Flexible dieting is actually not a diet at all. It’s about meeting your nutritional needs daily while having the flexibility to choose your favorite foods within the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy. For those who find traditional diets restrictive and downright ineffective, a flexible diet could be just the thing to move the needle.
What is a flexible diet?
According to registered dietitian Catherine Gervacio From Project E-Health, the diet offers a number of options. “There is no specific diet plan with this approach. This is because it is more focused on tracking and managing calories and macronutrients, choosing the right type and quantity of foods to meet requirements,” Gervacio said.
While flexible, the diet can still have a major impact on the body if the dieter makes sure to meet their macronutrient goals daily.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), for my height and weight, I need two cups of fruit per day or 1/2 cup of dried fruit. You could choose any type of whole fruit as part of a flexible diet. I need 2 1/2 cups of vegetables, of which, again, I can choose any type. In the cereal group, I can have one slice of bread or 1/2 cup of rice, pasta, or cooked cereal, 5 1/2 ounces of protein, and 3 cups of dairy, including milk, yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces. of hard cheese.
“In the long term, a flexible diet lifestyle can potentially provide the nutrients needed to achieve a health and fitness goal,” Gervacio said. “It helps a person make informed decisions based on experience and be able to determine what food and how much to eat in a day.”
Why flexible diet works
Recent investigation has shown that when traditional restrictive diets are compared to flexible diets, the flexible diet is consistent with long-term results.
“Those who followed a flexible diet were more successful at losing weight and were able to keep it off,” he says. Lina Begdache, associate professor in the Division of Health and Wellness Studies at Binghamton University. She says the rigid diets were not as successful and came with a lot of anxiety and a pattern of stress.
Flexibility makes people feel like they have options rather than having something taken away from them. For example, in the protein category, if you don’t like eating meat, you can choose from plant-based varieties like tofu, edamame, peanut butter, or tempeh. And if you’re not a fan of milk as part of the dairy category, you can choose yogurt or cubed hard cheese. If you don’t like apples, you can opt for bananas or a handful of dried cranberries. The options are limitless as long as you stay within the recommended serving size.
Plus, you don’t end up hungry because you’re eating enough fiber and protein, which helps keep you full for a longer period of time, says Begdache.
The impact of a flexible diet on the brain
Part of the impact of a flexible diet comes from how it affects the brain. Dieting can have an unpleasant effect on us because, from an evolutionary perspective, the body does not like to lose weight. If you tell yourself you shouldn’t eat, your brain will constantly think about food. But if you eat healthy, go with the flow, and only eat when you’re hungry, you won’t think about it as much, says Begdache.
“Your brain is always making sure you consume enough food to avoid hunger,” Begdache says. “This is probably Why are restrictive diets associated with more stress and anxious behavior?and they are not as successful.”
Once the body goes into starvation mode, your metabolism slows down, which increases your food cravings. “This can lead to binge eating because cravings can be due to a nutrient deficiency,” says Begdache.
Flexible dieting works because you eat when you’re hungry. While it is important to make good food choices, such as choosing whole fruits and vegetables and lean proteins, there is less emphasis on counting calories and obsessing about the next meal.
It’s the way we should have been eating all along because, in the end, your brain controls whether or not you will be successful in reaching your health and weight loss goals. If you want to keep the scale in line, you need to keep your brain happy.
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