In the 4th grade I became a vegetarian, 11 years ago if I did my math right. It was a slow process, I basically stopped eating school meat because it was disgusting and we always ate vegetarian at home. So overtime my consumption of meat to decrease. My dad was a vegetarian and he did all the cooking, so there was almost never meat in our house. It made it a lot easier to become a vegetarian because I pretty much already was.
Growing up I ate a pretty normal kid diet. Lots of sugary snacks, yogurt and pasta. I was a super picky eater and refused to try any new foods. Throughout high school I pretty much ate the same few foods I knew I liked, refusing to try anything new. It wasn’t really until college that I started to get out of my comfort zone and try new foods. I credit a lot of that to starting to track my macros and finding the IIFYM lifestyle.
A little Background info
For those of you who don’t know what IIFYM, If It Fits Your Macros, is. IIFYM is a way of tracking what you eat by the amount of macronutrients in food. Every food is made of three macronutrients (macros), Fats, Carbohydrates and Proteins. Fats have 9 calories/gram, Carbs and Protein have 4 calories/gram. This is how you determine how many calories are in each food. IIFYM breaks down how much you should be eating a day by macros. An example would be, you eat 100 grams of proteins, 150 grams of carbs and 50 grams of fat, which are random macros I made up so please don’t actually do that. Essentially the person tries to eat foods that will get them as close to that macro goal as possible.
Flexible Dieting is often another term for IIFYM. It has gained traction over the past few years because it has allowed people who are bodybuilders, athletes, or your average joe, to eat the foods they want, while also achieving their goals. If you were just given a plan that said eat XYZ every day or eat 1500 calories a day, that doesn’t often work for everyone. Those who follow the “eat XYZ everyday” plan, may start to feel restricted, like if they go off their plan then their whole progress will be ruined. Those who follow the only eat “1500 calories/day plan” may be eating those 1500 in all chocolate. They are not getting the correct ratios of macros that they really need.
IIFYM came about as a way to allow people to eat what they want, have the freedom to fit in a chocolate bar here and there, but still reaching for their goals.
I was able to get a sense of how unproportioned my diet really was
When I started tracking macros, I started to see just how unproportioned my diet really was. I was eating mostly carbs and fats, now although they are not bad, I was eating the incorrect ratios of each. I found that my protein was severely lacking in my diet. Going back and looking through MyFitnessPal from 2014 I was eating around 75g of protein a day. As someone who is 6 feet tall and very active, that was nowhere near enough. Ideally I should be eating closer to 150g of protein a day.
Getting protein as a vegetarian can be hard, getting protein as a picky eater is even worse. I was mostly eating carbs and fats because those were the foods I liked, pasta, bread, cheese and other dairy. When I started tracking my food and saw that I was eating very little protein, I knew I had to make a change. As a Division 2 college athlete I needed to be eating more protein in order to get stronger and better at my sport. IIFYM showed me how to better balance out my carbs, proteins and fats. It really opened my eyes and showed me how much better my diet could be. It helped me see that my body really does need protein and that it is vital for success for the goals I was aiming to achieve.
IIFYM almost forced me to try new foods
Once I realized I needed to be eating more protein, I decided I needed to expand my food options. The foods that I had been eating were not going to cut it any more. I did research to find high protein, vegetarian foods and recipes. In order to start eating more protein, to hit my necessary protein intake for the day, I had to start eating foods that contained more protein and were just overall more healthy. I found that vegetables besides carrots can be delicious and that tofu is not something to be afraid to try. There are foods out there besides chicken or egg whites that can provide you the necessary protein, you just can’t be afraid to try new things like I was. IIFYM helped me break out of this comfort zone and expand my very tiny palette.
In college my last 2 years, every month I challenged myself to try out a new recipe. This did wonders for me. I started eating different vegetables, tried out tofu and have loved it ever sense, and have found higher protein alternatives to foods I already enjoyed. Black bean pasta swapped for regular pasta = game changer. There are a ton of recipes out there catered towards vegetarians looking to eat protein, I have a bunch saved on my Pinterest if you need some inspiration.
IIFYM has set me up to make better choices for the rest of my life
Before IIFYM I had no idea about portion controls, macros or eating a well-rounded diet. Sine tracking I have gained so much knowledge on all of these subjects. When I go out to eat I am better able to find foods that have better macro rations, meaning finding foods that aren’t straight carbs like I normally go for. IIFYM has compelled me to try new foods but because of that I have found new favorites like Squash, Tofu and even Brussel Sprouts.
I used to think that eating an entire box of mac and cheese could count as dinner. Now I realized that maybe I should be eating only 1 of those 2.5 servings in a box plus some veggies and a protein source like tofu. Which is actually really good in case you were wondering. Or I could just skip the mac and cheese altogether, but life’s short so #yolo sometimes 😉
IIFYM helped me to make these life style changes that not only helped me succeed in my college athletics, it helped set me up for a better life.
I do not plan to continue to track my macros for the rest of my life. But I do believe that I have learned the skills necessary to continue to make healthier choices and to be a better vegetarian. I honestly believe that if I had not found IIFYM, my quality of life would be less. Good foods and smart choices have helped me become my best self and I never want to go back to my crappy choices of high sugary, low protein garbage I used to be eating.
Linking up for TOLT!