What is Flexible Eating?

by | May 7, 2024

What is flexible eating? 

Somewhere along the line, I started talking about flexible eating as if everybody knew what it was. It came to me as this huge aha moment a week ago when I was talking to somebody on Facebook Messenger. I’m going to call her Katie, not her real name. She and I were talking about the membership I have, the Society, which I’ve talked a lot about in the last couple episodes in the podcast. She asked, “what is it? What do I get?” So I started to tell her that it’s based on flexible eating and this is all the stuff that happens inside the membership. This is what you get. 

I was all excited and thinking, this is a no brainer. Who wouldn’t want flexible eating? Who wouldn’t want to lose weight in a flexible way? Katie came back and said, “Oh, well, flexible eating just doesn’t work for me.” I was like, What? I was really confused. So we talked a little bit longer and I realized that somewhere along the line I assumed incorrectly. I assumed that women, my audience, people who wanted help with weight loss would be raising their hand, jumping up and down, sign me up, sign me up for flexible eating. Turns out, that’s really not true because it’s very vague. 

In the same way, I’ve called out this idea of “clean eating,” or “healthy eating” or just want to be healthy, or I’m going to eat all organic, or I’m only eating natural foods and all of that stuff. It’s vague. And it doesn’t even mean that you’re going to lose weight on top of it.

It’s like intuitive eating. That seems like a great idea. My intuition is telling me I want to have peanut M&Ms. If I listened to my intuition, I would be probably 20 pounds heavier. Now, sidenote about intuition, I think we all are born with an intuition. Women sometimes shut that intuition down. I want to encourage you to listen to your intuition but be okay If you don’t intuitively know what to eat. Right now for intuition, I think listening to your gut works well. However, in the realm of nutrition, a lot of women have messed up guts. Gut health is not great. So your gut health might be holding you back from knowing how we’re listening to your body on the nutrition side. 

You do have an intuition. You have an intuition about situations and about people. Go with that, trust your intuition on that. Intuitive eating is something that is interesting. It’s not like doing a couple easy math equations, or let’s learn to spell a few words. It takes a lot of time and practice to reroute and rewire our brains, which are very black and white on dieting. Very all or nothing. Very much like good food, bad food. Carbs are bad, fats are bad. Everything I love to eat is bad. 

Intuitive eating is more of an art than a science. 

When it comes back to this idea of flexible eating, I interchangeably use flexible dieting, flexible nutrition, and maybe those kinds of things are a little bit clearer. Flexible dieting means I’m still looking to lose weight, but I want to have more flexible food choices. Flexible nutrition, I still want to have good nutrition and be healthy, but I’m mixing in some foods that aren’t necessarily the most healthy. No one’s going to really say peanut M&Ms are just like carrots and celery. They’re just not, they’re different. 

Flexible eating is very vague and our brains don’t like vague. Our brains need certainty. That is the only way we can move forward making decisions and following through. So to Katie, who I spoke to in messenger, and to anybody who’s been listening to my podcast, or thinking about working with me, and being confused, I apologize. I want to be more clear about how I view weight loss and how I help clients lose weight. Then even if we never work together, you still leave this here with something that you can take action on and you can start to really look at your own flexible version of whatever it is. This idea of finding your flexible, because my flexible and your flexible might be two totally different things, and that is totally okay. We’re all in different places on our weight loss journey. 

Sustainable weight loss.

When I think about this idea, I’ll call it flexible weight loss, maybe sustainable weight loss. I do think sustainability is key. Otherwise, all we’re doing is losing weight, to gain it all back. That’s all we’re doing. So think about this idea of sustainable weight loss. What would it be for you? What does sustainable weight loss mean to you? If you’re not sure, find it in your own head, in your own brain, in your own words. What would it look like for you? 

For me, sustainable weight loss is about being able to;

  • live my life, 
  • go on vacation, 
  • weekends, 
  • special occasions, 
  • sick days, 
  • snow days, 
  • shitty days, 
  • whatever, 

and still be able to eat for my goals, but not be obsessed, all consumed. All or nothing. Foods are either good or bad. I’m either good or bad, depending on what I eat. 

That’s what I think happens a lot with diets, plans, programs, macros, calorie counting, certain apps, foods are red, green or yellow like the game of operation. If you touch that you did it wrong, you’re doing it wrong, you’ve made a bad choice that food is not good for you, you should know better, you shouldn’t want it, you shouldn’t like it, bla bla bla bla bla. That food makes you fat, don’t eat it. That’s not going to work, obviously. 

When I think about sustainable weight loss, I’m thinking about what variety of foods do I want to allow? Also listening to my body. That’s where the intuitive eating gets kind of murky. When I think about listening to my body, I want to think about listening to my own hunger signals. Am I actually hungry and physically hungry? I asked myself that question all the time. Am I hungry? Is this physical hunger? Is this emotional hunger? What kind of hunger is this? Because I think that is going to be key, no matter what kind of plan or program or protocol that you actually want to follow. 

Finding your flexible.

When you find your own flexible, you’re creating a protocol for yourself, a game plan for yourself. That can be, how many meals do I eat during the day? What kind of proteins do I like? Do I eat within a certain time period? You get to create that roadmap based on your life, your schedule, your work day, things that you have to do. If we’re going to have sustainable weight loss, we have to have something that actually works for us. 

It is really important that you know when you’re hungry and when you’re not. When you’re eating for boredom or entertainment or out of habit, because that’s going to help you. It’s going to probably save you hundreds of calories a day. That’s where I think this idea of flexible eating or flexible dieting, or flexible nutrition wins. If I cut out hundreds of calories a day from just habit eating, then I can still sit there and eat a sandwich with potato chips for lunch. It’s not a problem. It just means that I don’t eat the whole bag of potato chips while I sit at the computer for the next three hours. 

I actually stick to meal times when I take my time eating the food, tasting the food, slowing down, finding out where that mark is that I’m no longer actually hungry. We’ve all had that, am I still hungry? Then oops, I overate. We know that overfull feeling. I don’t want to eat to that point, and that just takes practice. Especially when we’re so used to being hungry all the time when we’re trying to lose weight. 

  • Aren’t you supposed to be hungry? 
  • Aren’t you supposed to eat less? 
  • Are you supposed to move more? 
  • Aren’t you supposed to always want food? 

The answer is no. 

Why we think flexible eating doesn’t work. 

Diets work only when I cut out all the carbs, only when I do it this way, only when I’m at 1200 calories, only when I take out all the foods, that’s only when it works. That’s because that’s all we know. Our brain thinks it’s very scary and very uncertain, to not follow a strict plan. There’s only a strict plan, or a free for all, there’s only low carbs or stuff your face. 

I’m here to tell you, I get it. I’ve been there. It’s taken me time to get to a place where I was wrong, that you don’t have to never have carbs again. That when you change your relationship with food, how you view food and how you view yourself, it changes everything. Then you can decide, you can plan what you’re going to have. It doesn’t mean every day you’re going to eat potato chips at lunch, unless you want to.

I think it depends on where you are right now. You might decide, I’m going to have one of those pre portioned bags, or you’re going to do the light baked chips, or I’m not going to do chips. I’m going to level up and I’ll do carrot chips every other day. You play with it a little bit. You will start to see, you aren’t a bad person for not only liking potato chips, but actually putting them into a plan and eating them. I’m not a potato chip advocate, I’m not pushing potato chips, I’m just using it as an example. 

If I wanted to lose weight, and keep it off, I would be looking for what is sustainable for me. Because there’s always going to be challenges, obstacles, situations that are difficult, that things aren’t always going to go our way;

  • there’s going to be a power outage, 
  • your refrigerator dies,
  • your dog has to go to the vet,
  • you’re going on vacation,
  • a business trip,
  • something suddenly happens that’s out of your control,
  • your schedule gets messed up,
  • you thought you were going to have time to grocery store but you did not,
  • your boss wants you to stay late,

all things are going to happen. 

The idea of this flexibility is that, I really thought that I was going to have that salad and chicken but I’m not home. That’s where it is. So what am I going to do instead? I’m going to go to Panera. I’m going to go call UberEats. I’m going to eat a sandwich. Instead, I’m gonna do something else where I can still feed myself, still get nutrition, and not think I screwed up. It’s over. I messed up. I should just eat a chocolate cake instead. Everybody else is screwing me up. This is never going to work. I can’t stick to a plan. I have no willpower like I need everything to be perfect. I need the whole world to cooperate with me. I need circumstances to be favorable in order for me to lose weight and keep it off because that’s just not the case. 

Welcome to Life. Every day is going to be a new adventure. Even if you are very organized, you plan everything, you have your perfect protocol all laid out, you did all the food prep, you’ve got it, all things are gonna go wrong. With this idea that I can be flexible, I don’t need to have everything go my way in order to eat food. Eat till I’m not starving, eat till I’ve had enough food. I’m feeding myself physically, I start to notice times where I’m emotionally hungry. I deal with that. I figure out the other pieces. 

When it comes really down to it, weight loss can be seen in very simplistic ways.

Things like eating less than I actually need, having my body actually tap into fat stores. That can’t happen if we’re constantly snacking, falling off plan, overeating and binging in response to being in a place of too restrictive. No flexibility, no sustainability. A plan that has foods I don’t like or foods I can’t prepare or complicated recipes or long fancy windows were things just don’t work with my schedule. 

I will have to be very careful when I ask about flexible eating in the future. I thought it was something that people knew. But really, my jam is sustainable weight loss. My jam is helping women lose weight and keep it off, never find it again. The stats on weight loss are staggering, astounding, terrible. I kind of knew that. I saw a lot of women lose weight and gain it back. They would come into some of my programs and lose 20, 30, 40 pounds, then go away, and come back two or three years later wanting to lose the same weight. 

I’m always very much about continuity, not like hey, you have to constantly be on a diet. But we want to figure out what is a sustainable way for you to be. It just means that there might be times where I am paying more attention. I’m being much more intentional with my meal planning. Although I like potato chips at lunch, I’m only going to have chips one time this week, I’m going to opt for more vegetables, or I’m going to double up on my protein or I’m going to figure out how to just get more volume into my meals. I’m always looking to see like, Okay, where am I at right now? Am I in a weight loss phase? Or am I in a maintenance phase? Those are my two options. That’s what I help women with.

Whether you like this idea of flexible eating or not, I apologize if it was confusing to you. I definitely want you to be able to find your flexible. 

  • What is going to work for you long term? 
  • What is sustainable? 
  • What helps you break out of that all or nothing experience? 
  • What allows you to enjoy a variety of foods without feeling that you’ve done anything wrong or to feel guilty? 
  • How can you be more in tune with your own natural hunger and physical hunger cues, but also be okay with the emotional hunger and figuring it out? 
  • What is that all about? 
  • How can you take more ownership of your choices, and not get into prioritizing everybody else? 
  • Or people pleasing? 
  • Or thinking that you need to eat or drink because everybody else is doing it? 
  • What is your flexible? 

Find your flexible, create your protocol, and get your sustainable weight loss. 

All right, my friends. That’s what I have for you today. Happy 97th episode coming up on 100 episodes. I’ll have to think of something super special for number 100. I’m going to kindly ask if you have not yet left me a five star review on Apple iTunes or Spotify, I would very much greatly appreciate it ,especially if you have gotten any value from the podcast.

If you’re not already part of my free group on Facebook. It is Food, Fitness, Fat Loss for women over 40. And if you haven’t checked out the Society membership, it is a pop in over there. Really great community we’ve built up over the month of April. You can still get the Lose 10 Pounds plan because it’s already recorded. The plan is waiting for you inside the Member Portal. 

Fun fact, as of May 1, the rate is going up. So you want to get in while it’s still only $57 a month. All right. That’s it. Have a great one. Thank you so much for tuning in to Unf*ck Your Weight Loss. The next step of course is to take action on something we discussed because implementation beats information all day long. If you enjoy this podcast, thank you for being here and please leave a review. Wherever you tune in for all of your podcasts. Please be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode. Looking forward to dropping all the F bombs with you next week. Have a good one.


Bonnie Lefrak is a Life & Body Transformation Expert and Founder of Self Made, a program designed to help you tackle the physical aspects of health and weight loss as well as the beliefs and thoughts that drive our habits and behaviors. It is her goal to help women create certainty in their own lives, their own results, and their own abilities.

Weight loss is not about the one “right” diet – it is about MUCH more than that. Weight loss is not about the one “right” workout. Weight loss is not about being positive and putting a big smile on.

Weight loss is about FEELINGS. All of them. Not trying to bury them or hide from them but knowing and allowing the full human experience. Weight loss is not about grinding hustling and will powering your way to some end line. Transformation (when done well) is done from the inside out.

By addressing both the physical and mental aspects of dieting and weight loss, she has coached thousands of women ages 30-55+ from all over and helped them ditch the mindsets that are holding them back, achieve permanent weight loss, and get the bangin’ body of their dreams.

Bonnie is an expert at Demystifying weight loss. She helps you u****k your diet brain. She is on a mission to help women love themselves, to find PEACE in the process of losing weight, taking care of themselves, and leveraging the power they do have to become who and want they want right now.

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