Imagine a diet where you can eat pizza, cheesecake, hamburger, peanut butter, Nutella, ice cream, chocolate or anything you wish and you stay lean.
Is it possible?
The answer is yes…If it fits your macros.
I follow an IIFYM diet and I manage to stay lean while consistently eating my favorite foods.
What Is IIFYM?
IIFYM stands for If It Fits Your Macros. You can eat anything you want as long as you hit your macro goals.
Macros stand for macronutrients which are protein, fat, and carbs.
Your macro requirements will depend on your diet goals.
As a rule of thumb, you need to eat more protein if you want to lose weight because you don’t want to lose your muscles when you are losing fat.
If you want to maintain your weight or build muscle, you can ease up a little on your protein intake and consume a larger percentage of fats or carbs.
If I’m aiming for fat loss, I eat 40% protein, 30% fat and 30% carbs. 40% of my calories come from protein, 30% of my calories come from fat and the remaining 30% of my calories come from carbs.
If I’m aiming to maintain my weight or build muscle, I eat 20-25% protein, 35-40% fat and 35-40% carbs. I eat more fat on my rest days and more carbs on my training days.
1 gram of protein or carbs contain 4 calories, 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories. For further information on calories, you can read my article entitled How Many Calories Should You Eat Per Day to Lose Weight?
Protein is the most important macro of your diet. You can be somewhat flexible with your fat and carb consumption, give or take 5-10%, but protein intake should be kept to a minimum of 25% of your total calorie intake, no matter what your dietary goals are. And by protein, I mean animal protein. Vegetable protein is inferior to animal protein so you should always aim to eat animal protein to hit your protein goals.
IIFYM means you can eat anything you want, as long as you stay within your macronutrient (and, of course, calorie) goals.
I wrote a whole article about how to count your macros, so if you have further questions about macros, you can refer to the article.
The Problem with Popular Diets
Popular diets are usually made popular by the mainstream media or the government. Both the mainstream media and the government don’t care about the public. They have different agendas and their interests rarely coincide with the interests of the common man.
Previously, dietary fat was the scapegoat. The government and the media were recommending a diet low in dietary fat. Eating less fat not only didn’t help with the obesity problem but actually made the problem worse.
For a while, eating red meat, eggs and saturated fat was actively discouraged by both the media and the government.
Eating six small meals a day (to speed up your metabolism) was once popular, and there still are people believing that bullshit.
The obesity levels continue to rise and new scapegoats are constantly invented.
Now we have low carb talibans. These talibans believe that carbs are the real culprit and as long as you eat a low-carb diet it’s impossible to gain weight. Of course, that’s not true and there’s no real-life evidence to their claims.
There are advocates of clean eating (whatever that is) and Paleo Diet (only eating what the cavemen ate).
All these diets attempt to avoid addressing the elephant in the room.
When nothing worked, they completely lost their minds. Now the fad diet is the Glycemic Index Diet (avoiding foods that are high in glycemic index).
Glycemic-index diet is probably the worst diet ever existed. The proponents of this diet argue that some foods have a high glycemic index and others have a low glycemic index.
They claim that if we eat foods with a high glycemic index, we get fat. Because high glycemic index foods raise insulin in the blood and our bodies store fat.
They come with a huge list of low and high glycemic-index foods. Almost all carbs except the carbs in nuts are off limits. They are so crazy that they even rule out the fruits.
They refer to bogus scientific studies but real-world data don’t support their claims.
For example, rice is high in glycemic index. According to these nutjobs, eating rice will spike your insulin levels and you will suddenly start storing fat.
Except, this doesn’t happen in real life.
I’ve been living in South East Asia (SEA) for 3 years and rice is the staple of SEA diet. Yet, obesity rates are low in all SEA countries.
Why Popular Diets Don’t Work
The common problem with all these popular diets is they misdiagnose the problem. They fail to address the elephant in the room.
They think obesity was not a problem in human beings until our times, so there must be something wrong with the food we eat today. This is plain logic and it’s wrong.
When your diagnosis is wrong, your solution will also be wrong.
As I stated in my article Being Fat Is Not Your Fault – Understand This Simple Fact and Become Fit, the cause of the obesity problem is the increase in available calories. To quote from the article:
From 1961 to 2009, daily calories available per person has increased by a whopping 1000 calories!
In the times of our ancestors, food was not readily available as it is today. So, they feasted when they can, they didn’t eat when there’s no available food.
Now, we don’t have this problem. We are certain that we will have plenty of food available for the next meal. But, our behaviors evolved from our ancestors. We are prone to eat as much as possible when food is available. When there’s too much food available, we will feast and become fat.
So, to stay in shape, we need self-restraint. We must not eat more calories than we consume. If we eat all the available calories to us, we will get fat. That’s exactly what’s happening right now.
No matter what your diet is, you will get fat if you eat more calories than you consume.
Certainly, not all calories are created equal. The IIFYM diet doesn’t mean If It Fits Your Calories. It means If It Fits Your Macros. You must meet your protein, fat and carb requirements and as a result, you will automatically hit your total calorie goals as well.
How I Do the IIFYM Diet
I have been following a simple IIFYM diet for more than a year.
I eat 2 or 3 meals a day. I don’t eat snacks.
Protein is the most important macronutrient. So, I first try to hit my protein goals. I eat animal protein with every meal.
If I have breakfast, I will eat eggs or cheese. For lunch and dinner, I prefer beef, fish or chicken. After I hit my protein goals, I don’t care much about fat and carb goals. Fat and carbs pretty much sort themselves out because fat is rarely eaten alone. You don’t drink olive oil, you put it in your salad. You don’t spoon up your butter, you cook your eggs in it. A hamburger or a pizza have both fat and carbs in them and so on.
I eat starchy carbs with almost all my meals. Starchy carbs include potatoes, yams, cereals, grains, bread, pasta, rice, oats, wheat, legumes, and beans. The rest of my carbs come from fruits or sugary foods such as ice cream, cheesecake or Nutella.
I rarely exceed my daily calorie goals. If I’m building muscle, I eat an average of 3300 calories a day. I try to keep my protein intake above 1 gr per pound my body weight. I try to eat more carbs on my training days and more fat on my non-training days. Here’s a sample of my non-training day diet:
As you can see in the graph, I ate a total of 3304 calories. 25% of my calories came from protein, 40% of my calories came from fat and the remaining 35% of my calories came from carbs. Note that this sample is from my bulking diet. My maintenance calories are around 3000 calories a day. If I eat 3000 calories a day (on average), I neither lose or gain weight. I eat a surplus of 300 calories a day in order to build muscle. If I was trying to lose weight, all I need to do is adjust my diet to eat less than 3000 calories a day. When I’m losing weight, I don’t want to lose muscle so I eat more protein than normal. If I’m dieting to lose fat, around 40% of my calories would come from protein.
Benefits of the IIFYM Diet
IIFYM Is Flexible
I feel bad for the people who believe some specific foods will make them fat. They avoid most of their favorite foods with the fear of gaining weight. Then, life becomes dull when your favorite foods are taken away. So, they give up dieting altogether because dieting leads to a dull and boring life.
The reality is, there are no foods that fatten you up. Every food will make you fat if you consume more calories than you burn. On the other hand, no food will make you fat as long as you consume equal to or less than your maintenance calories.
Having a combination of knowledge, experience and self-discipline is like having superpowers. I don’t waste my time with bullshit diet advice, I got rid of my dieting mistakes and I can eat anything I want as long as I stay within my macro and calorie goals. Even when I’m bulking, I’m never more than 3-4 weeks away from a six-pack.
Staying within my calorie and macro limits still require self-restraint but that’s already a given. There’s no such thing like eating as much as you want and staying in shape. The human body is not perfect and we are evolved to eat as much as we can. The only way to fight against our natural tendency to gain weight when there’s unlimited food is self-restraint.
The beauty of flexible dieting is, you can eat all your favorite foods without feeling guilty. I eat pizza, hamburger, cheesecake, bread, pasta, rice, Nutella, peanut butter and my other favorite foods without getting fat. I just don’t binge eat.
IIFYM Is Simple
All the other diets have a huge list of foods to avoid and some diets even mess with the meal frequency.
You probably heard that skipping your breakfast or eating carbs at night will make you gain weight. You also heard that you need to eat 6 meals a day because your metabolism will slow down.
With IIFYM, there’s no list of foods to avoid. And you can eat anytime you want.
I sometimes skip breakfast and I always eat before I sleep. It doesn’t matter. I easily keep my shape.
I don’t have a list of foods to avoid. I eat everything I want, everywhere I want, as long as I stick to my macros and calories.
IIFYM Allows Eating for Pleasure
Another shortcoming of popular diets is, they approach eating as only a means to survive.
Humans don’t only eat to survive. We eat for pleasure too.
Taking away all the pleasurable foods from your diet causes frustration. People hesitate to start dieting because they know, during a diet, life will be more pain, less pleasure.
The entire life strategy of human beings is to avoid pain and to gain pleasure. Regular diets go against human nature. That’s why they are ineffective.
While calorie restriction will always cause discomfort during weight loss, you don’t need to completely abstain from pleasurable foods forever. When you build the discipline to stay within your daily macro and calorie budget, you can eat everything you want.
Maintaining your weight is infinitely easier than losing weight. Count your macros and calories, get in shape, eat a flexible diet and you will be fine.
Dietitians turn dieting into rocket science and take away your favorite foods forever from your diet. It doesn’t need to be this way.
Developing the discipline of counting what you eat is not that difficult. Once you get used to it, it will take 5 minutes of your daily time. People will spend 3 hours a day watching TV which doesn’t have any benefits other than killing time but not spend 5 minutes counting calories for keeping their bodies in shape.
Don’t be one of those people. You have only one body. Take good care of it. Develop the discipline to count your macros and eat anything you want.
IIFYM is Easier to Follow
Jack is fed up with being overweight and he decides to lose weight. He chooses to eat a clean diet with whole foods. He manages to lose a few pounds but the diet is harder than he thought. One night, he is invited to a dinner and he can’t resist eating a whole pizza and he finishes his dinner with a generous portion of dessert. Since he thinks he already fucked his diet up, he stops dieting altogether and goes back to his old ways.
Overly restrictive diets have this problem. Almost all the pleasurable foods are off limits. The dieter will one day cave in and eat some of these foods. He will think that all his efforts are now negated and he will quit dieting.
With flexible dieting, this kind of frustrations tends to happen less. Since it’s mainly calories in calories out, it doesn’t hurt you so much to down a whole pizza at dinner. You can skip the breakfast the next day, and get back on track with little guilt.
Shortcomings of IIFYM Diet
You Must Count Your Macros
To determine if your diet fits your macros, you must count them. Most people avoid this because they think it’s too hard.
Today’s technology makes it easy to count your macros. There are many convenient ways to do this. Buy a kitchen scale and measure your food. Feel free to refer to my article entitled How to Count Macros to learn about the ways you can count your macros.
Eating out will be the hardest part to count your macros. In that case, you will have to estimate your macros, which can be off. I will have recommendations for eating out, so read on.
It’s Easy to Overeat High-Calorie Foods
The reason why foods like pizza, cheesecake, hamburger, peanut butter, Nutella, ice cream, chocolate and so on taste so good is that they are calorie dense.
Calories are needed for survival. In order to make you eat calories and not starve, evolution developed a reward system for eating calories. You wouldn’t eat food if it didn’t taste good. Same goes for sex. If it was not pleasurable, we wouldn’t have sex so we would become long extinct as a species.
If you process the foods and strip off the non-calorie parts you will increase their taste because calories are tasty. Since processed foods are calorie dense and tasty, it’s easy to overeat them.
If you want to stay in shape, you need to apply self-restraint. If you develop the self-discipline, this becomes easier as it becomes a habit.
My Recommendations for Making IIFYM Diet Work for You
Eat Animal Protein First with Every Meal
This will enable you to hit your protein goals and keep you satiated. If you eat your protein first, you will have less tendency to overeat.
Eat eggs and/or cheese for breakfast. Eat fish, beef, chicken or your favorite animal protein for lunch and dinner.
Try Skipping Meals If You Have an Upcoming Binge
If you are invited to a dinner or you simply want to eat more food for a specific meal, try skipping the previous meal.
Let’s say you run a maintenance diet. Your goal is to maintain your shape. You counted your calories and macros for a while and determined your maintenance as 3000 calories a day. Your friends invited you to a dinner and you want to feast with them.
Here’s what I would do. I would skip breakfast that day and I would eat a 500-calorie lunch of lean meat such as chicken breast or canned tuna with vegetables.
I would have a whopping 2500 calorie budget for the dinner. Eating more than 2500 calories in one sitting is pretty hard. Even if I exceed 2500 calories, I can always skip the breakfast the next day and stay on track.
Don’t Hesitate to Eat at Night
I have trouble sleeping if I’m hungry. Eating before bedtime is believed to make you fat but it’s not true. Even if you will exceed your daily calorie budget, it’s not worth losing your sleep. If you must eat at night and exceed your daily calorie budget, try skipping breakfast the next day. Skipping breakfast will save you calories and I’m more productive at work if I skip breakfast.
When You Eat Out, Try to Eat Grilled Food
If you have to eat out, try making it a habit to eat grilled food. You never know how much oil restaurants put in the food. Oil is high in calories so it’s easy to overeat and with time, extra calories will add up.
You don’t need to do this all the time but making it a habit will save you a lot of headaches. Applying some self-restraint will benefit you big time. Being fat in extremely annoying so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Myfitnesspal has a large database of calorie and macro information but these can still be off.
If you can’t guess the macro and calories of the food you eat out, try not to binge. Some level of self-restraint always pays off.
Low or Zero Calorie Condiments Such as Salsa Sauce and Spices Is a Good Idea.
Eating lean meats will help you meet your protein goals but lean meats don’t always taste the best. Try adding some salsa sauce or spices to your meat. It will make your meals tastier and will leave you lots of extra calorie budget you can spend on your favorite foods.
Try Different Cooking Methods
Having an electric grill and a slow cooker is a game-changer. These devices cook delicious meals out of seemingly dull food choices such as chicken breast, lean meat, and fish. If you meet your protein goals by spending little of your calorie budget, you will have more room to eat your favorite foods.
Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting diet is a great way to keep in shape especially when you are trying to lose weight. Instead of dividing your already low-calorie budget into 3-4 meals, you can eat more satiating meals if you fast intermittently and eat 1-2 meals a day.
Try Strength Training
Strength Training has some incredible benefits and every man should do it. One of the benefits of strength training is building muscle. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue. So, building muscle will allow you to eat more calories without gaining weight.
Diet plays a major role in the satisfaction we get out of our lives. I found that IIFYM diet is the most satisfying diet I ever followed.
I tried to write everything I experienced about my IIFYM diet. If you have further questions, feel free to write a comment.
Final note: This article is aimed at healthy people. If you have a medical condition requiring you to follow a specific diet, you should follow your doctor’s orders.