So, you want to change your weight. Whether it’s bulking up, losing fat, or gaining lean muscle, the key to all of these goals is diet. You’ve probably heard it a thousand times before but let me just repeat it for those of you in the back, the key to weight change is DIET. The reason I keep saying weight “change” and not weight “loss” is because losing weight is not always the healthiest option for everyone. There’s so much negative stigma around gaining weight but sometimes that’s the healthiest thing for someone to do (more on that in later posts)!
Okay, so hopefully now you know that the key to changing your weight is diet. There’s just one small problem though; you’re stuck on campus with no car and forced to eat whatever they’re serving in the dining halls. Well that sucks, trust me I’ve been there and it’s no fun. Luckily, I learned about this super flexible diet called the “If It Fits Your Macros” diet or IIFYM for short.
The idea behind the IIFYM diet is simply this — as long as you eat fewer calories than you are burning with the correct macronutrient ratios, you will lose weight. Or vice versa, as long as you eat more calories than you are burning with the correct macronutrient ratios, you will gain weight. I know, seems too simple to be true. Well although there hasn’t been a ton of research into this diet specifically, it is basically agreed upon in the scientific community that eating fewer calories than you burn will cause you to lose weight. Mayo Clinic reports that “the key to weight loss is to consume fewer calories than you burn” (Hensrud, 2020). Wow that sounds awfully familiar!
There was even a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, named Mark Haub, better known as the Twinkie Guy, who lost 27 pounds eating nothing but twinkies and Doritos. How did he do such a thing? He simply made sure he was consuming fewer calories than he was burning (Fell, 2010). Why did he do such a thing? I have no fucking clue. I guess in the name of science, but I can guarantee that he did not feel too good during the “experiment.”
Okay so now I have you hooked, you want to change your weight without having to give up your favorite foods or move off-campus. But how can you do such a thing? Here’s how:
- Calculate your daily maintenance calorie requirement (the number of calories you need a day to maintain weight).
There’s a bunch of complicated equations you can use to do this, or you can google “Calorie Counter” and use that.
2. Subtract or add calories to this number based on your goals.
If you are trying to lose weight, it’s suggested to start with no more than a 500-calorie deficit (Court et al., 2020) and if you are trying to gain weight, a 500-calorie surplus is suggested (Preiato, 2019). You can add or subtract calories based on your own goals and how your body reacts but be careful as you don’t want to be in too high of a surplus or a deficit. (It may be best to consult a nutritionist to find out what type of calorie surplus or deficit is best for you).
3. Determine your macronutrient splits.
The macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and alcohols. I’m just going to talk about the first 3 for now as these are the “required” ones (I’ll talk about alcohol in a later post). This is the part where it gets a little tricky and may require a little research from you or a little trial and error. The macro splits vary based on your specific goals and your body type. For now, I’m just going to report the very general suggestions and if you want me to provide you with the specifics for your goals and body type, please contact me and I’ll be happy to help!
1g protein=4 calories. Eat about 0.7–1.0 g of protein a day per pound of your body weight.
1g fat=9 calories. Eat about 0.25–0.4g of fat a day per pound of body weight.
1g carbohydrate=4 calories. The remainder number of calories should be from carbs
Example: If your daily maintenance calories was calculated to be 2000 cals, and you weigh 140lbs:
(140x1) = 140g of protein = (140x4) 560 cals
(140x0.7) =98g of fat = (98x9) 882 cals
(2000- (882+560)) = 558 cals = (558/4) 140g of carbs
4. Track your calories and macros.
Now you can eat whatever you want as long as it fits in your daily calorie and macro requirements. That being said, if you eat nothing but twinkies and Doritos, you’re not going to feel very good or energized throughout the day. So, it would still be best to try and eat healthy foods.
There are a bunch of free apps that help you track calories and macros, but my favorite is the “My Fitness Pal” by Under Armour.
Stony Brook (my school) included the calories and macro splits in the dining halls. A 2014 law by the FDA required that most restaurant establishments release the calorie and nutritional information on their menus. While this law does apply to cafeterias, I can’t find anything that says Universities and Colleges must provide the nutritional info by law. Either way, I think most schools will report their nutritional info somewhere, whether it be online or in the actual dining halls. Most campuses also have a registered dietician that could help answer any questions you may have regarding the calorie/macro numbers of foods.
With the IIFYM diet, there are a couple things you need to keep in mind. One thing is that the diet does not take into account micronutrients. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals that your body requires. It’s hard to track your levels of micronutrients without getting regular blood tests, so I just suggest making sure you eat a good mixture of foods. Make sure you’re eating your leafy vegetables and fish and drinking your milk and orange juice.
Another important thing to keep in mind with the IIFYM diet is that as you successfully complete the diet and see changes in your weight, you will need to make tweaks to the diet itself. Once you weigh less, you’ll need to eat less to continue seeing decreases in weight. And once you weigh more, you’ll need to eat more to continue seeing increases in weight, obviously. I would say it’s probably best to reassess your diet about every month or two!
Also remember that any diet is more successful when it is combined with effective exercise! I’ve had lots of success dieting this simple yet effective way, so I hope it can help you out too! And if it doesn’t help you, I didn’t tell you to do it…
Court, Ben, et al. “How to Create a Calorie Deficit in 2 Simple Steps.” Men’s Health, Men’s Health, 20 July 2020, www.menshealth.com/weight-loss/a19536783/calorie-deficit/.
D’Souza, Gillian. “The IIFYM Diet: How-to Guide, Benefits, and Risks.” Edited by Katherine Marengo, Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 2018, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323863#negatives.
Fell, James S. “A Twinkie Diet? It Comes down to Calories.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 6 Dec. 2010, www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2010-dec-06-la-he-fitness-twinkie-diet-20101206-story.html#:~:text=Twinkie%20Guy%20%E2%80%94%20also%20known%20as,fewer%20calories%20than%20he%20burned.
Hensrud, Donald. “Exercise or Diet: Which Works Best?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 20 Feb. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/weight-loss/faq-20058292.
Preiato, Daniel. “Dirty Bulking: Effectiveness, Downsides, and More.” Edited by Natalie Olsen, Healthline, Healthline Media, 5 Dec. 2019, www.healthline.com/nutrition/dirty-bulking#healthier-method.
“SECG on Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, 2015, www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/small-entity-compliance-guide-nutrition-labeling-standard-menu-items-restaurants-and-similar-retail.