I really need to get my already drafted content up because I've been all kinds of inspired to write new shit lately, so here's this one.
Slightly outdated since this topic isn't a big deal anymore, but more knowledge for all you sexy fucks.
There have been a lot of posts lately about iifym and clean eating. I've yet to see anyone post my thoughts on it so I'm giving mine here. I'm not addressing the more stupid arguments (iifymers all look like shit, no pros do iifym, etc), but can in the comments if needed.
Everyone acknowledges that the "iifymers" that people usually have issue with are the extremists who fit as much "dirty" food in their macros as possible. I've been regularly posting in the iifym fan page group (ran by Anthony Collova) for almost 2.5 years, and I cant think of too many of these people off the top of my head. I'm sure they exist, but in my experience, without including new people who just found the concept, they are pretty rare. It's widely known that flexible dieting or iifym isn't meant to be used that way, and 80% of your macros should come from whole or minimally processed, micronutrient dense foods. Many people have correctly pointed out that people post the "dirty" things more frequently because it's the "fun" part of the diet, while most of their diet is "clean." I just don't see the large amount of extremists drinking protein shakes all day to fit a whole pizza in at night that people arguing for "clean eating" talk about, and I'm pretty active in the community.
Relating to my last point, "clean eaters" sometimes say that extreme clean eating to the point of binging isn't common either, just like "iifymers" say their extreme is rare. I see that as completely ludicrous. The vast majority of people who go to the gym that pay attention to diet attempt to do so by eating clean, and most fail. Every single day I see trainers with clients who don't make any progress, and hear them talk about their "clean" diet. While iifym has an extreme that can be bad for health, clean eating doesn't need to be extreme to have serious drawbacks. While some wont make progress on iifym due to setting macros wrong (those that cant adhere to iifym will be addressed later), they at least know how much they're eating and can adjust when needed. While some "clean eaters" count macros a large amount don't, and not counting (assuming you want optimal results) at least calories and protein puts you at a disadvantage.
What about those "clean eaters" that do count? Even in that case, research shows that dieting flexibly increases adherence in a deficit better than rigidly. Does this translate to everyone? Of course not, but in general dieting flexibly is a better method. If you can get the same results by dieting on a small selection of foods and a large selection why would you possibly want the small selection? In some circles of bodybuilding they relish the opportunity to only eat "the 6 foods that work" or whatever ridiculous guidelines they follow, because they think suffering is a part of prepping, and the more you suffer the better. This is obviously just plain stupid.
Rigid vs. flexible dieting: association with eating disorder symptoms in nonobese women.
Flexible vs. Rigid dieting strategies: relationship with adverse behavioral outcomes.
A common misconception is that "iifymers" think that "clean eating" is inherently bad. In my opinion, it is and it isn't. "Clean eating" as used in this context, usually refers to people who are eating clean because they think they have to to meet their goals. There's nothing inherently wrong with "clean eating," apart from the term itself. The term is undefinable (check out the article by Alan i linked below), and everyone thinks of it differently. Mike Israetel recently defined it in the context of his thread as low in sat fats, sugar, and sodium. This is where clean eating is wrong. Avoiding things for no reason, or an invalid reason such as many bodybuilders do, is just stupid. However, that doesn't mean avoiding things is always stupid. If you want to eat 100% "clean" foods because you enjoy them, that's great. If you want to eat as clean as possible because it motivates you simply by making you feel like a bodybuilder, that's great. Most "iifymers" who compete eat very clean in the latter stages as prep for the food volume. There's nothing wrong with avoiding binge triggers if you cant control them. In fact it's very important for progress. Food avoidance is only wrong when its based on misconceptions about nutrition. You can diet flexibly while eating only "clean" foods, as long as you know a pop tart or two wont hurt your results. In my opinion flexible dieting is more about your mindset about food as it is about what foods you actually eat.
Research Review: The Dirt On Clean Eating Written By Nutrition Expert Alan Aragon
Another point people make is that "iifymers" are just as bad as "clean eaters" because counting every macro is very restrictive. I don't think that's a valid point, because counting macros is optimal. Period. If you aren't counting macros you simply aren't getting the best results you could. How much that matters is individual. Most really only need to count protein and calories (assuming neither fat or carbs is at an extreme), and if someone is going crazy by counting fats and carbs id agree they're being too restrictive. Most just don't need that level of detail. Obviously the more serious you are about your training and results the more it'll matter.
On the opposite side of the spectrum we have the general public. People say that counting macros is too much for them, and i agree that that's true in most cases. However that's still missing specificity. While most wont do well from what I've seen, some will.
This leads to probably my biggest point that most wont see because they wont read this far, THERE IS NO CORRECT DIET. While in a general sense i believe flexible dieting, or iifym, is best for the fitness niche, that doesn't mean its best for everyone in that niche, and much less the world. Dieting (well cutting) has negative consequences, and affects every person differently.
In my opinion, as a coach that utilizes flexible dieting, I think every client should be evaluated individually to find what works for them. I think including as much flexibility as possible is also best, and is what truly constitutes flexible dieting. It's not eating poptarts, or eating white rice instead of brown rice, it's using a basic understanding of nutrition to allow people to enjoy their time dieting as much as possible while still steadily progressing towards their goals. This is how we do it, and if you want guidance reaching your goals without following a fad or overly restricting yourself email us and we can help you out.