I finally decided to delve deeper into what is known as "flexible dieting". Why the sudden interest? Well it's actually not so sudden, and as you know I've talked a lot about counting macros, trying to better understand macros, and what I've done to find a healthy and sustainable diet. This has all been based off of a loose macro guideline and what I've learned about nutrition through personal experience and experiments. But I never truly understood the science behind it all and how macro and micronutrients affect our body. My younger sister is the one who first suggested I read more about it. She had read books on flexible dieting from a friend of ours Krissy Mae Cagney. Well actually she read them long before we even knew Krissy, but ironically we've both crossed paths with her separately. Although I knew Krissy through social media for quite some time, I finally met her a couple years ago at Mark Bell's gym in Sacramento. Krissy lives in Reno and dates a good friend and teammate of mine. She's also very involved in the CrossFit community so we cross paths often now. She's a good friend and an awesome person. My sister lived in Reno for a while and met Krissy there. Krissy now owns the gym where my sister used to train. Ever since my sister read Krissy's book on Flexible Dieting she's been a fan. And more recently, after reading her Flexible Dieting 2.0 book, my sister has learned a lot more about her body. She looks amazing! But it's not all physical. Her confidence and attitude has changed a lot too. She's really happy. I would say her physique is an added bonus.
This past weekend I went to visit Krissy and some friends in Reno and we started talking about diet. I'm always intrigued to learn more about nutrition and she's so knowledgeable. I left with her Flexible Dieting 2.0 book that my sister had been telling me to read for months, and I finished it in a day. It's an easy read and extremely interesting.
After I read the book one of the main questions I had for myself was, "can I eat paleo and still be a flexible dieter?" Because the theory behind flexible dieting is that nothing is off limits. We shouldn't see food as "good" and "bad" we should see carbohydrates, fat and protein. At the same time though, micronutrients are important. I don't need science to tell me that. I know that when I eat nutrient dense food like meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit and nuts I feel a hell of a lot better. I like what Jon Stewart had to say in the book, "Flexible dieting allows you to easily modify your diet based on your specific goals and preferences via some very easy to follow protocols." I enjoy eating a paleo. I feel good and it works for me. But I also like the idea of being flexible while still being able to reach my health and fitness goals.
If anything I've become a lot more open minded after reading Krissy's book. Will I continue to consume a primarily paleo diet? Yes. Why? Because it works for me. If you want to eat grains and dairy, go for it! Do I occasionally eat these things? Yes. I'm not a paleo perfectionist. And because of that maybe I shouldn't even use the word paleo anymore. But the main premise of the paleo diet, eating nutrient dense foods like meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit and nuts, makes me feel good. Do I like dairy? Yes. Does it make me feel like shit? Yes. Do I eat it anyway? Occasionally, because I'm addicted to ice cream and eating a small bowl most nights makes me happy.
What about grains? I'm still on the fence about gluten, but that's strictly a personal preference. I simply feel better without it and I don't really miss it. Do I consume some grains? Sure. I eat rice quite often because I train my ass off and it's easy to consume and it's a good source of carbohydrates. It's also widely available when you eat out and I'm not one to avoid social situations because I'm on some crazy diet. Just like flexible dieting, I think the paleo diet should be adapted to each person individually and that eating balanced nutritious meals should take precedent.
We all evolve as we learn more about nutrition and our bodies. Years ago I was an advocate for a strict paleo diet and I no longer believe that is a way to live. I'm excited about adding in some flexibility while learning how to better track my macros to optimize my performance in the gym. I will continue to share paleo creations on my blog because I think there's something special about taking whole foods and a variety of herbs and spices and making something so natural taste so good. But I will also continue to eat my ice cream most nights or splurge on some chips and guacamole when I feel like it. I'll just be sure to hold myself accountable from a macro standpoint so that I continue to enjoy a delicious and sustainable diet.
"From an aesthetic standpoint, food composition plays little to no role in your body composition (this is why people can get lean eating non-nutrient dense, calorically dense food). If your goals are primarily health and/or performance related, you should be consuming nutrient dense, high quality foods a majority of the time. Treat your body well. There is plenty of room for doughnuts and ice cream occasionally, but a bulk of your food should definitely come from high quality proteins, healthy fats, vegetables, and other things that come from the earth, and not a factory. Eat a lot of whole, minimally processed, filling foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals. Eat the "fun" stuff when you want to if you have the caloric room for it." - Krissy Mae Cagney, Flexible Dieting 2.0
If you'd like to calculate your own macros and get a better understanding of what role each macro and micronutrient play in our bodies, I'd suggest reading Krissy's book, Flexible Dieting 2.0. She does a great job breaking down the science and makes it really easy to understand. I've learned how to better fuel my body, how each macronutrient breaks down in my body and what nutrient timing can do for me as an athlete.