But after I let go of those "rules," I achieved my healthiest lifestyle yet.
When I was following my unrealistic diet structure, I was miserable.
Eating the same foods day in and day out became mundane and boring. I dreaded breakfast every morning, and bringing my own food to restaurants and family gathering was "unethical," according to my mom and girlfriend.
I grew to hate high-carb foods and to avoid fats for the sake of being "healthy and lean."
It wore me down, and one day, I snapped.
I revolted against the "healthy" foods — chicken, turkey, rice, sweet potatoes, asparagus and broccoli — and replaced them with Chinese buffets, sugar cookies, multiple trips to burger joints and Domino's Pizza multiple times a day.
I didn't care. I was happy because I was able to eat "real" food again.
I didn't have to measure anything out, and I didn't have to worry about eating anything "clean" again.
Then, reality hit.
I became disgusted with myself, food and my new body image. A 100-pound weight gain slapped me in the face and wiped the taste of glazed donuts and Mountain Dew from my mouth.
I let myself go completely. I went from shredded to a version of myself that I couldn't even look at in the mirror.
I was back at rock bottom, a place I had made my home for quite some time now.
I tried "clean eating" again, but I couldn't stick to it. The scale hit number that began to look like my area code.
I needed a change that fit me, a change that gave me freedom as well as results.
Enter flexible dieting, also known as "If It Fits Your Macros" (IIFYM) for short.
This was a game changer.
To eat what I want, when I want — as long as I did so in moderation — changed all I ever knew about dieting. I know feel free and happy.
Letting go of eating six meals a day only filled with rice, chicken and fish and being able to eat Jimmy John's, Chick-fil-A and Blue Bell Ice Cream has kept my new lifestyle manageable and my cravings in check.
Eating flexibly has taught me you can break these three diet rules:
1. Two meals and two snacks make me a happy man.
Eating chicken, rice and broccoli six times a day was unsustainable and painful for me.
Now, I have two to three meals along with two to three snacks a day, and it has kept me motivated and optimistic about losing weight and strengthening my discipline and decision-making skills.
I no longer feel an urge to cheat, and I don't feel trapped in a matrix of eating only three types of food.
2. It's OK to be salty.
For so long, I used to fear sodium. No seasoning led to bland food, and bland food led to food that would go bad because I would not eat it.
Now, I'm not afraid to season my food well and give it a kick. I eat well, and I'm not wasting bags of fresh produce because I'm afraid it will no longer be "healthy" after I season it.
3. A cookie a day keeps the body fat away.
Starting out on a diet, it's normal to think you have to cut out all sweets and junk food.
But, that's not totally true. Practicing moderation while simultaneously reducing cravings keeps you happy and your body functioning, as long as enough food is consumed throughout the day.
Being flexible in my diet approach has led me to my lowest body weight I've had in three years. I've lost 50 pounds since the start of the year, and I've lost 24 pounds since late September.
To eat flexibly is to eat freely. You should never be a victim of food or feel trapped in your diet. With flexible eating, you learn to love food as well as the entire process of weight loss.
My goal is to lose all 100 pounds that I gained and keep it off for good.
If I can do it, so can you.