Clean Eating vs Flexible Dieting (IIFYM) – Fat loss, Muscle gain and Health.
Obesity rates have doubled since 1980 and over half a billion adults across the globe are now classed as obese with no real sign of things slowing (1). There are many dietary systems that have varying structures to help you with fat loss or muscle gain. Unfortunately its clear diets don’t work. In 2005 (2) a systematic review about long term weight loss after diet and exercise concluded “In both groups, almost half of the initial weight loss was regained after 1 y.” Below I hope to evaluate the very current, hotly debated dieting strategies, clean eating and flexible dieting (IIFYM).
There isn’t really a definition for clean eating as such. However I did find this (3) “Eating clean is simply the practice of avoiding processed and refined foods and basing your diet on whole foods.” Now this gives a great insight into what exactly we’re trying to achieve when eating ‘clean’.
A diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and many other unprocessed whole foods.
From my point of view this should be the basis of all dietary habits. However many could go to the extreme and abstain from such things as alcohol, wheat, sugar, dairy because these could be seen as ‘unclean’ and cause the slowing of fat loss or potentially speed up weight gain. This kind of thought process could lead to a non categorised eating disorder called orthorexia nervosa. An easy explanation of this is an unhealthy obsession with healthy food. An extreme or excessive preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy.
Looking into some of the bold claims made by extreme clean eating enthusiasts:
“Whole grains are bad for you.” This is completely incorrect as whole grains have been associated with the protection against various cancers, reducing cardio vascular disease risk and increases in insulin sensitivity (4-6).
“Processed food is bad for you.” This is quite a broad statement but lets focus on ‘junk food’. No difference in hormonal response to junk food meal and an equal clean meal, processed foods can in fact help you lose weight and artificial sweeteners like aspartame are known to be safe (7-9).
“Everyone is lactose intolerant so everyone should avoid milk.” Lactose is found in cows milk. With only 5% of Britain’s (10) suffering from such a condition it’s probably more beneficial to include dairy as part of your diet (11-13).
Flexible Dieting (IIFYM)
Again there isn’t really a definition but I did find this (14) “In the context of dieting, being flexible means allowing yourself to enjoy your favorite foods and treats in moderation without the accompanying feelings of remorse or guilt.” What’s interesting here is the use of the term moderation. Just like clean eating an emphasis on whole foods with the inclusion of all macronutrient groups is important to promote better health and long-term weight management.
Some flexible dieters, just like some clean eaters may take things to the extreme and only consume processed foods. This is as bad as above with regard to an unhealthy obsession with healthy food and I certainly don’t condone this behavior.
Both Westenhoefer et al (1994) and Smith et al (1999) (15-16) explored the relationships of dieting behaviors with overeating, body mass and mood. Their findings draw interesting conclusions with regard to rigid and flexible dieting strategies. Westenhoefer et al, “Rigid control of eating behavior may contribute to a higher susceptibility to eating problems which flexible control may be less vulnerable way of weight control.” Smith et al, “This is the second study (including Westenhoefer, 1991) which has found a relationship between flexible (or non rigid) dieting practices and the relative absence of over eating.” In a more recent study Stewart et al (2002) (17) found that “rigid dieting strategies, but not flexible dieting strategies, are associated with eating disorder symptoms and higher BMI in non-obese women.”
Now this gives us a good indication of restricted dieting strategies like exclusively eating clean foods and its ramifications on long-term weight management.
From the data above we see that classifying foods as good and bad can be a dangerous game that can potentially lead to eating disorders and yo-yo dieting with no real evidence to suggest there should be any such food classifications. It appears to me that there is no real debate and many are simply arguing over the semantics of what’s ‘optimal’. Ultimately both outline the importance of consuming a varied whole food diet.
If fat loss is your goal then just be sure to consider moderation in both cases.
(6) Phentermine Cod
(12) Phentermine 375