Flexible Dieting: Is it right for you?

February 4, 2016

About the Author: Eric Bach

Today I’ve got something special for you: a guest post from Matt Dustin on Flexible Dieting. Matt’s a coach and fellow business owner. I had the chance to meet up with him in San Diego a few months back.

Matt’s a great dude who showed me the city, and we kicked around  some big plans for the coming months.

We even shared a “romantic” view in downtown San Diego.
Just kidding, I was the third wheel.

mattdustin, Flexible Dieting

One of the things we talked about was mimimalist nutirtion and flexible dieting. The result is this guest post, a great example of how Matt makes difficult topic comprehsnbile in ways that benefits his clients.  Over to you, Matt.


Over the last few years, flexible dieting has taken the fitness world by storm. Many have made arguments that it’s the best approach to dieting. The idea is to eat anything you’d like in moderation.

No more binge eating, because you won’t be restricting yourself from any foods. Intermittent fasting, or maybe six meals a day?

No problem! Hit your macros, and all will be well, regardless of your dietary preference.

Track food, hit macros, see results. Finding foods to hit your missing numbers becomes a fun game of Tetris.

Total sales of Pop-Tarts, Ben & Jerry’s, and donuts have surely skyrocketed thanks to all the shredded Instagram IIFYM-ers.

On the surface, flexible dieting seems like the perfect fix. But is it really?

Where Flexible Dieting Fails

Weighing and tracking every meal simply isn’t practical if you’re a 28-eight-year old career woman, working 12 hour days. Ditto for the parent of three trying to prepare meals for the whole family.

There are times when your family doesn’t want to eat grilled chicken simply because you blew your fat macros on Reese’s cups for breakfast.


Perhaps you’re in sales, and take clients out for dinner on a regular basis. Do you want to be checking the nutritional info on your phone, and then stressing over how the kitchen prepared the food that night?

No way.

Finally, some people develop an unhealthy relationship with food. They can become obsessed and/or stressed about missing numbers. They need to try an approach other than compulsive counting.


The Minimalist Approach to Flexible Dieting


The Pareto Principle is often referenced by life-hacker type people, such as Tim Ferriss of The Four Hour Workweek fame. It simply means that of all your efforts, 20% of them will result in 80% of your results.

“80% of your results come from 20% of your effort”
-Pareto Principle

With nutrition, this means that you should be focusing on the 20% of your habits that will have the most impact on your entire diet.

Simply put, there are major habits you can implement that will bring you incredible results. And there are minor habits that won’t do very much for you. Don’t get so caught up in the small details that you forget the big ones. Or as the saying goes: “don’t major in the minor. ”

Examples of Important 20% Habits

Drink plenty of water, and try to avoid drinking calories when you can. You need water to function. Too many people walk around dehydrated. Carry a water bottle with you, and sip on it all day.

Drink a big glass of water with meals. If you’re watching your figure, it’s probably best to avoid drinking anything with a high-caloric content that won’t fill you up – juice, regular sodas, lattes Just skip those and stay calorie free.

Make sure you eat lean protein and vegetables with each meal. You need protein to recover and build muscle, and you need to get your micronutrients from fruits and vegetables. Both of these food sources will also help keep you full. You won’t feel hungry an hour after your last meal.

Eat healthy fats like egg yolks, red meat and fish in moderation: You need a certain amount of fats in your diet, as they regulate all sorts of things, from cellular health to testosterone production. However, you want the right kind for optimal health. Skip the fats in donuts and ice cream, and try to eat whole-food fat sources high in omega-3s.

Try to avoid processed, sugary foods for most of your meals. Not that these are “bad” per se, but if you aren’t tracking calories and measuring food, it’s very, very easy to overeat the fun stuff. Especially since it’s delicious, and not very filling.

Examples of Not-So-Important 80% Habits

Obsessing over meal timing. Meal timing doesn’t really matter for most people. At an advanced level, it may come into play, especially pre and post workout nutrition.

But unless you’re an elite athlete, you don’t need to worry about this. Just eat when it fits your schedule. And try not to let yourself get so hungry you’ll eat everything in sight.

Expensive supplements. While some supplements can definitely be beneficial, they won’t do much for you if the rest if your diet is crap.

Think of supplements the icing on the cake, accounting for the final 3% to 5% of an overall plan. Supplements are only worth your trouble if the rest of your diet is on track.

Worrying about organic vs. non-organic, artificial sweeteners, GMOs, etc… Despite what the media would have you believe, these issues are barely worth debating for most people. Avoid gluten if you have Celiac’s disease…but if that’s not you, don’t worry about it.

If you’re the specimen of perfect health, then maybe you can lecture people about organic vs. non-organic blueberries. However, if you’re the out-of-shape person eating McDonalds three times a week, you have bigger things to worry about.

The Takeaway

Focus on the big habits mentioned above, and you’ll be much better off than 90% of the general population.

Flexible Dieting for Fat Loss?

Lift weights, eat protein and veggies with each meal, keep your fats low to moderate, and eat some carbs after your workouts. Meal timing doesn’t matter. If you get stuck, try reducing your portions slightly.

Flexible Dieting for Building Muscle and Strength?

Eat protein, vegetables, and carbs for most of your meals, especially pre- and pos- workout. You may benefit from spreading your protein intake throughout the day.

But it probably won’t make much difference. If you aren’t gaining weight, add some peanut butter to your meals.

Eventually, you may reach a point where you need to get very precise with your meals to get to the next level. However, if you don’t plan to step on stage and compete in any physique or strength sports, you should be just fine sticking to the basics.

Focus on the important habits, and you’ll be just fine.

matt dustin, Flexible Dieting

About the Author:

Matt Dustin is an online trainer, performance coach, and fitness author based in San Diego, California. He believes in training for both performance and aesthetics, but is mostly a fitness bro at heart.

You can learn more at his website, The Athletic Physique, or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. […] Flexible Dieting: Is it right for you? via Eric Bach […]

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