Forget the low-carb, super high-protein approach to abs because flexible dieting could be your new tonic to shed body fat.

The nuts and bolts of just about every healthy diet are easy to summarize: eat more natural proteins and veggies while avoiding too many calories and overly-processed foods. This might be common-sense approved, but a few lifestyle hacks can give your diet even greater staying power. You could need it since a meager 20% of dieters were found to stick to their weight loss routine in the long term, found research at the Loyola University Health System.

Is this any real surprise when we know that so many popular and commercial diets are insanely restrictive? How does living on low to zero carbs for the rest of your life sound? Or how about drinking 50 calorie soup for each meal and eliminating your favourite foods? It’s impressive that people last a week, let alone months on these unhealthy, unsustainable fad diets.

Flexible dieting addresses adherence and gives you the power of choosing your own foods as long as you hit calorie, protein and fibre targets. Here are some tips to making it work for you :


Embrace midnight munchies

After a long day at the grind, a bowl of rice or pastas comfort carbs are probably a hot item on your post-work reward list. If you crave this then let your guard down and give in because limiting carbs to dinner time actually increases satiety and reduces your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, found research in the journal Obesity. They found that this strategy means you’ll secrete more hunger-suppressing hormones. Just remember the fine print: they didn’t eat carbs throughout the day and saved them for the night. Bonus tip : a bowl of oats right before bed contains melatonin which will send you nicely off to lala land if you’re an insomniac.

chicken broccoli and rice in a pan


Keep at it with flexible dieting

The practice of yo-yo dieting has been pegged as unsafe and also proven to put more and more weight back on your body, the more you do it. But, fluctuating body fat is nothing new. Think back to the cavemen days when a herd of buffalo meandered near a village triggering a month-long feast which may have been followed by a lean winter.

The same holds true, even if today’s herd is made of burgers. In fact, research in the journal Metabolism found as much as 40 % of people yo-yo diet and it doesn’t thwart later weight loss efforts or mean that your metabolism is permanently altered, long term. So if your weight has had more ups and downs than a violinist’s elbow then keep at it.


Eat whenever you can

Eating six small meals a day to lose weight has been prescribed like it’s going out of fashion…and that’s exactly what it is doing. Research in the British Medical Journal found that, with the exception of one study, there is no evidence to suggest that eating several small meals throughout the day helps you lose weight or “stokes your metabolism” as the guru’s would have you believe.

They go on to state that if you eat more calories than you use you’ll gain weight regardless of whether you eat two meals or ten each day. So simply brush up on your arithmetic skills and be sure you’re creating an energy deficit needed to get lean. An app like MyFitnessPal can help you to track your intake.


burger chips coleslaw lettuce and tomato sauce on a plate


Spend your money in the right places

The big-name supermarkets might be pulling a fast one on your health with their discounting shenanigans. Research in Nutrition & Dietetics found stores are less likely to reduce the price of healthy drinks and products in favor of the discounting of products high in fat, sugar and calories. This can make it tough to walk past the stupidly cheap six-pack of soda.

The solution? Do most of your shopping at local markets, fruit and vegetable shops, butchers and fishmongers rather than at one supermarket where you risk succumbing to the lure of discounted junk foods. Going to more shops might mean more effort and time, but a hectic shopping trip will always be much less strenuous than making it up with interval training.


Don’t just heed experts

Consider all feedback vital. Getting advice from friends and non-professional fitness folk is just as effective at helping dieters lose weight because they tend to be as good as trained experts (whom can be just as bad, if not worse) at correctly rating the healthiness of foods and giving feedback on them, found research in the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association.

Take that finding with a pinch of salt, though, and always be sure you know where your friends get their information from. Your circle of support will be useful in keeping you accountable at the very least so be sure to check in with friends. Use fitness apps and social media to your advantage if you’re in doubt about what foods are healthy and how much of it you can eat. It’s cheaper than a trainer, especially one that provides poor information.

With these scientifically proven tips incorporated into your lifestyle, you should be able to go forth and sustain an enjoyable flexible diet while remaining lean.