Tag Archives: IIFYM

How to Not Need “Cheat Days”

vegetables italian pizza restaurant

I don’t have “cheat days”.

I’m not THAT dedicated.

Hahaha!  Probably not what you expected to hear from me.

Nutrition supports your fitness goals in two ways…

  • Calories determine whether you are gaining, losing, or maintaining.
  • Macro and micronutrients help your body work optimally and help you feel better.

Food preferences are individual.  (I really dislike strawberry ice cream.  Go ahead – judge. But I’m going for the chocolate.  Or my recent new favorite – orange cream sherbet.  Must a summer thing!)

person holding ice cream with cone

Once you get used to using food as fuel, it’s like seeing the matrix.  Sort of.  You’ll still drop into the illusion and enjoy your favorites.

But those favorites are part of the matrix – they are a combination of calories and nutrients.  In the matrix, pizza has no value judgement – it’s just calories, carbs, protein, and fat.

That said, when I’m in a fat-loss phase (which I’m not this year), what someone else might call a “cheat day”, I call a refeed day.

On a refeed day, I’ll bring my calories up to maintenance – which means my goal is to eat the same number of calories that I estimate I will burn in that 24 hours period.

Usually, I do that by increasing portion sizes of foods I’m already eating.  But if I’m psychologically needing something I haven’t had in a while, that will come in on a refeed day.

It’s all logged.  It’s not a “cheat” anything because I’m not cheating by choosing “forbidden foods”.  No foods are forbidden for this purpose. 

Food choices are individual.  Yes, there are plenty of medical, philosophical, and ethical reasons why people have certain food preferences.

 That’s not what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about controlling the amount of food you choose to eat – whatever that is going to be.

Actually, I do the same thing when I’m NOT in a fat-loss phase.  The difference is that I’m either at maintenance or in a controlled surplus with calories.

matrix

Not everyone likes the matrix.  I do.  I like the flexibility of choosing foods I like instead of using food lists.  I like how it changed my relationship with food by adding some structure and science.

Now the questions are do you do a refeed day, a refeed meal, and when? 

That’s another post…


If you’d like me to teach you how to do this for yourself, or to figure it all out for you  – a customized nutrition plan with live, weekly, support to make it all work when life gets busy – learn more here.

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16 Weeks Out – Things are About to Get Exciting

Contest prep is exciting.  It allows me to see in a mirror what I think I’ve built, but can only feel from the inside.  Prep is also a challenge.  It’s pushing the fat-loss process further than most need to go.  The goal is “shredded” not “bikini body”.   I can’t lie, I’m running on faith that someone like me can attain that kind of conditioning.  I haven’t done it before.  I trust my coach and the process, but I can’t visualize yet where this is going to end up.   It can be dangerous when people try to do this too fast with extremely low calories, use drugs, or use water manipulation to create a leaner look.  I’ve done two preps with water depletion and  promised myself that I would never do another one.  To avoid it, I need to be a lot leaner.  I’ve worked too hard to regain my health.  I appreciate what it has allowed me to do and I don’t take for granted that I can do extreme things to myself and bounce back at my age.  (I wanted to take a moment to say that before I get into the nitty gritty reporting of what’s going on.  I know most people who follow my journey aren’t bodybuilders.  I want to reassure everyone that even though my goal for this prep is to push my conditioning farther than I’ve gone before,  I’m feeling more balanced than ever this time around.  Kudos to coach for that.)

Quick summary:  I started cutting calories last September.  Coach has had me doing cutting/maintenance cycles since that time.  As of this morning, my total weight loss for that period of time has been 13.8 lbs.  I call the maintenance cycles “diet deloads”.  

The most recent diet deload started on March 4th and ended on March 13th.  During that phase, I used the Bodybugg to keep track of my calorie burn throughout the day and ate those calories.  The goal was to maintain my weight.  I always keep my protein stable and will adjust fats and carbs to do whatever I’m trying to do.   I just went back and looked at the reports.  Turns out that, on average, I ate about 100 calories more each day than I burned.  That’s OK.  It’s a recovery time.  And I am working hard to not get too OCD about things this early in prep.  (Hoping to avoid calorie/marco OCD entirely, honestly.)  During the deload phase, my macro averages were…

  • Carbs = 271 grams
  • Protein = 152 grams
  • Fats = 80 grams

During the week of diet deload, I gained a pound.  Not a care was given.  It was just a normal fluctuation as my  body healed itself.   (A year before, March 2014, in off-season, I was about 5 pounds heavier and eating about 70 carbs less and 10 fats more.  Just throwing that in here because I think it’s interesting.)

I took before/after pictures during the deload phase to see what happened.  Happy to say, not much.  Just some puffy water weight.

I’ve been back on a 500-calorie deficit cutting phase for a week.  A little cardio has been added into the program now, too.  My goal for the week was to burn 800 calories in cardio.  I think I did a bit over 900.  I figured out real quick that I got to eat more on days I had that little bit of cardio because the overall deficit was still going to be 500.  I do cardio for food.  (OK – it was kind of enjoyable, too.  It didn’t take long.  About 30 minutes of walking a day.)

I hit my lowest scale weight of this prep on Thursday at 144.4 lbs.  I usually lose weight in 0.2 pound increments and will bounce up and down after I hit a low.  Got up this morning and my weight was 143.2 lbs.  I expected 144.2.  I’m happy?  OK, sure.  I’m happy.  Its just mentally hard to shrink after spending years trying to get bigger.  The scale game/weight loss process is not linear and it’s not efficient.  Biology doesn’t favor bodybuilders.  Body likes fat.  It will burn new muscle before fat.  So when the scale drops, I am accepting the data as “good” because it’s progress and it has to happen.  And then I take the negative thoughts and put them in a box, shove the box in the back of my head, throw a blanket on it, and walk away.

AND NOW, SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS…

The mental game is hard for me.  Pretty sure that comes from being an introvert and being a little nervous about the stage.   I’m not my biggest cheerleader.  Every day, I tell myself that I’m too small for bodybuilding and I’m just now approaching a decent “figure” physique – which is a good thing, by the way.  But that’s not the goal I have for myself.  But I am closer now than I was in 2013, that’s for sure.  I’m hoping that as the prep continues, I’ll see more of the FBB silhouette I’ve been working on all this time.

My attraction to this sport is the creativity of it.  The longer I do it, the less I’m attracted to the idea of ‘discipline  through deprivation’ and the more I realize that “discipline” for me is just a set of tools (lifting, nutrition, logging, rest, stress management) I use to create a living sculpture from the inside out.  I’m not really not in-love with the idea of suffering and making sacrifices to advance in the sport  I honestly don’t see the point of me, a 50-something female natural bodybuilder, of doing anything but enjoying the hell out of this as much as I can.

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Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, My Lifting Log, Weight Loss

“Eat Clean” vs “IIFYM”: Best of Both?

Disclaimer: this is not an educational article.  If you want to know more about Clean Eating or IIFYM, you will find oodles of information online.  Probably too much information, actually.  I’m writing this piece today to share how I’ve changed over time, why I did, and how I’ve blended the two nutrition philosophies in my current food choices.

I try to avoid it, but every so often, something blows up on Facebook about how to eat.  I thought the women on some fitness pages were bad, but the guys can get very aggressive.  I saw some bullying behaviors this weekend that would be actionable if it were done by kids at school.

I’ve said it before…

IT’S. JUST. FOOD.

We aren’t talking about politics or religion here, but…maybe we are?  In the fitness world, it sure seems like it sometimes.

I’m not an expert and I’m not going to cite research.  I’m going to share my nutritional evolution because I thought it was interesting when I reflected on how it has changed and why.  To be honest, what works for one person, may not work for the next.  We are genetically and environmentally different.  Heck – I’m different.  What works for me now wouldn’t have worked for me when I started.  My body is different now.  My daily activity level is different.  My body composition, chemistry, and my goals are what determine how I eat.  What used to determine how I eat was convenience and emotions.

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When I started in 2009, I knew as much as any regular person not involved in fitness.  “Eat healthier” meant “eat a vegetable every once in a while”.  I started by getting help.  I consulted with a nutrition coach once a month on the phone and through email between those consults.  She taught me how to log food, how to use the log to monitor how much I was eating, and she helped me with food substitutions that were less calorie dense so I could eat more while still creating a calorie deficit each day.  That’s how I gradually evolved into a “clean eater”.  Whole foods have fewer calories than processed ones, generally.  I also felt better eating whole foods.  Felt better not eating sugar, too.  Go back in this blog and I’m sure you will find a reference to how eating “food grown by God” seemed like the best way to feed a body.   I naturally moved away from sugar and chemicals in my food because it felt good.  Felt good psychologically, too, since I was at the beginning of my transformation.  I needed to do something completely different than what I was doing before.  

When I started bodybuilding, eating became more technical.  It wasn’t just about calories, it was about macros – proteins, carbs, and fats.  The bodybuilding culture has a short list of clean foods that some call “bro-foods”.  The bro-foods include eggs, chicken, tilapia, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, sweet potatoes, rice, oatmeal, almonds, and olive oil.  I’m sure there a few things I missed.  I was going by my own memory.  But the gist is that there isn’t a lot of variety.  As in all things “food”, there is a social component to this approach.  There is a sense of belonging to a particular group if you eat like this.  Tuna!  I forgot tuna.  I remember when I was in my 20’s and first learned about bodybuilding from a guy who put a can of tuna on a baked potato.  That’s it.  I was fascinated.

In the last couple of years, the acronym, IIFYM, If It Fits Your Macros started flying around.  The basic idea is that a daily goal for each macro is set and what is eaten is not as important as hitting those targets.  This approach is infamous for the amount of processed foods, like Pop Tarts, consumed.  That’s the hype, not the reality for most who use IIFYM.   This is something I see discussed by guys more than gals.  Younger guys, in particular.   The online conversations I’ve read are dominated by guys.   They sometimes argue a bit about the merits of eating “bro-foods” vs IIFYM.

From the time I started bodybuilding and eating macros, I’ve been eating mostly bro-foods.  It was just easier – boring, but that didn’t bother me.  However, since the last time I was on stage in June 2013, I’ve been more flexible with my food choices.  Still following macro targets, but getting there with some foods that I used to think were “off limits”.  Some days are mostly whole foods – other days, not so much.  I’ve managed to keep my body weight and body composition fairly stable for the last year at a weight that is not contest lean. Instead, I’m about 15 lbs over stage weight at a body fat percentage that is healthy for a 52 year old me, 27%. (I may not get as lean as younger women because of visceral fat on my organs. I think i was around 15-16% when I’ve competed. That’s something I believe can be improved, btw). I am still over a year away from my next competition, so it’s all about lifting and recovery right now. .

Since I’ve played around with both approaches, here is what I’ve learned that works best for me.  Let’s keep score:

  • I feel better when I eat real food and not a lot of sugar.  However, being flexible has helped me put balance back into my life.  I had lasagna with the hubby last night.  Yum.   Clean = 1, IIFYM = 1
  • Because I’m in maintenance mode right now and my calorie burn each day seems to be creeping up, and the directive from coach was to keep fats and proteins stable, but cycle carbs to match the burn – well, I need carbs.  Lately, it seems I need more than you might expect and it’s easier to get them from non-clean foods like ice cream sandwiches.  (I get Skinny Cows because their macros are lower.  Some days, I only have room for one.  Other days,  two or three.)   Clean = 0, IIFYM = 1

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  • My bullet shake gives me more energy than just about anything I’ve ever consumed besides sweet potatoes. Clean = 1, IIFYM = 0

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  • Quest bars – not so much.  They’re good, but I don’t need so much fiber at one time. Clean = 1, IIFYM = 0
  • I don’t have a major problem with bread anymore.  I think not eating it often caused what I thought was a problem.  I keep the low-carb torillas in stock for the same reason I get Skinny Cow ice cream.  If I don’t have a lot of wiggle room, like on a rest day, I will use a tortilla instead of bread. Clean = 0, IIFYM = o

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  • Once a week, I don’t log food.  It’s usually a Saturday because that’s the day when the prepped food runs out and the new food isn’t cooked.  I end up eating fairly normally, but that’s also a day I’m likely to go out with hubby for a meal.  This is not a rule – it’s just something I’m doing right now to give myself a break.  I’m not in contest prep mode, so it’s OK.  A lot of people don’t log at all when they aren’t in prep mode.  I don’t mind logging.  I like data.  I’m a math teacher, you know. Clean = 0, IIFYM = 1 because I know what I eat on those days
  • I’m sitting in my kitchen right now.  As I look around I see apples, limes, bananas, squash, a beet, pears, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, avocados, dried cranberries, bread, and bagels.  Clean = 1, IIFYM = 0

TOTAL SCORES:

Clean = 4

IIFYM = 3

So I guess I’m basically a “clean” eater most of the time, but I’ve worked in some other things because I like them.  That’s how I eat now.  I could not have been as flexible when I started.  I didn’t have a structure in place, like the macro targets, to slam the breaks on binging.  Each day I have one of those moments when I’m hungry and just want to grab whatever, but don’t because 1) I am saving room in the macros for the rest of the day, or 2) I’m too lazy to log it.

I guess you could say that I’m using the structure IIFYM, but usually choosing clean foods to hit my macro goals.  I honestly don’t care to put a label on how I eat – it’s just food.  I eat to recover, to get stronger, to grow muscle, to be social, and some things just because they are yummy. When it’s time to cut, I’ll probably get better results this time around – or at least that is the plan.

 

 

 

 

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Nutrireligious Zealots are Boring

I started this blog post two months ago.  Never posted it.  Read Uber Beast Mode’s comment on Facebook this morning and decided to dust it off and finish it.

I read something a while ago about how many of us, especially us baby-boomer newbies in this clean eating and fitness game, get too passionate about it.  I sincerely apologize for being a complete pain-in-the-ass.  I’ve read a few articles like this one that equate nutrition and religion…

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2013/09/18/calling-for-an-end-to-nutrition-as-religion

I’ve started to avoid a lot of blogs and Facebook pages because the passion gets too negative.  It’s frustrating.  But mostly it’s boring.  I’d rather read about the cool things people are doing, not about their food.  That’s like having huge discussion about the gas you put in your car.

“To question their program or guru’s plans is akin to questioning their religious beliefs; and yet, unlike actual religious questioning (which would almost certainly lead to a thoughtful discussion), question dietary dogma online, and you can bet it will lead to a highly heated debate where anger and indignation can easily descend into name calling and personal attacks.”

I’ve been in a few debates, but my zeal has faded.  I honestly thought everyone was talking science – I’m a nerd.  It never occurred to me that nutrition wasn’t biology.  I didn’t realize that people held onto their beliefs like religious dogma – and I was doing it myself. OUCH!  I’m an idiot.  Then it was easy to spot in others.  People attack each other online and off-line.  Sometimes it’s polite, but many times it is not.  Karma came back and bitch-slapped me when I was attacked by the clean-eating police on my own page.

That’s when I decided that the focus of my Facebook page and this blog will be lifting.  Duh.  It is called Lifting My Spirits, right?  (And I just realized I have not written about lifting for a long time – sorry. I will soon.) I will still post recipes – my clients like that stuff.  I just won’t talk about macros, plant-based diets, clean-eating vs. IIFYM (Google it if you’re not familiar) because it doesn’t really matter.  No matter what your brain believes, your body needs what it needs and it adapts.  A good coach like me <insert shameless plug here> will help a client learn how to feed and care for their own body based on sound scientific principals.

Coach Jon at the Strength Guys said this…

“Metabolism is not static. Find an intelligent starting point and build from there. Sound nutrition-especially for the purposes of optimizing body comp, is largely reactionary. ” ~ Coach Jon

I studied and became a Fitness Nutrition Specialist because I’m fascinated by nutrition and how the body is fueled.  In some ways, it is a religious activity for me because I feel I honor my Creator by caring for His kid properly – how many times have I said eat food ‘grown by God’?  But it’s not really worth arguing about.  It’s just how I choose to eat most of the time because I like how I feel and perform when I’m fueled with foods grown by God.  However, this week, I enjoyed some lovely man-made low fat honey graham crackers as part of my carb refeed.  

People eat what they eat for many reasons.  And no two bodies are the same.  For the sake of transparency, I still get my undies bunched up by bad coaching because that’s malpractice.  But that’s another topic…

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Filed under Nutrition, Opinions, Venting, Ranting

IIFY-Sponsorship???

Hmmmm… probably opening a can of worms here, but I just found something that bothers me a little bit.

I Googled “IIFYM” because I thought about researching the “If It Fits Your Macros” style of eating.  I heard of this about a year ago on YouTube, and I recall it was initially presented as a free pass to eat nutritionally vacant food as long as you hit your macro grams (protein, carbs, fats) and calorie limits.   Lately, others have reinvented it as a mostly clean way to eat with occasional field trips to the land of processed foods.

I researched for all of 30 seconds before I found something that made me go…

There is a site called IIFYM.com and it came up first on the search.  There is a page on that site that explains what IIFYM is and how it started.  This explanation was written by a man who listed IIFYM.com AND MyOatmeal.com under his name.  Then I remembered that there was a big name coach, who is sponsored by MyOatmeal.com and has been vocal about linking the idea of IIFYM with “balance”.  OK.  I understand that a lot of people think they are being deprived if they can’t eat their favorite processed foods.  I eat processed foods sometimes too, but it’s a treat and I don’t feel the need to justify it.  I just eat it.  And then I go back to whole foods.  Anyone who’s been following me for more than a week knows my food isn’t boring.  I don’t self-define a style of eating anymore.  I just eat what will help me recover from my workouts and stay healthy.

But what’s with the MyOatmeal.com sponsorhips?  I assume the company sponsored fitness people who were like-minded.  I can respect that.  I highly respect the person I referred to a moment ago.  (No, I’m not going to name names.)  It’s business.  I get that.  Nothing damaging here, either.  But IIFYM, like all things in fitness and nutrition, isn’t appropriate for everyone.  I think the best thing about it is that it attempts to make eating less emotional.  That’s a good thing.

My original topic for this blog was going to be that people who push IIFYM don’t usually talk about the nutrition – they are focused only on fat loss.  These people are usually those youngsters (ie the “under 40” crowd).  I’m in this for health of it – cardiovascular and cancer prevention.  I love life and want to live and thrive a loooong time.   I get jazzed about micronutrients and phytochemicals.   I want my 51, soon to be 52-year old skin to glow and snap back as much as it can.  Sugar won’t help that at all.  I want my organs to regenerate and work at optimum efficiency.  Sugar won’t help that at all.

Another down side is that the IIFYM approach actually awakens my old, unhealthy food habits.  The more I read from people I respect about how I should feel OK about eating junk to be “balanced” and “flexible”, the greater the compulsion to buy tortilla chips.  Sure a few chips are OK.  But that bag has more than a few chips in it, doesn’t it?  That bag will be eaten within the week.  Maybe that’s not a problem for the youngsters.  It’s not an emotional problem for me – I don’t beat myself up over food.  But it will be eaten, I can’t see how that will help me, so I prefer not to.  To make it healthier, IIFYM has been cleaned up – but I don’t think that makes it IIFYM anymore.

I made a post on the LMS Facebook page a few days ago about how the concept of discipline was getting bashed on big fitness pages lately while they push the IIFYM/balance perspective.  That’s OK.  That’s their opinion.  My opinion, which is based on my experience, is that discipline saved my life.  The foods listed on that website, the foods that some people feel they need to have for a “balanced” life, were the same foods I ate when I was killing myself with malnutrition and inactivity.  That combination  put me in a pre-diabetic state and put me on high-blood pressure meds.  It put me in an ER with a warning from the doc that women my age, in that condition, don’t always get to hear a warning.

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My food is not my religion.  I won’t argue the point with anyone.  Eat what you want.  Judge if you must.  Opinions of others do not change my reality.

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Filed under Nutrition, Opinions, Venting, Ranting