If you read health or fitness magazines, books, or blogs, then I bet you have likely heard about it. That lovely “80/20 Rule” – the recommendation to focus on 80% of your food choices coming from wholesome and nutritious foods with 20% from the things you enjoy that might not be the best for your body. There is a lot of reasoning to support approaching healthy eating in this way. My big reasons?
- Don’t have to be perfect. I know that keeps me from feeling overwhelmed and like a “failure” if I enjoyed a dinner out on the weekend. In the past, one slip up on my “must be perfectly clean” meal plan would lead to binges for days.
- Promotes a lifestyle change. When I don’t feel the pressure, it’s a lot easier to remain consistent and do my best. And CONSISTENCY is what helps get results. When I don’t feel deprived, I can stick with things a lot longer. A lot lot longer.
- I can live without obsessing. Social gathering? Sure! Holiday dinner? Sure! Super duper craving that just won’t quit? I got you covered! I know those instances aren’t the majority of my food choices, so I can live a little and not feel guilty because I know I’ll go back to balance right away at the next meal.
I’m 100% on board with the 80/20 rule myself and do my best to put it into practice. However, I will admit that it took me awhile to figure out what that balance really looks like.
You see, a small daily treat plus a few large weekend splurges may feel like that 80/20 balance…but then those pants are fitting tighter and you’re questioning how it could happen because you’re living BALANCED! Just like “they” told me would work. Who’s been there? *raises hand*
When I first started applying this tip to my life, I admittedly went a bit overboard at first. It was probably more like 60/40…then maybe 70/30…then I figured out my balance. I thought some others out there may have felt the same frustrations, so let’s break it down together. What exactly does 80/20 look like?
I brought out the old math nerd and put together some scenarios to see how it plays out – Neat (aka clean eating meal) vs Treat (a not so nutritious option). PS – I picked those labels just for ease of terminology…let’s not get into the discussion on labeling foods as “cheats” and “splurges” and “good” vs “bad” and all that yada yada yada. Mmmmkay? Good.
- 3 square meals per day: 21 meals per week. 80/20 = 17 Neat & 3 Treat meals over the week.
- 5 small meals per day: 35 small meals per week. 80/20 = 28 Neat & 7 Treat over the week.
- 2000 calories average per day (daily view): 2000 calories. 80/20 = 1600 Neat & 400 Treat calories per day.
- 2000 calories average per day (week view): 14,000 calories per week. 80/20 = 11,200 Neat & 2,800 Treat calories per week.
So this could cover those 1-2 times you ate out on the weekend (still within reason) and the bowl of ice-cream after that rough day at work. Or, hey! We can end each day with a small treat instead of another mini-meal. Or save up some of those calories to balance out for that celebratory lunch at work tomorrow.
Now, I don’t suggest you have to plan out all your meals to the tee for the week and then bring out your calculator to determine the exact percentage of your neat vs treat meals/calories to make sure you’re hitting a particular percentage each day/week/meal. Not at all! Heck, that would drive me bonkers.
I simply want to put out there that we DO have wiggle room in our eating habits and don’t have to be perfect, but that we also must remain mindful. We can’t just claim balance without really considering what we put into our bodies. And some days/weeks may be more like 60/40 or 90/10. Some people may thrive more on 95/5 and others do just fine and dandy with 75/25. Do what works for you, but remain mindful…so you can consistently give your body the best in a way you can do for life.
Your Life – What are your thoughts on the 80/20 guideline? How do you use it?