What Is Flexible Dieting And How Does It Work?

For many of us, even the mention of the word "diet" brings us out in a cold sweat and desperately searching for the nearest chocolate muffin. Diets are things we have to do when we start gaining weight, not something we choose to do.

The traditional view of diets is that they are restrictive, bland, boring and any other number of unsavory synonyms for the word dull. Diets can be so restrictive that we feel pressured to stay in if friends are going out for a meal as we’ll be the boring one ordering a Caesar salad with no dressing and so not only can diets affect us physically, but also emotionally!

Luckily, there may be a solution in the form of "flexible dieting". What is flexible dieting and can it benefit you on your quest to lose weight and feel at your best?


Traditional Dieting

Dieting is not a new idea and literally hundreds of diets exist around the world, all claiming to be the best and help you to lose the most weight. The traditional view of dieting is that some foods are good for you and some foods are bad for you. If we cut out the bad food, and only eat the good food, weight loss occurs.

Correct, right?

This may be true in some instances, but as already mentioned, it can be extremely restricting. Your partner’s birthday is coming up and they want to go out for a nice meal with friends and enjoy a couple of bottles of wine.

Not for you! You’ll be having a nice slimming piece of lettuce with a drink of tap water thank you very much! Not much fun, but hey you’re looking to lose weight, it’s not meant to be fun right?


What Is Flexible Dieting?

The first thing to note is that flexible dieting isn’t really a diet, but more of an idea of how to view nutrition. Flexible dieting goes away from the traditional idea of dieting and the notion that there is "good" and "bad" food in your journey to lose weight.
Flexible dieting is all about tracking macronutrients; it doesn’t matter where you get them from!


There are three main types of macronutrients; Protein, fat and carbohydrates. Flexible dieting works on the fact that 1g of each of these has a calorie intake value.

For example:
1g protein = 4 calories
1g cabs = 4 calories
1 g fat = 9 calories

Flexible dieting doesn’t work on typical calorie counting whereby you have to reduce your calorie intake and eat clean the whole time e.g. salads and watermelon. It works on the principles of tracking macronutrients instead. Let’s take an example, let’s say you are male and working on a 500 calorie a day deficit so are looking to consume 2000 calories per day.

While traditional dieting would look at how many calories have been counted and what types of food you have eaten, flexible dieting looks at the macros instead of the food sources.

For example: 150g protein + 80g fat + 170g carbs = 2000 calories.

With flexible dieting, the food source you get this protein, fat and carbs from doesn’t matter unlike with regular dieting. All that matters is that you meet your macros in order to achieve the desired result e.g. weight loss or a change in body composition.
This allows you to still enjoy the odd treat or two, while sticking to your diet.

For example you may have a doughnut which may give you 25g of fat so you have no yet reached your levels of fat for the day yet, it doesn’t matter that the fat is not "healthy". For those on a flexible diet, there are no good or bad foods, just macro ratios.

When food enters the body, the body doesn’t know if the food is healthy or not, it just breaks down the food and processes the micronutrients. If a doughnut has 25g of fat in it, those macronutrients are still being broken down and absorbed just as much as the amount of fat in an avocado.
The food doesn’t matter, the macronutrients and tracking them matters most.

Plus Points

  • It's effective! 

    The most important understanding in dieting is that there needs to be a calorie deficit. You can eat all the good food in world and not lose weight if there is no deficit. Flexible dieting tracks calories through macros and so leads to effective weight loss.
  • It’s flexible! 

    With flexible dieting, the focus is on the macronutrients, not the specific foods meaning that you are a lot more flexible in what you eat. No more slimming food with barely any taste, with the flexible diet, you can have your cake and eat it too! This also means there will be no more awkward social engagements where you get a funny look for ordering a bowl of lettuce at a Grillhouse.

You can eat what you like, just track your macronutrients and stick to the calorie count.

  • It’s sustainable 

    One of the biggest problems with diets are that they are generally hard to sustain over a long period of time. Social engagements ruin your diet so it’s hard to get back on track and then suddenly you’ve put all the weight you lost back on.

They can be boring and uninspiring, as well as just generally being pretty difficult to stick to if you’re really craving a chocolate bar! The flexible diet allows these little treats or meals when you want, as long as you stick to the macronutrient calories. This makes it a lot more sustainable and you don’t even really feel like you’re on a diet, yet you still lose the weight!


  • Those on a flexible diet only eat junk food 

    Those on a flexible diet want to lose weight or gain muscle, that’s why they’re on a diet in the first place and not just eating what they want.These two things are impossible to do if you ONLY ever eat junk food.The majority of the flexible diet still means you eat a healthy and balanced diet, there is just more freedom to enjoy a treat as well!
  • It doesn’t work for some people 

    Scientifically, if you’re a human being, this diet will work for you as every diet really consists of macronutrient numbers. As long as you track your macros, you can lose weight and this works for everyone. Problems emerge when that one little treat becomes another little treat, and suddenly you’re face down in a chocolate cake trying to justify consuming your body weight in chocolate icing as you’re on a flexible diet. As with all things, moderation is the key and the flexible diet, if done correctly, allows for this.
  • The flexible diet isn’t healthy 

    Again, this links to the point above whereby the vast majority of the diet is a healthy and balanced one. The flexible diet just allows for treats.

There is the common misconception that those on the diet just binge on junk food until they reach their calorie intake from macronutrients for the day then stop. This may happen but the vast majority want to live a healthier life and so eat healthy too! Moderation is the key!

Conclusions To draw

  • A flexible diet can be fantastic if you have willpower, generally want to get healthier and can resist temptation if you have the occasional treat. By tracking you macronutrients, not your food, you open yourself to a lot more varieties of food and reduce instances of you having to be the social recluse who can’t go out for the steak as you’re on a diet.
  • If done correctly it can be a fantastic way of dieting as well as a sustainable way and trouble only emerges when you either start going over your calorie intake levels, or you start binging on the treats more than the healthy food.
  • As always a balanced diet, combined with exercise and plenty of sleep is the best way to live a healthy life and let your body do what it does best and keep you in the best shape possible.
Luke Cafferty

Luke Cafferty is a fitness junkie, personal trainer and blogger. He's passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a strong and well rounded physique, while inspiring you to do the same.

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