Has anybody else seen those Instagram accounts with fit people showing of their amazing desserts and delicious meals that actually look really unhealthy, yet their bodies are super ripped? Yeah, I never understood how somebody could be eating ice cream, sugary cereals, and pizza yet maintain such a low body fat percentage. So what did I do? I decided to try it out. I gave myself one month to do exactly what these fitness influencers were doing: set my macros using IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros). It's a completely free macro calculator that tailors a program unique to you.
Macronutrients, or macros for short, are basically the major nutrients our food is made up of. So that's carbs, protein, and fats. Based on my height, current weight, and goals, IIFYM gave me a strict limit in grams of carbs, proteins, and fats that I was allowed every day. According to my activity level, my body burns around 2,400 calories a day, which I'm still finding very hard to believe. IIFYM calculated my macros to lose weight and the results were in. I could have 106 grams of protein, 55 grams of fat, and 276 grams of carbs for a total of around 2,000 calories. Essentially, I'd be losing a pound a week.
My first thought was wow, I can make anything fit into this. I could treat myself every night to something sweet as long as I left enough fats and carbs by the end of the day. I was so excited because I was thinking, for once, this is not like any other diet. It's not telling me what to eat and what not to eat. But those positive thoughts changed really fast.
IIFYM creators believe it to be the easiest and most sustainable eating plan to follow. Many people choose to do IIFYM because it can restore healthy eating habits by allowing you to eat whatever your heart desires as long as you keep a close eye on how much you're exactly eating.
IIFYM even allows you to calculate your total daily calorie expenditure and customize it depending on if you want to lose weight or gain muscle. It takes into account your height, weight, and weight goal and customizes a nutrition plan for you. IIFYM is not a diet; it's considered freedom from a diet. All you have to do is set up a tracking app and log in everything you eat throughout the day to make sure you hit the macro numbers it calculated for you.
Here's What I Liked
I loved the food freedom. I like how I wasn't restricted to certain food groups. I didn't have to cut out carbs and sugar if I didn't want to. I could have cereal for breakfast instead of my usual eggs. Eating and cooking were no longer boring when it came to IIFYM. As long as I planned out my day accordingly, I could eat exactly what I was craving that day and I no longer felt deprived.
Another amazing part of IIFYM is you can even track when you're out and about. Although it is a bit harder than eating at home, the MyFitnessPal app can find restaurants near your location with the nutrition of tons of dishes you can order. This made eating out less stressful, making this non-diet a lot more flexible.
Another huge advantage with IIFYM is that I began to understood more about the foods I was eating. I understood portion sizes a whole lot better and learned which foods were higher or lower in protein, fats, and carbs. For example, I never noticed just how much sugar one serving of cereal had. I also wasn't aware of how much protein I was eating every day. I had just assumed that if I was eating protein with every meal, I'd hit my goal; but when I just started tracking, I found I was far below my daily goal. IIFYM allowed me to preplan my meals to make sure I hit those macros on the dot.
And Here's What I Didn't Like
I ate a lot more than I normally would eat. Maybe this is a good thing for some who are trying to gain weight or struggle with appetite. But I found myself eating when I wasn't all that hungry because I still had macro counts to fill. If, after my last meal of the day, I found I hadn't hit my protein requirement, I'd force myself to eat something else. While following IIFYM, I did not listen to my body. I no longer ate when I was hungry or stopped when I was full. My eating was completely controlled by whether I had hit my count or not.
Even though it's called flexible dieting, it started to not feel all that flexible. If I had too many fats at breakfast and lunch, I was limited to carbs and protein for dinner. If I went over my count for any macros, I'd feel like my nutrition wasn't on point for the day and I failed.
Because I could eat what I want, I found myself having more sweets than usual. It's not because I was craving dessert, but just because I knew I could have it. And even though it fit my macros, I didn't feel good eating all that sugar. The worst part of IIFYM was I stopped listening to my body. If I were to count macros again, I'd tailor a plan myself because 2,000 calories a day led to weight gain for me, not weight loss.
The Final Verdict
While I won't continue IIFYM, I am not completely against it. It really taught me to eat enough protein to help build muscle. If you don't know much about nutrition or portion size, tracking your food can really help so you understand exactly what you're eating. Once you get the hang of it, you no longer need to track every single meal. You'll be able to understand your body more, what it needs, and the foods that it thrives on. Some of us need more carbs than fat and some of us are the opposite. From now on, I'll be intuitively eating because that allows you to listen to your body, which can never guide you in the wrong direction.