Flexible Dieting

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you read the word “DIET”

Skipping meals? Eating clean?

It is a common misconception that diet is best done by skipping meals or eating meals that look like a herbivore’s lunch. “Diet” food often consists of greens, fruits, a couple of eggs and maybe some plain tasting meat to go along with it.

The idea isn’t bad, but it’s inaccurate to think the only reason behind your added kilos is your food of choice. Fact is, how much you eat has a bigger impact on your weight than what you eat. Elephants are the living proof of that. It’s all about the calories. No matter how healthy your greens are, if you are eating your portion like a rhino, you are going to look one too.

The best way to track your weight could be by cooking according to nutritional values, but not all of us have the time for it… especially not while living in here! Food is an important and integral part of our lives and we have lots of psychological connections to it. Too many restraints can cause temper tantrums, mood swings and emotional discomfort. A strict diet regime could easily result in binge eating when the person finally gives into temptations, thus, flushing all the effort down the drain.

So what can be the best possible solution?


Flexible dieting (also known as ‘if it fits your macros’) is a nutritional concept that allows you to eat what you wish to eat and still maintain your body composure.


Before we get to the details on how flexible dieting works, let’s get some facts right:

  • Flexible dieting isn’t exactly dieting
  • You are still required to keep track of your caloric intake
  • Flexible dieting isn’t healthy eating

The idea of flexible dieting is to keep track of your calories through your macros. By macros we mean- Carbohydrates, Protein and Fats.

How does it work?

For example, a grilled chicken burger and brown rice with tuna may both contain the same amount of macros (let’s say 24g of protein, 30g of carb and 15g of fats). If you are going for a healthy diet, you may go for the latter, but if you want to enjoy your food and not look like a party pooper among your buds, go ahead and chow down that burger. Your body doesn’t break your food down wondering if it’s healthy or unhealthy. It simply breaks it down to its nutritional components, mainly the macros.

If you are the type who finds difficulty in preparing or following a clean diet, counting macros is definitely an easier solution.

What it basically is:

Calories consumed = Calories burned

          (What you eat should be able to be burned by what you do)

The rules are simple:

  • How much you eat is more important than what you eat
  • Your food intake is tailored to your body goals and lifestyle
  • It’s okay to cheat a few meals
  • It’s a long term achievement, so SUSTAINABILITY is the key!

The good thing about this is

  • You will not be deprived of the food you like
  • You don’t have to follow a strict eating schedule
  • Don’t have to worry about food preps
  • You avoid binging

The not so good thing about this is

  • It works for aesthetic but it may not be the healthiest eating habit
  • You still need to exercise self-control to not overconsume unhealthy snacks
  • It doesn’t work if you are consuming more energy than you are burning through the day

So this is what you need to do:

  • To maintain your body: Eat at 100% TDEE
  • To gain some mass: Eat at 120% TDEE
  • To lose that fat: Eat at 80% TDEE


TDEE stands for “Total Daily Energy Expenditure”. It is achieved by multiplying your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) with Activity Multiplier.


Step 1: Convert your weight in kilos (KG) to pounds (Ibs) by multiplying with 2.2

Example: 70kg x 2.2 = 154

Step 2: Multiply your weight in pounds (Ibs), 11 if you are a male or 10 if you are a female

Example: 154x 11

Your BMR is: 1 694 (example)

To know your Activity Multiplier:

  • Sedentary x1.15 (Little or no exercise – You’re the definition of a couch potato)
  • Moderately active person x1.25 (Exercise 1-3 times a week- You do move your limbs)
  • Active x1.35 (Exercise 3-5 times a week- You are a regular at the gym)
  • Athlete x1.5 (Daily rigorous exercise- You’re a beast)


BMR x Activity Multiplier = Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)

Example: 1 694 x 1.25 = 2 117.5

Now that you have obtained your TDEE, you have to count your caloric intake based on your goal. If you are looking to lose some weight, then multiply your TDEE with 80%. If you are looking to gain, then multiply with TDEE.

So at 70kg if you are

  • Losing weight : 2 117.5 x 80% = 1 694 calories to be consumed daily
  • Gaining weight : 2 117.5 x 120% = 2 541 calories to be consumed daily
  • Maintain weight : 2 117.5 x 100% = 2 117 calories to be consumed daily

Got it?

Now comes the challenging part -Counting your macros.

We’ll be honest to admit it is almost impossible to know exactly how much of calories your meal contains, especially if you are at the mamak or a Chinese coffee shop. An elaborate detail on this would be a lengthy article on its own. Good news is, you can put your smartphone to use. There are ample of apps on the phone that helps you by providing nutritional values of various food you consume. One of these and our favourite one is MyFitnessPal (https://www.myfitnesspal.com) or HealthifyMe. These apps provide nutritional information on most Malaysian dishes and you can even customise them according to your intake. This allows you to easily keep track of your macro intake.

Does that mean I can consume anything up to my caloric intake and be done with it?

Well, No. You can’t be chowing down on fats alone and expect to look like Hugh Jackman, can you? A healthier breakdown of your daily caloric intake should consist of 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fats.

Based on the 1 694 caloric intake just now that would be:

  • 677 kcal from Carbs
  • 508 kcal from Protein
  • 508 kcal from Protein

What are those number in grams?

You can divide the kcals according to this:

4 kcal of Carbs = 1g

4 kcal of Protein = 1g

9 kcal of Fats = 1g

With this in mind, you can eat pretty much anything as long as you consume within your daily macro intake. Be careful of consuming sugar. They are empty calories. Abide by your daily caloric intake first before meeting your macro needs. If you had a few cans of Cokes throughout the day, you may want to lower down your meal portions to ensure you don’t overdo your calories.


  • This only works if you keep track of your meal’s macros
  • You need to keep within your caloric needs
  • Even though you are eating flexibly, you should eat responsibly
  • Don’t overdo the sugar
Certified in Nutrition and General Fitness, Surin was a Tae Kwan Do instructor and a kickboxer before finding his footing in fitness writing. He also coaches on muscular fitness and assists in formulating specific training and meal plans for those looking to achieve physical wellness.

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