Maybe you’ve seen it scrolling through your Instagram feed, but for those who aren’t familiar with iifym—If It Fits Your Macros—here’s a quick introduction to the approach to eating and our take on it.
I think of diets like a fun math puzzle that takes you from where you are to where you want to be. They are actually designed with numbers. There would be a target number or range for protein, fats and carbohydrates and then foods that fit those numbers get plugged into the diet. They can get more sophisticated as well depending who is designing them. With “if it fits your macros,” the quality of the food does not matter—only the numbers matter. So, for example, if I am eating meal one and my carbohydrate number is 30g, it doesn’t matter if those 30g come from oats or from candy. Only the number would matter. This dieting method is used by people with many different goals in mind from weight loss, to endurance athletes with performance based goals to people putting on lean mass and size.
I personally am not a fan of if it fits your macros or, as it is sometimes referred to as, iifym. I think we should be treating our bodies with love and respect and fueling them with healthy, nutritious foods the majority of the time. The quality of the food you put into your body affects your health, workout performance, recovery, energy levels, skin, hair etc. You cannot fill your body with junk food all day, everyday and expect it to perform well. The quality of those numbers that we put into our body matters, not just the quantity.
Eating a highly processed diet full of trans fat, high in sodium and sugar and low in fiber can cause a multitude of serious health issues. It also makes sticking with our diets more difficult when trying to lose weight. For instance, fiber from whole grains, fruits and vegetables helps to keep us full and satisfied. Not being hungry makes it easier to stay on track and hit your intended macros. Eating a diet high in sugar leaves you hungry and craving more sugar—staying on course feels even harder. It really boils down to common sense: The easier the weight loss process, the more likely we are to succeed.
While I am not fond of iifym as a lifestyle or license to eat junk food, I do think it has it’s place. For example, if someone makes healthy choices the majority of the time but needs a mental break from the constraints of their diet, it can be a useful tool. You can use iifym to enjoy a meal with foods you may be missing while still hitting your target macros and progressing towards your goals. It can also be a tool for endurance athletes having difficulty meeting their target carbohydrate macros. Eating only whole foods, high in fiber may leave an athlete too full and uncomfortable and therefore unable to consume enough carbohydrates. This would result in a decreased athletic performance. Athletes in this scenario could supplement a healthy diet with products designed for endurance sports and also enjoy some of their favorite treats as well to reach their target macros. In instances like these, I think it’s an intelligent use of the concept.
The good news is that eating a healthy, nutritious diet does not need to be bland or boring. You do not need to feel deprived or dislike what you are eating. You should be enjoying your daily diet. Finding healthy recipes for versions of your favorite foods should be a priority. In order for change to be permanent and for a healthy lifestyle to take hold in the long term we need to genuinely like what we are doing and what we are eating. Otherwise what is the point?