports nutrition. His Alan Aragon Research Review is one of the highest rated places to go on the web to find the latest research backed with his expert opinion.

Alan simply looks at all the research coming out that hardly any of us understand properly or can be bothered to read (this is no disrespect to Alan, it takes an expert to read research studies properly and understand them.)

Alan breaks them down and gives his expert review on each study. You’ll find many large newspapers and online sites will publish an article based on a study’s title or abstract alone. This is dangerous as the research may some something completely different.

Trust the experts not the papers. It’s a premium service but the small fee is definitely worth it if you want to keep away from the broscience and stay up-to-date with all the latest research!

Additional Resources:


Introducing Avatar Nutrition - Huge Flexible Dieting Project

Chapter 10

Expert Roundup

Chapter Image

We wanted to give more in this guide so we reached out to experts in nutrition and asked them on their thoughts on flexible dieting. There are many answers here that vary but all have a similar theme. Diets don’t work. Understanding basic principles of fat loss is key. Don’t sweat the small stuff, focus on what matters.

Dr Layne Norton - BioLayne.com
"Flexible dieting provides a platform for people to truly be able to make their diet a lifestyle. It provides people with a means to be able to still enjoy the foods they love, be healthy, and make progress towards their physique goals."

Evan Clark - PrettyFit.com

“In a nutshell, flexible dieting (aka IIFYM) is a nutrition system that breaks down your entire diet into the three macro nutrients (protein, fats, carbs). You decide your physique goal, whether it be building muscle or fat loss, and then figure out your total calorie expenditure you'll need to drop, increase or maintain body weight based upon your activity level. From there you find the optimal ratio of the three macros to intake daily in order to meet your physique goals.

This system is "flexible" as you can manage your macro ratio and work in fun foods that you wouldn't be able to in other strict diets, as long as said foods "fit your macros".

IIFYM/Flexible dieting can be a great way to get a six pack, drop fat, blah blah blah. However, my advice to anyone looking to start a flexible dieting plan is to remember that even though eating a ton junk food that "fits your macros" can still help you drop body fat, it doesn't fulfill your micronutrient needs and you can do damage to yourself if you're not eating enough whole fruits/veggies, lean meats, etc. It's an easy system to abuse and can also lead to an unhealthy obsession of tracking every little thing you eat.

Lastly, this nutrition system is great for physique focused goals as it's an easy way to dial in your fat metabolism. Therefore if you're an aspiring physique competitor, model, or just want to shed some pounds of fat it can be great. However it is not necessarily the best nutrition program for athletic performance or overall health and I wouldn't recommend this system for athletes, especially those who compete regularly, unless they follow it loosely and athletic performance is prioritized in their diet.”

Lyle Mconald - BodyRecomposition.com - A Guide To Flexible Dieting Book

See if this sounds familiar: you’ve just started a new diet, certain that it’s going to be different this time around and that it’s going to work. You’re cranking along, adjust to the new eating (and exercise) patterns and everything is going just fine. For a while.

Then the problem hits. Maybe it’s something small, a slight deviation or dalliance. There’s a bag of cookies and you have one or you’re at the mini mart and just can’t resist a little something that’s not on your diet. Or maybe it’s something a little bit bigger, a party or special event comes up and you know you won’t be able to stick with your diet. Or, at the very extreme, maybe a vacation comes up, a few days out of town or even something longer, a week or two. What do you do?

Now, if you’re in the majority, here’s what happens: You eat the cookie and figure that you’ve blown your diet and might as well eat the entire bag. Clearly you were weak willed and pathetic for having that cookie, the guilt sets in and you might as well just start eating and eating and eating.

Or since the special event is going to blow your diet, you might as well eat as much as you can and give up, right? The diet is obviously blown by that single event so might as well chuck it all in the garbage. Vacations can be the ultimate horror, it’s not as if you’re going to go somewhere special for 3 days (or longer) and stay on your diet, right? Might as well throw it all out now and just eat like you want, gain back all the weight and then some.’ What if I told you that none of the above had to happen? What if I told you that expecting to be perfect on your diet was absolutely setting you up for failure, that being more flexible about your eating habits would make them work better? What if I told you that studies have shown that people who are flexible dieters (as opposed to rigid dieters) tend to weigh less, show better adherence to their diet in the long run and have less binge eating episodes?

Alberto Nunez - One Of The Best Natural Bodybuilding Pros - 3DMJ.com

Alberto Nuñez on IIFYM/Flexible Dieting

Matt Ogus - Natural Bodybuilder - Youtube Channel

So Freakin' Flexible Diet (Vlog #132)

Joe Donnelly - Ex NFL Player - JoeDonnellyFitness.com
The age old and crude way of nutrition planning is to set a specific menu. 4-5 meals per day of the same things such as chicken, tilapia and green veggies. In my opinion this is a recipe for disaster. You easily get sick of eating the same things and before long it leads to binging. I am a strong advocate of flexible dieting. What does this mean? It means understanding your macros. Your grams of protein, carbs and fats needed for your to achieve your goals. Why is this superior in my opinion? Well if your lunch says 25 grams of protein, 40 grams of carbs and 10 grams of fat you can choose from a multitude of foods to hit those numbers. Rather than eating the same chicken or fish you can branch using different proteins such as ground turkey, steak, beef, salmon, ahi tuna etc etc. You can mixup your complex carb sources rather than just boring rice and green veggies. It is the most superior in my opinion to structure a nutritional protocol. Tracking your macros is simple and it keeps people from binging. Even on a cheat meal you can still stay within your macros for the day and not throw away a weeks of hard work by binging. An example? Well I knew thursday night I was going out to dinner with business associates and I would eat more than usual including desert. So I simply omitted about 1500 calories from the middle of my day and allocated them to my dinner. At dinner I had 2 appetizers, main course and desert and at the end of the day I was still 127 calories under my set schedule for the day. This is flexible dieting. This is how I do nutriiton work. Are you tired of the same foods, leading you to binging and rebound weight gain? Do you want to learn to carb cycle for fat loss? I am now offering nutriton planning for a one time fee of $169.99. This is good for one year. I will make up to 4 adjustments to your plan over the course of that year free of charge. Most nutrition planners charge a couple hundred bucks every few months and teach you nothing. They want you to keep coming back for business. My goal is to educate you in such a manner that after your one time pay you never need me again”

Kori L. Propst PhD - TheDietDoc.com

“People hate change. It's uncomfortable and uncertain. Most of us make assumptions not about the positive consequences of change, but of how difficult it is going to be. We want to be different. We want to meet our goals. But most of all we want to feel like we have a choice, we want to feel empowered and effective, and we want to feel connected to others. In order to change in a sustainable, meaningful way, all of these factors are necessary. When someone has set the goal to change their nutrition, the tendency is to jump on the next fad that promises a quick fix. Oh, you'll send me my meals in a box? Sweet! You'll tell me exactly what to eat? Awesome! We want certainty to move toward success. Ultimately, however, this certainty leads to breakdowns in long-term success. It removes the learning necessary for insight and adaptability to occur. The flexible dieting movement is in direct opposition to such cookie-cutter programs, and puts the choice of what and how to eat back in the hands of the dieter. It also influence one of the most common barriers to successful weight loss goal pursuit-- emotional eating.

I'm working with a woman who has had great success choosing the foods she enjoys, eating carbs, and eating in restaurants within appropriate macronutrient ranges for her body, metabolism, and goals. She was losing about 1.5 pound per week consistently, when she asked me what I thought about a cleanse that the gym she trains at was promoting. She had a number of reasons for wanting to try it. We discussed the pros and cons, and she decided to commit to trying it for 14 days. Within a week she was emailing me feeling disappointed, like a failure, questioning her abilities to follow-through, and bingeing. I asked her what her purpose was in choosing to try the cleanse. Her first answer was "to lose weight." "Were you not losing before you started the cleanse?" I questioned. "Yes," she said, "I was! And I was making great decisions, eating what I wanted, and not feeling like crap about myself." She made a decision to go back to what she knew worked and was able to stick with: flexibility and eating in a way that fit her lifestyle, her body, her preferences, and facilitated consistency.

People hate change. Fortunately, flexible dieting is not about a lifestyle change. It's about eating in a manner that fits your lifestyle. If you're a jet-setting entrepreneur who travels constantly, for example, you're not going to change your lifestyle to fit a diet. The diet must fit you.”

Meg Stoeckle from SkinnyMeg.com
“Flexible dieting is more than just weighing your food, it's a way to enjoy the foods you love while still working towards your physical goals. I've done more than change my body, I've let go of fear that certain foods are 'bad' for you while gaining an entirely new perspective on my health! For the past 6 years I've struggled to lose weight and get fit and it wasn't until I turned to flexible dieting that I felt I found something I could live with day in and day out, it's life changing. My number one tip to getting started is to start with confidence, find a reliable coach to help you figure out what your goals are and what your macros should be.”

Jordan Syatt - SyattFitness.com

“Flexible dieting is a "hot button" topic in the fitness industry and for good reason -- it's currently the best strategy we have to burn fat (and keep it off) without severely restricting yourself.

Flexible dieting gives you the freedom to occasionally indulge in your favorite foods while continuing to lose fat without feeling guilty. It improves long-term diet adherence and promotes life-long success -- something at which most diets & meal plans to date have proven to be miserable failures.

The issue, however, is when people equate 'flexible dieting' to 'eat whatever you want as long as it fits in your calorie guidelines.' That's a huge mistake. Regardless of whether you practice 'flexible dieting' or not, the majority of your food (80-90%) should come from whole, unprocessed, traditionally "healthy" foods. Then a small portion (10-20%) can be indulgent.

My top tips on changing your lifestyle instead of your diet:

1) Remember you're always just 1-bite away from being back on track. It doesn't matter how "far off" you go...you can always get right back on and start making progress.

2) Understand progress is not linear. Your weight WILL fluctuate up and down -- it's inevitable -- even if you're 100% "perfect" on your diet. The sooner you recognize this as a normal part of the process, the sooner you'll achieve your goals”

3) Never forget that looking a certain way in the mirror...fitting into a certain size dress...or having people comment on how impressive you look will NEVER bring you happiness. Not in the long-term, at least. Happiness starts from the inside. It starts from loving yourself no matter the circumstance. Love yourself first, fully appreciate yourself and what you have to offer the world, then go after your goals. From there you'll be unstoppable

Melissa Joulwan - Meljoulwan.com
“The key to lasting change -- and, I'd argue, a really great life -- is the realization that good nutrition and training are essential self-care, rather than a set of rules to follow. There is no accounting ledger keeping track of exemplary behavior for a reward later. There's s no opportunity to earn a metaphorical gold star. Clean eating and training, meditation and lifting, sound sleeping (and plenty of time for play) are the end-game; they are the reward. I encourage everyone to think of eating well and daily activity as the foundation for feeling happy, energetic, strong, healthy, and clear-headed. Who doesn't want that?! There's so much shame built into how we're taught to approach eating, but food is neither punishment, nor reward. It's sustenance, and it can be pleasurable without guilt. The answer is simple and takes a little self experimentation to find for ourselves: eat the foods that work well for our bodies in quantities that support the things we want to do. No guilt, no shame, no stress.”

Elizabeth Falcigno - TheCleanEatingCouple.com
“To me, flexible dieting is a simple way to enjoy the foods that I like, while feeling great and working towards my fitness goals. While 'dieting' is the technical term, I personally don't consider my eating habits a 'diet' in any way. I focus on an 80/20 lifestyle by eating real, whole foods 80% of the time, and indulging in other foods the other 20% of the time. I've found that this balance is what helps keep me sane, and sustained on my health and fitness journey. To those looking to make a lifestyle change - I'd offer one piece of advice: Make a change, and don't look back. When I first started out eating healthier - I stopped eating junk food completely, and didn't look back. I choose veggies and fruits over chips and candy. I are more lean protein instead of loading up on simple carbs. I continue to do these things today. The only time I look back is to see how far I've come. :)”

Charlotte Beer - CleanEatsCharlotte.com

“To me, flexible dieting is something that is easy to incorporate to any lifestyle and, most importantly, it is sustainable. Allowing yourself to benefit from healthy, nutritious foods the majority of the time, whilst also indulging in your favourite treats helps to keep both your body and your mind satisfied and balanced.

Changing your lifestyle is not easy, but it is definitely worth it. Try getting up an hour earlier to make time for yourself in the mornings. Make time to do what you love. When you look after yourself, everything in your life will become more positive. Each day you'll become happier, healthier and more energised.”

Cait Robertson - TheMacroExperiment.com
“Flexible dieting is a lifestyle that allows you to work efficiently towards your fitness goals while still being able to enjoy life and eat ice cream. For me, it completely changed how I view food and actually saved me from years of disordered eating. After learning how to count macros and reverse diet via Layne Norton's famous YouTube videos, I was finally able to see all food as fuel -- broccoli, doughnuts, chicken, and pop tarts. This is not to say you can eat a crap ton of less micro-nutrient "junk" food into your diet because in order to hit fiber and micronutrients you need to eat lots of veggies, fruit, etc. Overall, flexible dieting allows you to have a balanced intake where you have the choice to eat what you want to eat. The hardest part is the first few weeks of learning how to weigh out food and figure out how to use the food tracking app. Don't get frustrated or give up because it is a bit arduous at first getting through that learning curve. My advice is get through the first few weeks, and it will become second nature to you. I promise it's worth it. The beautiful thing about flexible dieting is you can literally have your cake and eat it too. ;)”

Kellie Anderson - KelliesFoodToGlow.com
“Flexible dieting, I see it as a potential option for those who don't feel a rigid, one-size-fits all diet works for them. Rather than a diet per se, this is an approach for those for whom strict calorie counting is boring and ineffective, and fort those who want to eat much more widely and sociably. As the words imply, this is a way of eating that counts fats, proteins and carbohydrates rather than simplistic calories to achieve body composition goals. I would say as a cancer health educator that it is a must to track your fibre too. Some practitioners will offer this diet approach as carte blanche to eat anything (Big Macs! Doughnuts!) as long as you are counting the macros, but I would say that keeping it largely plant-based and "real food" (about 80%) is best for health. And colourful plant-based at that. This way of eating can also slot into your own needs, be they paleo, vegan, omnivore, gluten-free etc.”

Mike Samuels - HealthyLivingHeavyLifting.com

"Flexible dieting involves freeing yourself from the idea of foods being "good" or "bad." By tracking your intake (whether you do full macronutrient tracking, or just look at calories) you get to eat foods you enjoy as part of a balanced diet and get better results.

For me, adopting flexible dieting principles helped get me away from fear of certain foods, and got me leaner than ever before."

Chris & Eric Martinez - DynamicDuoTraining.com

“First and foremost, thanks for including us here and its an honor to be alongside these experts in the industry.

We want to start off by saying we try and stray away from using the term “flexible dieting” and instead refer to “flexible nutrition.” When leaving the word “dieting” out of context, this immediately takes a sense of pressure and anxiety off people.

Applying an 80/20 rule with flexible nutrition during a reverse diet, lean gaining and gaintaining phase has really helped us with having flexibility, not walking such a fine line with being so accurate with macro targets, and enjoying the foods we like on a day to day basis.

Applying an 90/10 rule within flexible nutrition during a cutting phase, contest prep, and recovery diet, has helped us not be so rigid within our daily nutrition, has strayed us away from thinking theirs good and bad foods, and allowing us to have some treats in moderation.”

Jennipher Walters - FitBottomedGirls.com

“We here at Fit Bottomed Girls are actually squarely in the anti-diet camp. Wrote a whole book on it, in fact! :) In our experience, "dieting" is associated with a lot of deprivation and restriction. Instead, we follow the rule of everything in moderation (80% clean foods, 20% splurges) -- and really listening to your body to not only follow your true hunger and fullness cues, but also to let it tell you what foods really make you feel good. If you slow down, listen to your body and respect it, it can tell you a lot. :)”

Brianne Grogan - FemFusionFitness.com
“Once you establish a baseline of eating "clean" (i.e. whole, real food), it's much easier to really tune in and self-evaluate your body's needs. Although following the guidance of a nutrition expert or a particular diet plan is a great starting point, ultimately YOU are the one who knows your body and how to respond to its changing needs over time (because it WILL change). For me, due to diligent listening, I've gone from the standard American diet full of processed junk and loads of starchy carbs, to a vegetarian diet, to a vegan diet, to a gluten free diet, to a paleo diet, and now I simply eat intuitively. My current diet is basically "paleo," with some grains and legumes thrown in when I need them. Because sometimes I do! Your body speaks, if you just tune in and listen.”

Alyssa Rimmer - SimplyQuinoa.com

“Over the past 5 years I have played around with lots of different diets only to discover that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. I believe in balance and finding foods that work with your body and your lifestyle. And I think an important part of that is being willing to be flexible and adapt with your environments or needs. In 2015, I pretty much removed animal products to my diet, but when people ask me if I'm vegan my response is no. I don't like to label my diet in any specific way because that feels limiting. I just know that my body thrives when I eat more plants, so I'm respecting that and fueling myself with what I crave. Does that mean that I will never eat meat again? Who knows, but for the time being, this works for me and my lifestyle.

Of course, I would be remiss to not mention that allergies are the exception to this rule. If you suffer from food allergies, I don't believe that you should be flexible with your eating. I think that in order to feel your absolute best, you should avoid foods that don't agree with your system. Overall though, I believe that flexibility in your eating will help you stay more engaged and interested in your food, will help you be more healthy and will make you more creative in the kitchen.”

Maya Nhara, RD - HealthyHabitSolutions.com
“Flexible dieting (or flexible eating) is life changing. Literally. It requires that we live outside of our black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking habits. It's liberating to live life in the middle... and it requires some really great work on the inside to get there.”