Flexible Dieting: How You Can Eat Ice Cream and Still Get That 6 Pack!

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Throughout our culture, we are taught that certain foods are “good” and certain foods are “bad.” It’s evident everywhere you look.

Everyone has their own conceptions of what is considered healthy from low carb, vegan, paleo, keto, vegetarian, and many more. Do you notice that there is a million different definitions of healthy? (I’ll touch on this in a later post).

For the sake of this post, lets consider “healthy” as high quality, minimally processed, micronutrient dense foods. Is that ok with you?

Most people think that in order for them to reach their fitness or body composition goals, they have to cut out all the “unhealthy food” from their diets and eat extremely strict/boring diet. Studies have shown that those who have a rigid/strict diet actually put them at a higher risk to binge on the food they were trying to eliminate.

I am a firm believer that if you fail to plan then you plan to fail. But having the “perfect” diet is not synonymous with having a “successful” diet either.

Plus if you eat a super strict/boring diet, then you pretty much alienate yourself from society as well and who wants that? You will find yourself saying, “sorry guys I can’t go out to eat and watch the Final Four because I can’t mess up my diet or go off my meal plan.”

What if I were to tell you that you don’t have to be that person!?


First, you need to ask yourself when starting a diet is, “Can I see myself doing this diet for the rest of my life?” If not, then it is the absolute wrong diet for you! You will eventually fall into one of these three categories:

  1. You’ll get tired of the rules and quit your plan before reaching your goals.
  2. You will reach your goal and then get tired of the rules and quit.
  3. You will reach your goal and maintain our progress, but you’ll be so miserable that being lean isn’t worth it anymore. Then you quit and/or go crazy.

Now we need to ask ourselves these simple questions:

  1. Do you want to lose fat and stay lean with minimal effort?
  2. Are you tired of losing 10 lbs and then regaining it all back after your diet stops working?
  3. Are you tired of giving up your favorite foods in order to lose weight?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, Flexible Dieting is for you!


Just over 3 years ago, I decided to give Flexible Dieting a try. I’ll be candid and tell you that deciding to start flexible dieting is in the top 3 of the best decisions I’ve ever made! (It’s up there with my religious denomination and starting my business, if that gives you any perspective.)

My relationship with food is amazing now! Food is no longer the enemy! I do not eliminate any foods from my diet. If I am craving ice cream, I most definitely will be having ice cream!

I started Flexible Dieting Lifestyle because I work with people on an everyday basis who struggle with their relationships with food. I was once one of them. They are constantly stressing themselves out with eating “clean” 24/7 and if they eat a type of food that is considered “bad”, then they beat themselves up about it. This type of relationship with food has led to so many people to developing eating disorders.

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What are the foods that you eliminate from your diet when you try to lose weight?
  • Does this lead you to binge on those foods?

We all have a list of 3-5 of our favorites foods that are eliminated right away! That sucks! And what is the worst is that it creates this “win/loss” mindset with our nutrition. We are winning when we do not have those foods. And we have lost when we do. Or we call that “cheating”. And what’s the worst is that when we do “cheat”, we have this “get it out of your system” mindset that leads up to a glorified binge…. Trust me, I was that person for so long. You are not along if you’ve struggled with this.

So to say Flexible Dieting has changed my life would be an understatement! I am now in control. It has provided me with Nutritional Freedom! And I want to help you learn everything you need to know in order to achieve Nutritional Freedom too!

So lets get into what flexible dieting is, how it works, and how you can integrate it into your life so you can get that 6 pack you’ve always wanted or even get back into those high school jeans of yours!

Perrin’s 3 Month Transformation

“Flexible Dieting allowed me to stop worrying about food. I no longer saw food as “good” or “bad” but instead I saw it as fuel for my workouts. This mindset change allowed me to have a much better relationship with food and in return I was able to eat ice cream and transform my body while doing zero cardio!”


Flexible Dieting, is most simply the tracking of your macronutrient intake to achieve a health and body composition goal. Your macronutrients are your proteins, carbs and fats. These macronutrients are the nutrients you need in large amount and are what give you your calories.

1 gram of protein = 4 calories

​1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories

​1 gram of fat = 9 calories

​Most people are familiar with counting calories, but Flexible Dieting focuses on tracking your macronutrients.

So you and I are more focused on hitting 175g Protein, 140g Carbs and 60g Fat, which equals 1800 calories rather than just 1800 calories.

  • ​Protein: 175 x 4= 700 calories
  • Carbs: 140 x 4 = 560 calories
  • Fats: 60 x 9 = 540 calories

When all these 3 are added up, you get a total of 1800 calories. Why does this matter for you to get the specific amounts of macronutrients in order to reach 1800 calories!? I’ll touch on that next.


​Well calories in vs calories out is what determines weight loss or weight gain but macronutrient ratios are what influence our body composition/optimal health rather than just weight loss or gain.

  • ​Sufficient Protein intake is necessary to build/preserve muscle mass and organ tissue.
  • Sufficient Carb intake is necessary to provide your muscles with enough energy (glycogen) so you can hit your workouts with high intensity. They also play a huge role in the health of your Thyroid (engine for your metabolism).
  • Sufficient Fat intake is necessary for production of vital hormones (hormone synthesis) that set the tone for all of the functions in our bodies.

Who Would You Rather Be?

So the question arises, would you rather be a lean 165 or a skinny fat 165? This is why counting macros is far superior to counting calories because it allows you to focus on improving body composition, not just focusing on the scale. I’ve had clients who’s weight stayed the same or went up when we switched around their macronutrient profile even though their goal was weight loss.

Alex’s 2 Month Transformation

Just look at Alex, pictured above, who was skinny fat in his before picture. In 2 months time, he dropped 7% body fat and gained 17 lbs! Not only that but he was able to eat twice as many calories due to his increases in muscle mass! That’s pretty damn awesome! Getting leaner and building crazy amount of muscle. I think we all want that and it is living proof that macronutrient ratio is more important than just counting calories!

Ohh and don’t forget about his girlfriend (Perrin, testimonial above) that did the same thing! Flexible dieting turned them into a power couple!

Pop Tarts vs Sweet Potatoes

Ok…. Now to get to the part where it is going to sound like voodoo or magic, or whatever you want to call it. What you eat to hit your macronutrient targets is secondary in importance when we are talking about strictly body composition. So what does this exactly mean?

  • ​Ex. Your friend eats a pop tart for his snack and you eat a sweet potato.
    • Both are carb heavy choices
      One is considered “good” and one is considered “bad”
    • As we stated above, carbs in the pop tart and carbs from the sweet potato both turn into energy (glycogen).
    • So since our bodies do not necessarily distinguish between sources in regards to glycogen production, both will have the same affect in our bodies.

Ok so you must be thinking that I am advocating that you can only eat McDonalds, Poptarts, Ice Cream, Pizza, and any other food you once thought were off limits and still get shredded/toned/whatever you want to call it!? Well yes…….. and no


​Just as why I advocate the flexible dieting strategy to anyone and every one because it is the diet you can use for the rest of your life, I also advocate that our diet should be a tool to ensure that we live a long and healthy life!

  1. A​cute symptoms and affects are what you will see in the short term
  2. Insidious symptoms and affects are the small changes that you will see in the long run.
  3. Most people think in the short term and do not think of the long term repercussions of their decisions. The same can be said with our diets.
    • Ex. So lets say that our diet is consists of low quality protein sources like McDonalds, micronutrient sparse pop tarts, and a large amount of our dietary fat coming from the trans fat that tags along with our McDonalds.

Let’s go back to our example above.

Sweet Potato vs. Pop Tart

At the macro level, these are the same but at the micronutrient level, they are not.

I want you to think of your micronutrients as little buckets of life giving nutrients that you need to fill up on a daily basis.

Sweet Potatoes offer you tons of micronutrients.

Pop Tarts do not….

Sweet Potatoes also give you a lot of dietary fiber, which you will learn how important it is later in this post.

So if we take the route of taking in low quality sources of food to reach our body composition goals, we are putting our overall healthy at risk. We might not see any short term, acute problems to our health, but in the long run, the insidious damage that will occur will lead to us increasing our risk for developing cancer later on in life. Just think, somebody doesn’t just wake up at 50 and get cancer. It is something that is a result of a lifetime of experiences that the body has been through. So take my advice in the next section because ain’t nobody got time for cancer!


THE 80-20 RULE
  • 80% of your daily calories come from healthy (high quality, minimally processed, micronutrients dense) foods that you enjoy.
  • 20% of you daily calories come from those foods that are at the opposite end of the spectrum that you once thought were off limits.
    • 3 meals per day for 7 days = 21 meals
      .2 x 21 = 4.2 (so lets just say 4)
    • Number of meals per week to incorporate my favorite foods: 4 meals per week
  • The Best Diet is the one you can stick to.
    • By not putting any foods off limits then you substantially reduce the risk of binging, developing an eating disorder, excessive concern with body size/shape, and an increased risk of rebound weight gain after dieting.
    • By all means am I not advocating that you can’t eat 100% “clean”! If you thoroughly enjoy eating 100% healthy, minimally processed, nutrient dense foods, then go for it!

But there is one key understanding I need you to have. Remember our buckets of micronutrients I mentioned above? Those buckets can be filled with with 80/20 strategy. Overflowing those buckets do not give you any added benefits. So if hitting 80/20 or even 90/10 or even 99/1 makes you feel less stress than 100%, then please do that! The chronic stress of trying to eat 100% clean is really what is taking years off our lives!


  • ​A diet that allows ALL Foods and is more focused on the hitting of our overall nutritional needs.
  • A diet that allows ALL meats, fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, nuts and legumes (beans) without demonizing any whole food source.
  • A diet that is not a diet. It is simply nothing more than an understanding that all foods can be had to achieve sufficient nutritional intake for health and body composition. Life balance is the key to long term dietary success.
  • Is a form of eating that allows you to enjoy foods without guilt of self punishment.


  1. ​Eat smart and flexible, not stupid and restricted.
  2. Food is not meant to stress you out! It’s a tool that helps us live the life we desire!
  3. If you are currently doing a diet you do not see yourself doing for the rest of your life, STOP immediately.
  4. Eliminating foods you love from your diet sets you up for failure and science shows that.
  5. Calories in vs calories out = weight gain or weight loss
  6. Macronutrient Ratios = Body Composition/Health
  7. The 80-20 Rule = 80% from “healthy” foods, 20% from foods you once thought were off limits


    • You will need to order a digital food scale. This is the one I have.
    • Also, Download the MyFitnessPal app on your phone and start playing around with it.
      Here’s a great tutorial video I created taking you step by step on how to use it.
    • Start tracking your intake if you can because in the next post I’ll be outlining how to figure out your macros and you’ll need to of tracked 3 days of your normal intake as the first step.
      • Important! Please do not change your eating or use the macros MyFitnessPal has given you. This will ruin why we are doing the 3-days of tracking. This 3-days of tracking is to see where your metabolism is at right NOW. Don’t change a thing of how you normally eat.

If you do all this before the next post, you’ll be ready to go then!

Click here to read the next post where I will give you a step by step guide on how to calculate your own personal macro ratios based on your goals, activity, and body type in order to create the best diet for YOUR LIFESTYLE!


I would love to read in the comments what that one food is that would make a diet impossible to stick to if you were told that this food was off limits. Mine is rice cakes (yes I know that is lame). Feel free to make fun of me below and don’t forget to share yours as well!

If you enjoyed this post and want that step by step guide sent directly to your email, subscribe so I can send you that and much more info to turn you into a master flexible dieter!

And being the nice person I am 🙂 Here’s the next post I promised again so you can just keep those gainz a comin!​

Thanks and God Bless!


P.S. Friend me on Facebook or follow on Instagram to see all the other awesome stuff I post (well awesome to me..) that doesn’t make it to the blog!

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Comments 45

  1. Finally a break down of what everyone is talking about! “Macro counting”! Can’t wait to read the next post and figure out what my macros should be! Super insightful! Keep it up Zach 🙂

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      Thanks so much Francine! I’m really glad you enjoyed it and cannot wait to teach you everything I know 🙂

  2. Hey Zach,
    I’ve been promoting this type of lifestyle and following it myself for the past year, I just never put a name to it. I have 5 clients on it right now, and they love it. My last case study was on teaching macronutrients. Great read. Thanks for sharing.

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      That’s amazing and I’m sure your clients love you. The lifestyle component is so often overlooked and it is awesome to see that you are changing lives using these principles. Thanks again for the awesome comment and keep up the great work!

      Thanks and God Bless,


  3. Thank you! This is a great intro to flexible dieting. I’m going to share this with everyone when I’m trying to explain iifym now

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      You are very welcome! I’m super happy that you enjoyed it. And I am honored you using this as a reference for teaching the art of flexible dieting 🙂

      Thanks and God Bless,


  4. Thanks for the info. Just so you know, the links at the end to the next post are broken. (And I can’t find the next post on the blog anywhere.)

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      Thanks so much for letting me know that! It is all fixed now. Were you able to find the 2nd post on the site?

      Thanks and God Bless,


  5. While tracking the calories I eat on the myfitness app it will also track the calories burned from the activities I do. How will I get an accurate calorie count?
    Also is there anything special I would need to do to keep the meals on a low sodium diet?

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      The calorie count part of myfitnesspal is very tricky and misleading so I honestly would not worry about that. Just focus on figuring out what your average intake is so you can figure out your budget of calories. Trying to estimate your calories burned just makes it more complicated than it needs to be. In regards to sodium, you can use no sodium seasoning or avoid anything that is processed because they have to pack them with sodium to keep them from going bad. Lastly, you could also start cooking with vegetables that give off a lot of flavor like peppers and onions which don’t need much seasoning. Hope this all helped!

      Thanks and God Bless,


  6. hello; followed you here from a group on Facebook we both belong to. thought I should check your first post out. i want to commend you for encouraging people to approach a diet as something they can and will stick to for the rest of their life. I had gastric surgery, and that was one of the things they drilled into us before the final decision was made. and many of the lessons they taught us sound like they came from this flexible approach. and it is all about choices. to keep me from feeling deprived my brother came up with the idea of buying a package of frozen cookie dough and splitting one small batch of cookies. this way we don’t have a whole bag in the house and when you split the cookies four ways no one gets more than a few cookies. put them with a good cup of coffee and life is good. I’ve also gotten used to sherbet instead of ice cream. but sometimes we still buy like a pint of it for a change. good luck to you with the blog and good luck to your readers with their long term good health. thanks for sharing max

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      I first just want to say thanks so much for this amazing comment and I really appreciate you taking the time to read my post. You are spot on with your grasping of the flexible dieting lifestyle philosophy. Our diets should support us in living the lifestyle we desire, not hold us back. My goal with this site is to help people to live the life they want while using nutrition as a tool to get there! This comment made my day so thank you Max! Hope all is well and don’t hesitate if you ever have any questions.

      Thanks and God Bless,


  7. I understand the macros. And understand how many I need (I believe). But for some reason I go way over on one and right on or little under and little over on other. Or I just gain weight.
    I guess I need guidance 🙁
    Great read though.

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      Which macronutrient do you usually go over with and what are you current macros? Let me see what I can do to help you with this problem 🙂

      Thanks and God Bless,


      1. I normal go over carbs and then under on fat and protein. Then I go over even more to hit my fat and protein. I’m trying to figure out my meal planning and I thought I was doing a good job, but he more I learn the more I realize how off I really am.

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          Don’t stress too much over that! What you can do is practice trying to come as close as you can possible and you will get better over time. One thing though, if you go over on your carbs you can go under on your fats by the same amount of calories to offset it. For example, if you go over your carbs by 20 grams, you can just go under on your fats by 10 grams to make sure your calories are in line. Your weight gain is probably from you going over on your carbs and still hitting your protein and fat goals. This put you over your normal calorie goals which would cause weight gain if you were in a surplus from it. Also, if you start to plug in at least 2/3 of your meals/calories for your meals the next day before you go to bed at night, it will make it so much easier for you to hit you macros. You can do this until you get really good at hitting them consistently. Hope this helped! You are going to do great!

          Thanks and God Bless,


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  8. My off-limits food would be ICE CREAM.

    Honestly I’ve tried many diets to a good degree of success but can’t seem to drop any more weight without something super strict – which I don’t maintain past a few months, except one short period I was working as a consultant and could cook every meal at home. Very excited to see how this goes!

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      Ice cream is up there for me too! The strict diets are not the way to go my friend and I think you know that by now! Are you going to give flexible dieting a try!? The best part about flexible dieting is that you can customize and mold it to your current lifestyle. So if you do not have time to cook all your meals at home, you can have the flexibility to be creative in ways you can still hit your macro goals. Super excited for you and do not hesitate if you ever have any questions!

      Ohh and p.s. Make sure you read the following two post after this first one because they will definitely make the learning curve a lot easier!

      Thanks and God Bless,


  9. Zack Buddy, you continue to impress/motivate me. Not only your knowledge, but your true help and share. Love the 80/20 – I can do that! Along with sneaking a training tip when I watch you doing the most impressive personalized training I’ve witnessed, I’m on my way to getting back in those Dress Blues 🙂

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  10. Hey just a question…so should everyone follow the ​Protein: 175 x 4= 700 calories, Carbs: 140 x 4 = 560 calories, Fats: 60 x 9 = 540 calories or do you adjust it for your personal goals? And do you adjust it based on your daily workouts and the energy expenditure there? Thanks for the information it seems like something thats actually doable!

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      Hi Erika!

      Nope that was just an example to help you understand that if you track your macros, you are also tracking your calories as well. The best part about macros is that you are creating perfect macros for YOU and not following some one-size-fits-all approach. And nope you just use the calculation I give you in this post: http://www.flexibledietinglifestyle.com/the-ultimate-how-to-for-flexible-dieting-mastery/

      All those factors will be included in that calculation!

      Thanks so much for the support and keep me updated with how things are going for ya!

      Thanks and God Bless,


  11. God bless you for all of your knowledge and willingness to share it! I have been following this idea for a month now, but like Kara, I am off on one macro and trying to “chase my food” wears me out! I look forward to honing this skill finally after seeing so many “grammers” posting their pop tarts, pizza and donuts in a selfie filled with abs and quads to die for- and wondering what I can do to fine tune my macros so I can do that too! Thanks, Zach!

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      Hi Jennifer!

      Practice makes perfect! It honestly it a skill to be developed and once you have done it long enough, you build a data base and understanding how to fit whatever you are craving into your macros. Just keep at it, train hard, live an active lifestyle and hit those macros!

      Thanks and God Bless,


  12. I’ve been counting macros now for several weeks because it’s what my trainer has me doing. It’s nice to have another approach to eating, because I end up blowing it after 5 weeks and gaining weight back. Looking forward to reading more!

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      Hi Angela!

      Sounds like you have a good trainer! Hope it is all going really well for ya!

      Thanks and God Bless,


  13. Hey Zach,
    This post has been my motivation to spend my immobile time gaining a healthy relationship with food. My one food that would make any diet off limits is eggs. Ain’t nothing more perfect than our versatile little friend the egg.


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      Hi Cass!

      That is such an amazing attitude towards this perceived setback and turning it into an opportunity to really improve that relationship with food. Such an amazing mindset. And yes those beautiful little eggs are my true love especially that runny yolk 🙂 I wish you nothing but the best in your journey!

      Thanks and God Bless,


  14. Dear Zach,

    Happy to find your diet lifestyle and looking forward to apply it to my daily life. I started crossfit in March but my weight is not going down. Maybe your flexible lifestyle would be the key to see my progress. Thank you again for sharing all your knowledge and helping other people. Keep it up and God bless you always.

  15. Zach,
    What an amazing website and outstanding blog post!
    I’ve lost 85lbs through diet and exercise since having a baby and I’ve completely stalled out the last few months. I will admit it’s partially bad habits creeping in, which is why I think flexible dieting will help get me back on track and continuing pushing me towards my goals. Thanks for sharing your experience and helping others to live a healthier life!
    Currently, my “couldn’t live without food” is McDonald’s cones. Before losing weight I hardly ever craved sweets. Now, I make a quick drive-thru run 1-2 times per month. Thankfully, just for the cone. 🙂

  16. Hey Zach. Thanks so much for sharing the information that you have gained over the years with us. I am excited to start viewing my eating through a different lense. I did want to point out something that stood out to me like a sore thumb and that is your use of affect when it should be effect. For example looking at bullets one and two under acute vs. insidious damage, those affects should be effects (I know there’s another one I saw, but can’t easily spot it). Affect is used as a verb and the way I remember it that a verb is an action and starts with a, just as affect. Effect is a noun and I like to remember the examples of a side effect or when thinking of cause and effect. I hope you don’t mind me pointing this out. I know we’re all in the business of self improvement and we all have different things to share with one another. I look forward to learning more from you!

  17. Hi!
    I would have a really hard time cutting out cheese. I have loved cheese since I was a kid and if I could never have cheese again, I would fail. I just had a baby and am just starting to learn how to count macros. I think I will get better in time, but right now I just end up in pickles with say only 5 carbs left and 30 grams of protein or 1 gram of fat left with 30 carbs, so I am just trying to learn how to better stay on top of my macros. I also am breastfeeding, so sometimes, I feel like I am starving… So I need to better space out my food to accommodate these hungry times of day.
    Looking forward to reading more of your knowledge! Thank you!!

  18. Great read. I related to this post 100%. You described my life when it comes to dieting. Back and forth with cutting my favorite foods out of my life then giving up and binging. I would lose 10-20 lbs then gain it all back. Excited to get started with your recipes and sticking to it. Thanks!

  19. Hi Zach,

    This is great stuff! Thank you for taking the time to write this to share with the world. My plan is to go from (all my life) skinny to a beast with muscles! I appreciate all of your tips and tricks!

    Thank you!


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      I hope the plan is going well and you have picked up on some tips! We just rolled out with a Macro Magician Club that will continuously have no recipes & tips!

  20. I have a HUGE soft spot for cheese and any kind of bread!! The diets that have been hard for me in the past was anything that cut those out. 🙁

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  21. Great post! Flexible dieting has saved my life. I try so hard to explain this to my friends, but they just scoff at me. I’ve managed to lose 30 lbs in the last few years and I eat a cupcake nearly everyday. This seems to confuse them. 😉 If I could not have pizza, I would end up in prison. #notkidding

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