Does Flexible Dieting Work?

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Flexible dieting gives people freedom in their food choices as long as it fits within their macronutrients (macros) and overall calories for the day. This is an incredibly simple and popular way of dieting and the results appear to back up the hype. Macronutrients are the nutrients your body needs in the biggest amounts; protein, carbohydrates and fats.

With thousands of fad diets out there it can be difficult to not fall into the marketing trap. The big issue with the vast majority of diets is that they aren’t sustainable. Whilst you may see a celebrity on Instagram losing 2 stone in a matter of months you have to question is this safe and is it sustainable for me? 


Basically as long as you meet your macro targets for the day, you can eat whatever you want to make up the rest of the calories. Your calories are calculated based on your end goal. For example if you want to lose weight you will be placed in a calorie deficit. If you wish to gain you are placed in a calorie surplus. These numbers are based on your height, weight, age and your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). 

With the creation of apps like MyFitnessPal, flexible dieting has never been easier. You can simply scan the barcodes of foods you eat and then input the weight and you’re good to go.


No Foods Are ‘Bad’

Understanding that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods is paramount to developing a healthy relationship with food. A lot of diets place certain foods under different categories, making people almost fear them. This can lead to dieters beginning to resent food and can lead to binges.  Above all, the key to a successful diet is sustainability and happiness. By removing any idea of negativity within the diet, people may develop a healthier relationship with food.

Benefits People With Specific Nutrition Needs

Flexible dieting allows you to work in your own dietary preferences or needs. It can also be a great diet for people such as athletes. They can fit this around their training schedule and specific macro goals.

Can Help Keep Weight Off Long Term

Many studies have shown that in the weeks post diet, people tend to maintain their results and some studies show people gain fat free mass as well. Allowing people to pick their own foods also pushes people to learn more about what goes into different meals. 


May Not Be Structured Enough For Some

Some people may struggle to hold themselves accountable for their food choices and need more structure. The majority of results seem to show that the differences in weight loss between rigid and flexible diets is insignificant. Therefore it is all about finding the plan that matches you  and you will adhere to. Rigid diets will provide the person with structured meal plans that enable them to meet all their macro and micronutrient needs. This will ensure that the person maintains a healthy diet, albeit with less variety, but healthy nonetheless. 

Micronutrients Not Prioritised

Micronutrients are all the vitamins and minerals that your body needs. These are crucial for bodily processes and disease prevention and it is important that these are also met. A rigid plan will provide people with meals that include sufficient micro and macronutrients. So if you are going down the flexible route, just be careful that you still make space in your calories for the little micronutrients.


Dieting is all about eating in moderation. Flexible dieting doesn’t mean you can go eating nothing but pizza and doughnuts as long as you eat a chicken breast a day. It is still hard to fit high calorie foods that don’t fill you up as much into your daily diet. However, it does mean that you can loosen up and eat a chocolate bar every so often without feeling guilty. 



Meule, A., Westenhöfer, J., & Kübler, A. (2011). Food cravings mediate the relationship between rigid, but not flexible control of eating behavior and dieting success. Appetite, 57(3), 582-584.