Trading in IIFYM for Intuitive Eating
For the past few years, I’ve been taking an “if it fits your macros” (IIFYM) approach to eating. So, instead of counting calories, I’ve been counting grams of protein, fats, and carbs (if you want to learn more about what macros are, check out this post I did awhile back). It’s been really great for me in a lot of ways. Prior to starting to count my macros, I was counting calories and striving towards “clean eating.” Shifting to counting macros has allowed me a lot more flexibility, has made me feel less guilty about eating out with friends, and has made me realize how much getting adequate protein impacts my athletic performance.
Another big plus of macro counting is that it encouraged me to calculate my TDEE and just eat 10-20% below that to lose weight instead of arbitrarily picking some calorie amount recommended by a fitness magazine. As a result, I went from trying to eat 1,400 calories a day to a much more reasonable 1,700-1,900, depending on my goals. Lastly, it helped me move away from the mentality of earning food through exercise, since most IIFYM approaches encourage you to eat the same most days of the week.
To summarize: I think IIFYM is the best dieting approach out there right now. The thing is, it’s still dieting. It’s logical, sustainable, and responsible dieting in my opinion, but it’s still a diet. Even if you’re not in a “cutting” phase or reducing your calories, you still have to measure, weigh, and calculate what you’re eating at every meal. You still have to restrict according to your macro goals. And after three years of IIFYM plus another 10 years of strict calorie counting… I’m exhausted.
The truth is I don’t need to lose weight. Don’t get me wrong, I have no illusions about the fact that I’m not shredded. I know there’s a lot of people who would look at me and probably try to argue I could still stand to lose a few pounds. However, that’s more a matter of aesthetics than a matter of health. I am at a healthy weight & body fat percentage for a 5’6″ female – that is a fact. (Okay, I’m 5’5.5″ and round up)
I have mad respect for figure & bikini competitors, but walking on stage is not an ambition of mine. I’m not looking to model or get a sponsorship or anything like that. Sure, I love how abs look, but I don’t really need a six pack. I just need to be healthy… and I’m already there. Plus, I have a rocky history with restricting food. I’ve realized that maybe the next step in my journey is to just stop restricting altogether for a bit. Give myself physical rest from constantly trying to operate at a caloric deficiency (even if it’s small). Give myself mental rest from years of measuring, weighing, and calculating almost every thing I put into my mouth. I think my next challenge in building a better relationship with my body is learning to actually trust it.
What is Intuitive Eating?
I think a simple definition of intuitive eating is just eating like a normal human being. It’s learning how to drown out all of the diet mumbo jumbo society has thrown your way over the years and learning to understand your body’s hunger cues. It’s a concept that’s been around for awhile, but the term was coined by two registered dietitians, Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch. Resch & Tribole published the Intuitive Eating book, which I’m just starting to read now. In their book, they say intuitive eating is based on 10 principles:
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honor Your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Feel Your Fullness
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Cope with Your Emotions without Using Food
- Respect Your Body
- Exercise – Feel the Difference
- Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition
Measuring Success with Intuitive Eating
So what am I hoping to achieve with intuitive eating?
Well, I expect I’ll have a little more free time from not having to measure & track all of my food. Less stress and anxiety when I’m eating out with friends somewhere and I don’t know exactly how to track it. And less time spent just thinking about food in general.
As far as my body goes? Homeostasis, I guess. I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for the fact that I might gain a little weight at first, and that’s okay. It will be interesting to see how my body reacts and what I go through, so I’m going to share updates with you all! I’ll try to make an update when I’m one month in and another review after two months.
My biggest concern is whether I’ll get enough protein to support the amount of weight lifting I’m currently doing. However, I’m going to really try to trust the process for a bit at first. If I notice consistent decreases in my lifts, or feeling crappy, I might try just tracking protein after awhile. But for now… let the experiment begin!