I've tried a lot of different ways of eating through the years. From South Beach, Whole30, Paleo, calorie counting, not giving a damn about what I was eating. But a lot of that was just about trying to lose weight (at my heaviest, I was around 210 lbs and now sit comfortably around 135 lbs). None of it really stuck for long and there wasn't one thing that made me lose all my weight. But since I started running, I've found a way of eating that both fuels my running and is easy to work with (especially since I'm buying food and cooking for two people). It's called "If It Fits Your Macros" (IIFYM) and it is a way for me to eat for life. I did lose the last 15-20 lbs with macro counting but I'm more focused now on using it to fuel my runs.
Simply put, IIFYM is macro counting. It's also called flexible dieting because it makes it easier to fit in "forbidden" foods into your lifestyle (more about that later). You break down and track what you eat in terms of protein, fat and carbs (your macros). You have a budget of each of these that add up to a total amount of calories to eat for the day (based on your goals and activity level). This makes the number side of my brain very happy because I get to play macro tetris fitting what I want to eat into my macros.
Currently, I'm eating at my maintenance level (the amount of calories needed to keep my weight consistent). It's taken me a couple of months (and a spreadsheet) to figure out what this level is with my current training. Right now, this number is around 2,000 calories which is mind-boggling for me after my days of calorie counting when I would eat 1,200 calories trying to lose weight. When I was trying to lose a couple of pounds of holiday weight earlier this year, I only dropped about 200 calories a day to get back down to my comfortable weight. I never could have imagined that large amount of calories would have me losing weight. But it worked.
What has IIFYM Done for Me? One big thing IIFYM has done for me is get rid of carb fear. I've done a lot of low carb/no grains diets in the past and it was driven into my head that eating carbs was not good. Now, I'm eating carbs (both from fruits/vegetables and grains) at every meal and it's helping to fuel my running. I know there are people who do great at running on a low carb/high fat diet but I never felt great running during my round of Whole30 or eating Paleo. Now that I'm back on #OperationEatAllTheCarbs, I feel like I have more energy throughout the day and that I have feel better during my workouts.
IIFYM also lets me fit in things that have I thought of as "forbidden" foods and enjoy them instead of feeling guilty. I can have peanut butter in my oatmeal every morning, go out to eat and not feel restricted or have a drink after a stressful week. This isn't about how much junk food I can fit into my macros. Most of my meals are whole foods that I've prepared myself. I have actually found that my craving of sweets has gone down so that I'm satisfied with less. It just means that if I want to have a treat, it can fit in with all my other food as long as I plan it in.
What Will Happen With Marathon Training? I'll be continuing with IIFYM during marathon training but I'll be paying close attention to make sure that I'm eating enough food to maintain my weight while burning more calories. My plan is to recalculate my macros (using the calculator at IIFYM.com) to get a starting place for my marathon macros. I'll adjust throughout my training as necessary based on: how I'm feeling, how my runs are going and if I'm drastically dropping weight. Look for a post towards the end of May about my marathon training plans, I'll outline my nutrition plans in there also!
After I run my marathon, I'll probably stop counting macros for a while. I will have been doing it for over a year consistently and will have a good grasp on eyeballing what I should be eating without being strict about counting every little thing that goes into my mouth. I also won't be training for anything which is my main reason for following IIFYM. It's all about balance in life and that's exactly what IIFYM has taught me.
Disclaimer: I am not a certified nutritionist or medical professional and make no claims to the contrary. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health.