After a dangerously restrictive six-week stint in my intake last year (May/June 2014) that only lead to multiple episodes of binge eating, I decided to start IIFYM, or If It Fits Your Macros. I followed (well, I still do) multiple people on IG who practiced this method of eating, and they could not sing their praises loud enough. Some even went so far to say that following IIFYM has helped them recover from their eating disorder because they were able to incorporate more challenging foods into their diet. Their feeds appeared to be an endless amount of Pop-Tarts, Quest Bars, huge bowls of protein fluff, protein shakes, protein pancakes – heck, protein anything. I was dazzled.
I was at a point in my life when I finally realized that I might just have a problem with food. My orthorexia was at it’s all-time high, and eating anything less than “clean” to me was a massive failing on my part. To put it simply, I was tired and miserable of living this way. School had ended, and I had recently had two binges due to being so insanely restrictive for the last several weeks. I wanted desperately to break the whole restrict/binge cycle, and as I mentioned, thanks to IG, I was already familiar with IIFYM and it seemed like a good option for me.
The first thing I did was calculate my macros on a website, where it told me how many grams of carbs, fats, and protein I should consume per day, as well as a general estimate of where my calories should fall around. My first mistake was plugging in my activity as lower than it was, so my caloric and macro goals were lower than what my needs demanded, but that’s because I was still hell-bent on losing weight. Just because I was changing my eating habits didn’t mean that I was no longer trying to lose weight.
Still, I remember looking at the numbers and panicking at “high” they were, especially the protein. Like, damn. All those protein creations were starting to make sense now. But I did like having a specific meal plan with specific goals. It comforted the control freak inside me.
As you probably guessed from the title of this blog post, I ended up not experiencing success with the IIFYM approach. But does that mean it’s faulty? That people who follow it are wrong? That it’s bad? Absolutely not. I know that IIFYM can really work for some people, and they receive real physical and mental progress as a result. And I think that’s wonderful. Eating will always be better than not eating. But IIFYM wasn’t for me, and it’s not for everyone, just like everyone isn’t meant to be a vegetarian, vegan, clean eater, intuitive eater, or what have you. We are all different, so of course it makes sense that we all have different levels of potential with different methods. And for me personally, IIFYM just wasn’t the path I was meant to be on. But if you’re interested in IIFYM and think that it will in no way feed your ED’s voices/behaviors and overall benefit you? Go for it. It’s your decision. The reason why I’m sharing this is because it is a part of my story, and deserves to be expressed.
So why didn’t IIFYM work for me?
The counting of macros and having to be aware of every single gram did not make my eating disorder weaken. Food continued to appear to me as numbers, and that’s just something I’ve personally found to be unhealthy for my mindset. I was already familiar with MFP and tracking beforehand though, so IIFYM did not in any way start that obsession for me, but it did not nothing to stop it either.
I’m not a big fan of the whole business of saving up macros to eat something “unhealthy.” First of all, food shouldn’t be sorted into those two narrow categories of “bad” and “good” to begin with. And the whole saving macros thing would leave me starving throughout the day because I was always so worried that I would get uncontrollably hungry sometime in the evening but be faced with no more macros. And that wouldn’t even happen and I would end up under eating, which my ED just loved. Today, I’m a big believer in listening to your body and acting on your hunger cues. IIFYM didn’t teach me about my hunger cues.
Though IIFYM boasts a flexible way of eating, since you can simply fit more indulgent foods within your macros, it still felt like a cage to me. All I wanted was to have a normal, healthy relationship with food, and with IIFYM, you need to scan the nutritional information for restaurants. You need to have a scale at the ready so you know exactly how big your portions are for the ease of calculating macros. You need to eat meat, egg whites, and protein bars like crazy in order to hit your protein goal. You can have treats, but you have to make sure that your portion is calculated a certain weight so that you can fit it in your remaining macros. It all felt forced.
For me, that was still a rigid way to live and did not free me from my disordered thoughts and tendencies.
I just can’t eat on a meal plan, even one that be as widely interpreted as IIFYM, simple as that. I didn’t know that at the time, but I’m aware of it now. The only reason why MM worked for me is because of that fact that it offered a minimum, not a maximum. On the other hand, IIFYM is all about maximums. And I just can’t handle that without getting extremely obsessive and restrictive.
I’ve been truly practicing intuitive eating – no counting, no tracking – for over a month now, and it is through this way of nourishing my body that I have experienced the most success in grasping a healthy relationship with food. Though MM did wonders in helping me get past the worst of my ED, intuitive eating has always been my ultimate goal, and I’m glad that I’m in place where I can mentally and physically handle it.
Examine the way that you eat – it doesn’t matter what sort of “practice” you follow – and ask yourself:
Am I acting on disordered thoughts?
Do I feel like I’m restricting myself?
Is my relationship with food unhealthy?
I think we should strive to being able to answer “no” to all of the above questions. You might be able to do that through following IIFYM. Or intuitive eating, or being a vegan. But if you answered “yes” to one or more of those questions, it is time for a change. You owe that to yourself.
Thank you for reading! I hope you all are doing great 🙂