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Flexible Dieting: Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind

Healthy breakfast


When we think of dieting and getting cut, one of the first things that comes to mind is the "golden" rule: you have to eat clean. What this means for most of us is eliminating junk food, ditching sugars and saturated fats, saying goodbye to treats and cheat meals, and embracing only the leanest and nutritionally dense food sources. Foods like chicken breast, white fish, protein powder, brown rice, oatmeal, kumara, and almonds are all synonymous with getting “shredded”, particularly in the bodybuilding and fitness world. 

It is so ingrained in a lot of us that these types of foods can't be deviated from in order to achieve your goal physique or a package that is considered worthy of success on a bodybuilding stage. However, this isn’t the only way, and it most certainly isn’t (in my opinion) the best way.


What is Flexible Dieting?

Having gone through many dieting phases over the course of a decade, I can say that through experience and experimentation, the most successful (and sustainable) approach to getting in shape is by following the principles and practices of Flexible Dieting. This concept is more commonly known as “IIFYM” or If It Fits Your Macros.

Now, there's a big misconception about IIFYM in that some people think this diet is about being able to eat anything you want. It’s not. While it allows for much more freedom of choice, there are still guidelines.

IIFYM runs on the notion that your body composition is mostly dictated by energy in versus energy out, and that by adhering to a prescribed set of macronutrient targets (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) you can safely and effectively lose (maintain or gain) weight whilst not excluding certain foods from your diet. When it comes to your body composition, how the body processes proteins, carbs and fats is less about the type of food and more about the volume. IIFYM doesn't go as far aso to say that “a calorie is a calorie,” but more that your body weight isn't going to be affected any differently whether you have 100g of white rice or 100g of brown rice.


Why Use Flexible Dieting?

The real benefit of following this dieting approach is that by not excluding such a large range of foods from your diet, you're able to keep things fresh and not get bogged down in the same foods, day in and day out. You can have your favourite cereal and dessert foods! As long as you’re not exceeding your daily targets and you ensure you’re getting enough vegetables, fibre and other valuable micronutrients, it won’t have a negative effect on your goals.

As a competitive bodybuilder I first thought this was too good to be true. But I've been utilising these practices since 2013 and I've found this approach to be the most effective and practical method of dieting. It requires diligence in tracking and paying very close attention to your food (made easier by apps like MyFitnessPal) but the payoff is most definitely worth it.

Dieting on such a restricted subset of foods wears you down quickly, and it doesn't matter how “hardcore” you are. The longer you restrict, the more likely you are to binge and set yourself back. Being able to pick and choose what types of foods you incorporate is liberating, great for the mind, and doesn’t negatively impact your progress or your goals.

If you're interested in taking control of your diet and lifestyle, it might be time to try IIFYM. For more information, check out



Dale Pugh


Dale Pugh, NZ Natural Bodybuilder, Qualified Personal Trainer

For most of my adult life I've worked as a video game artist. My talents and passion lie with creating and building digital art. As this is a very sedentary job, I needed some form of enjoyable physical exercise. So I joined a gym back in 2002. 

I immediately took to lifting weights. It challenged me like nothing else in my life did before. The progress was rewarding and extremely addictive. 

Shortly after I attempted my first local bodybuilding show and placed second in my class. I was totally hooked! As a huge fan of the bodybuilding greats: Arnold, Dorian, Ronnie (to name a few) I knew this was something I wanted to do.

Since then I have competed in 8 different shows and had some great success. 2014 I won the NABBA Overall Athletic title in Waikato. Then just this year I've managed to take out the WFF Fitness class and also the NABBA Overall Athletic title in Wellington (my home town).

I love the sport and I also love helping others achieve success in changing their body. This is why I studied to become a PT and will be starting work at Les Mills very soon.