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IIFYM vs. “Clean Eating” – A Regular Guy’s Thoughts

You may notice a theme in most of my posts.  Weightloss.  It’s mainly what I’ve been focusing on.  This is for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, there are very, very few people out there who are truly at a place, physically, where they don’t want to lose any more weight.  Perhaps the chronically thin.  Anorexics.  True hardgainers (someone who finds it very difficult to gain weight), etc.

Even most contest bodybuilders would like to shed a few pounds.  They’re some of most elite physique competitors on the planet, and they constantly strive to be juuuust a little bit thinner and leaner.  Of course, with those individuals, we aren’t talking about the average Joe shedding 20 pounds.  We’re talking about someone with 6% body fat getting down to 4.2%.  Luckily for you, the strategies involved with shedding 20 pounds are much less complicated.

A well thought out nutrition and training plan will take you pretty much all the way there.  Some of the biggest issues with dieting in the traditional sense are handled quite nicely when fasting.  Most people feel deprived when dieting.  They find it difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Most diets in the traditional sense, have an “end date”.  When you enter a plan with the thought in mind that you will diet until you are “happy” and then you will stop dieting, you are setting yourself up for disaster.  Intermittent fasting is meant to be a style of eating for the long haul.  It’s possible, sustainable, and fun simultaneously.  Especially when you do finally shed the weight and get to seriously up your calorie intake.

But the dieting part can be draining.  More mentally than physically.  It can take a long time.  I’ve personally been on some sort of a cutting scheme for a better part of a year.  Give or take a week here or there.  Have I been perfect?  Of course not.  Far from it.  There have been nights where I’ve pretty much cleaned out the pantry and consumed upwards of 10k calories.  We’ve all been there.  But you know what the best part is?  As long as you get back on track the next day, you will be totally, 100% fine. 

Don’t mistake what I’ve said for a free pass to gorge every Friday night.  Limiting those occasions will speed up your fat loss greatly.  I’m simply saying that if you mess up, don’t toss it all out the window.  Brush yourself off and continue the course.

So, how do we limit those occasions?  How do we keep some sanity while dieting?  Your choices are your number one ally when it comes to diet compliance.  And in the dieting world, there are two different modes of thought:

1.  IIFYM - “If it fits your macros.”  This thought process is simple.  You’ve got 3 numbers to aim for each day:  protein, carbs, and fat.  According to those who believe in IIFYM, you can eat virtually anything under the sun which will fill those numbers.  Those who adhere strictly to IIFYM believe a protein gram is a protein gram, a carb is a carb, and a fat is a fat, regardless if where it comes from.  While this makes sense to an extent, you can certainly see the limitations here.  If you have 200 grams of carbs to consume and you consume five packs of Skittles to hit those numbers, is that inherently healthy?  Will your body composition suffer?  Not sure.  I’ve personally never tried it.  I certainly wouldn’t recommend it.

2.  Clean eating.  The debates on the internet rage on about what truly constitutes clean eating.  Proponents of this eating style tend to think if the food isn’t whole, organic, and natural, it is terrible for you and will hurt your body eventually.  The biggest caveat to clean eating, which has been argued incessantly on various blogs, is that nobody can truly define what is “clean” and what is not.  For example, most people consider ice cream to be “dirty” or “not clean”.  Well, what about organic ice cream?  Made with cane sugar and organic cow milk?  Is it now clean?  What is the criteria which makes a food clean?  Nobody truly knows for certain.  It’s more about the opinion of the individual.

Now I’m certainly not here to debate which of these approaches to dieting is correct.  The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.  To me, the number one component to dieting which must be planned is satiety - the ability to feel full or satisfied with your food choices.  I find when I’m eating “clean”, I’m much more satisfied.  Think of it this way:  80 grams of carbs.  Two choices:  24 ounces of Coca Cola, or one huge baked potato.  You make the call.

Which certainly isn’t to say IIFYM doesn’t have a place in a properly structured diet.  If you don’t include some indulgences, you will probably go crazy eventually.  I know I will.  I’m a fat kid at heart.  Sweets are my kryptonite.  The only problem, in my opinion, with adhering strictly to IIFYM is that it won’t keep me full and satisfied until my next meal.  Eating cookies is one of my favorite past times.  But I know if I eat eight cookies instead of a huge plate of pasta, I’ll be way hungrier by the time my next meal comes around.  At the same time, sometimes I just need those damn cookies.  Or I might just go postal.

So, let’s talk about your macros and I’ll give some choices and examples which could be excellent choices for fun as well as satiety.

A.  Protein
1.  IIFYM - Protein fluff/mixes.  If you don’t know how to make protein fluff, you’re missing out.  I’ll give you two of my favorite recipes.  Cottage cheese is generally the bulk of the fluff, with sweeteners and extras thrown in.  If you’re ever jonesing for a sweet treat, try one of these out.  Reese’s peanut butter cup – 2 cups of cottage cheese, one scoop of chocolate casein protein powder, 2 Tbs natural peanut butter, and 4 packets of Splenda.  Mix it up, throw some milk in there to thin it out, and get out the Magic Bullet.  Absolutely fantastic.  Cheesecake – 2 cups of cottage cheese, one scoop of vanilla protein powder, 4 Tbs sugar/fat-free Jello Cheesecake mix, and 4 packets Splenda.  Milk to thin, and again with the Magic Bullet.  Both of these recipes are out of this world.  If you close your eyes and pretend just a little bit, you’ve got a fantastic treat.  Put it in the fridge or freezer to thicken it up a bit and you’ve almost got a low-fat, high protein ice cream treat.  The only issue?  For one night, you might miss out on your meat.  Which could be an issue if you’re as carnivorous as I am.
2.  Clean eating/satiety - Wanna get filled up and be as satisfied as possible?  Choose meats with little to no fat.  Very lean beef.  Baked chicken.  Ham.  Turkey.  Tuna.  Do you have 100 grams of protein to eat and you want to be sure you’re full afterwards?  Choose one pound of meat with some seasoning.  You really can’t go wrong here.  I dare you to try to eat four cans of tuna dry.  By the end, there’s no way you will want to eat more.

B.  Carbs
1.  IIFYM – Cereal.  Who doesn’t love a huge bowl of sugary cereal?  Everyone has their favorites.  Fruity Pebbles.  Honey Nut Cheerios.  For me, Frosted Cinnamon Toast Crunch is the absolute greatest food on earth.  Fair warning:  You might be full now, but the resulting insulin spike will surely leave you hungry afterwards.  Low fat ice cream is another treat which can easily be incorporated into the IIFYM thought process.  Think low-fat vanillas or any type of sherbet.  And I doubt there’s a soul on this planet who doesn’t absolutely love a huge, freshly baked loaf of white bread.  Absolutely fantastic.
2.  Clean eating/satiety - I have yet to find a carbohydrate source more filling than a baked potato.  During a 16-week diet stint, baked potatoes were my go-to.  I had 150 grams of carbs to eat after training, which is approximately two regular sized baked potatoes.  After those two, I was stuffed.  The only issue is they can take a while to bake.  I often went with flakes.  150 grams of carbs via baked potato flakes equals TEN SERVINGS OF MASHED POTATOES!  It was quite literally a mixing bowl full of taters.  I would throw in some seasoning and horseradish and be stuffed to the gills by the end of it.  Coming in a tie for second place are rice and pasta.  In my experience, these are easily your most filling carbs.

C.  Fats
1.  IIFYM - Fats are a little bit different.  If you want to have fun with some fats, your choices really won’t fill you up much.  You simply want to include them for some taste, and that’s about it.  Full-fat ranch dressing and butter are my two favorites.  There’s something magical about an enormous salad swimming in ranch.  Gotta warn you:  be sure to measure your ranch and track it.  Servings for ranch are generally two tablespoons and contain ~14 grams of fat per serving.  If you throw a generous amount of ranch over your salad, you can easily consume 50 grams of fat worth of ranch dressing alone.  But to each his own.  It tastes fantastic.
2.  Clean eating/satiety - The best way to improve your satiety with your fats is to ensure your fats come as a byproduct of your protein choices.  Sauce-less ribs.  Fatty beef.  Salmon.  Things of that nature.  The mixture of protein and fat will leave you feeling very full and very satisfied.  This can often be tricky, though, since you will have to guess at the numbers.  All you can really do is use Google, get a general idea for the fat content, weigh your food, and go to town.  Even though this may make you feel uneasy since you don’t have the numbers down perfectly, it will certainly be good enough.

And finally, what exactly do you do when you’re ravenous?  Most of us have been there before.  You eat what you have planned, and it’s simply not enough.  You’re hungry.  You eat your dinner and think to yourself, “There’s no way I can last through this 16-hour fast.”  What do you do then?

I always keep bags of greens on hand.  Broccoli, mainly.  Eat a bag of broccoli with some horseradish.  It’s nothing to write home about, but the fiber will fill you up quickly.  And keep you regular.  Any green veggie will do.  Peppers, cauliflower, onions, tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, mushrooms, kale, etc.  These are all freebies.  There ain’t a soul on this planet who got fat eating veggies.

Diet sodas can also help.  Contrary to popular belief, drinking diet soda will NOT make you gain weight.  There’s an association between overweight people and diet soda consumption.  That much has been proven.  However, that association is due to the fact that most diet soda drinkers also eat lots of other processed, sugary crap as well.  As long as you don’t, you will be fine.  I’m not here to debate the health downfalls of aspartame, either.  Lots of people avoid the stuff like the plague.  If you’re scared of what the extra artificial sweeteners will do to you, check out the organic section of your local supermarket.  There’s plenty of organic diet pops out there.  Zevia is my personal favorite.

And what’s the best thing to do when you’re hungry?  It actually has nothing to do with eating.  You should get busy.  Get out of the house.  Go on a walk.  Take your kids to the park.  Go to the store.  Meet a friend for a coffee.  Mow the grass.  Simply getting out of the environment which contains your temptations is often all you need to make it to your next meal.  I’m a teacher.  I have the summers off and three days per week the kids are at daycare.  I find it way more difficult to adhere to my diet plan during the summer.  Impossible?  No.  More difficult?  Oh, yeah.  When I’m at school, I barely think about food until I get home.  I simply eat the meal I’ve made, and I hit my macros perfectly, day in and day out.  Getting your mind off the food is the simplest way to improve your chances of success.

Hopefully these tips help you out.  And the next time someone scoffs at your huge bowl of ice cream and says, “I thought you were on a diet!”, just tell ‘em, “IIFYM, brother.”  And direct them to Google so they can figure out what it means…………

Happy IFing!

Jason

Comments (2)

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