By: Jeremy Partl, RD
When it comes to your nutrition plan, there is a relationship between accuracy, consistency, and flexibility that ebbs, flows, and transforms over the course of time.
Accuracy and Consistency
We want to be as accurate as we need to be in order to reach our goals. The more accurate you are, perhaps the more consistent you will be in hitting your targets and doing the right things on a daily basis. consistent enough that we can get to our goals.
The less accurate you are, the more flexible you might be. But if you are too inaccurate, and way too flexible to the point where you’re not consistent, you won’t get to your goals.
Different goals are going to require different levels of accuracy, but they all require consistency, which means adapting your flexibility to your goal.
Determining the appropriate amount of flexibility for your situation is very important.
For example, a bodybuilder who is in the final stages of prep trying to get striations in their quads is going to need more accuracy than someone who has an undetermined time limit to lose 100 lbs.
Likewise, a football player in the offseason trying to put on muscle mass is going to have different accuracy requirement from a powerlifter trying to get to a lower weight class, or even just the weekend warrior just trying to shape up for the summer.
If you become overly focused and accurate, you’re going to lose some of your flexibility, you’re going to lose your sanity, and inevitably you’re going to make the diet very difficult to follow.
We only have so many things that we can focus on at a time, and our willpower and ability to juggle and handle multiple stresses are not infinite.
Weighing every gram of on multiple occasions every single day, playing calculus on MyFitnessPal, and doing the exact amount of reps you planned in the might give you high levels of accuracy and consistency, but is far from a sustainable plan.
Depending on how rigid you are in your pursuit of accuracy you could actually become more stressed, which could to negative implications on long- term consistency.
What will stress you out even more than the process of trying to be overly detailed and accurate is what happens once you run out of energy to do this, and you can’t do it consistently anymore. Then, you start to bounce back between the extremes of losing control completely and over eating, and rigidly tracking until you lose it again.
In research, being very rigid with dieting is highly associated with folks who can lose weight, but flexible dietary restraint is associated with those who lose weight, keep it off , and stay sane while doing so [Stewart et al., 2002].
In the end, adherence to any nutrition protocol will result in the best results, more so than any plan that is “optimal”.
As you can see, this is a balancing act that must always be appreciated at any stage in your life. It’s important that your dietary approach meshes with your lifestyle and goals.
Living in the two extremes is something to avoid, and to do so we really want to make sure that we have a balance of these three factors.
If you are interested in getting a sustainable nutrition plan delivered to you that is designed specifically with your lifestyle and goals in mind, check out our services page and send us an inquiry about nutrition (and training) coaching.
Stewart, T.M., D.A. Williamson, and M.A. White, Rigid vs. flexible dieting: association with eating disorder symptoms in nonobese women. Appetite, 2002. 38(1): p. 39-44.