For a long time, I have struggled to balance food and fitness. Like many others, I love to eat good food but I also love taking care of my body. I frequently lift weights and I try to maintain my diet in order for my body to be in the best shape possible, but these two passions of mine seem to directly conflict with one another. 

At times, I have either completely ignored my body and eaten whatever I wanted or I have shut myself off from foods that I love and focused on clean eating. I hated that I was always either feeling guilty about my diet or deprived of certain foods, but that all changed once my friend enlightened me on the philosophy of IIFYM, If It Fits Your Macros.

cereal, toast, wheat, bread
Dillon Liu

What is IIFYM?

IIFYM is a flexible dieting strategy, and the goal is for you to eat the correct amount of daily macronutrients - which are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. The proper number all depends on many factors like your size, activity level, and fitness goals. 

Essentially, the IIFYM method taught me that so long as I meet my macro goals every day, by keeping track of the total number of macronutrients and calories that I consume, I should also be able to eat foods that are generally viewed as “unhealthy.” This sounded like the perfect solution to my problems.

What are the rules of IIFYM?

1. Figure out how many calories you burn each day on average.

tea, pizza, coffee, beer
Veronica Kampfe

2. Set a numerical goal of the daily calories you want to eat

#SpoonTip If you want to get bigger, eat more than you burn. If you want to lose weight, eat less than you bur

3. Subdivide your daily caloric goal into protein, carbs, and fat

#SpoonTip Try to include a healthy amount of fiber and good fats.

If it seems like too much math for you, you can take a short cut by just using an online macro calculator like this one

What was my journey like?

pasture, vegetable, cucumber
Kimberly Kao

For the past month that I've been following IIFYM, I have been keeping track of how much I have eaten by roughly estimating the amount of calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat after every meal. I have also been making a conscious effort to eat more “healthy" foods, like veggies and almonds.

This is because IIFYM suggests eating an adequate amount of “healthy foods” like nutritious carbs and healthy fats. Fibrous carbohydrates, like vegetables, help control blood sugar and promote digestion so they're highly recommended. Healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts and Omega-3's are very important for heart health, controlling blood sugar, and burning fat.

The Good

vegetable, cream, tortellini, cheese, sauce, ravioli, pasta
Dillon Liu

While tracking my macros, I was able to fit in some truly delicious foods like decadent pastas, mouthwatering ribs, and flavorful tacos. My old mindset of strict, clean eating would have left me dreaming about eating stuff like, this but with IIFYM, such foods suddenly became available to me - as long as I kept track of how much I ate. 

Over the past month, I ate whatever I wanted, I didn't become morbidly obese, and I didn't feel guilty about eating the foods that were viewed as unhealthy anymore. This was really important to me because it lessened the stress that usually comes with traditional dieting.

Moreover, I learned to not treat regular, every day foods as radioactive. Back when I used to eat extremely clean, I always opted for complex carbohydrates, since they're richer in nutrients, instead of white rice or white bread.

But since white rice and bread are so abundant everywhere, this led to quite a few difficult dining situations of food sins and food waste. Yes, I used to throw away the bread of sandwiches and just eat the sandwiches fillings.

The dietary restrictions I had imposed on myself were impossible to maintain and they made going out to eat with friends really frustrating and especially awkward. So IIFYM really helped me overcome this problem.

The Bad

pizza, pepperoni, crust, mozzarella, dough, cheese, salami, tomato, sauce
Amy Yi

While I didn’t gain a lot of bad weight, there were certain times when I found it challenging to fit in unhealthy foods. Since IIFYM taught me to look at "unhealthy" foods differently, they became something that I wanted to eat every day.

Although that doesn't necessarily ruin a diet, it did cause me to “overspend” my macros more often. Even if I have yet to go over my macro limits for the day, eating high-carb or high-fat meals make it difficult for me to reach the correct number of macros without going over my caloric goal.

I also learned that tracking macros is more difficult than it sounds. Some people will track their macros as accurately as possible by weighing in grams each meal that they ate and calculating the number of calories it contains.

For me, I became very conscious of my portion sizes and have been estimating how many calories my meals contained. But estimating calories in meals became particularly challenging because food portions are always different at restaurants and pot lucks.  Tracking macros isn't always as easy as it seems.

What were the results?

Honestly, after a month of following this new dietary philosophy, my body hasn't changed very much. My body weight, my body fat, and my muscle mass have all been about the same as they were when I started. Part of it might be because I was already in good shape before the start of the diet but personally, I consider this a win.

My dilemma before IIFYM was wanting to eat those guilty pleasure foods while still maintaining my physical shape and fitness. After switching to IIFYM and being more mindful of macronutrients rather than stigmas, I was able to solve the issue.

What did I learn?

While IIFYM isn’t exactly a free pass to eat whatever you want, my experiences with this diet taught me some very valuable lessons.

1. Don't over-stress about what you're eating

It's important to eat fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean meats but eating one slice of pizza won't kill you or your diet. As long as you stay mindful of what you have eaten on a certain day, you can fairly easily control the amount of macronutrients that you eat in total. Everything is okay in moderation.

2. You don't have to be 100% accurate in measuring macros

It can be difficult to estimate the number of macros in every single meal so the most important thing to remember is to try and stay within the general range of your daily macronutrient goals. Going over your daily carb goal by 10 grams won’t make or break you.

3. A perfect diet isn’t all that necessary

If you're like me and you're not a professional bodybuilder or athlete but just a person trying to stay in good shape, lose weight, or build muscle, then it's okay to not be super strict. 

After trying out IIFYM, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to build muscle or stay lean without stressing out over everything he or she eats.