The 80:20 Rule

This principle is best known as an eating plan, but I like to apply it to everyday life and I’ve been trying to exclaim this to my clients for the past 20 years.

It's common knowledge that depriving yourself of all treats and sweets simply isn't sustainable. However, building special indulgences into your weekly meal plan can lead to a happier, healthier and even slimmer you.

It's called the 80:20 rule, which, when applied to food, more an approach to healthy is eating than a diet. Put plainly, the rule goes that you choose to eat healthy foods 80 per cent of the time, which then allows you to indulge in your favourite treats 20 per cent of the time. What's great about this approach is it means you're less likely to cut out whole food groups, become hung up on counting calories or deny yourself particular foods. I also like to call it flexible eating

With fewer restrictions, this way of eating makes it much easier to stick to a healthy plan, lose weight and implement long-term dietary changes.

Eighty percent healthy

As with all good weight loss plans, your diet should consist of a variety of fresh seasonal produce, lean organic protein, unprocessed wholegrains and good quality essential fatty acids.

The easiest way to ensure you're eating all the right foods is to simply think "rainbow". Look down at your plate and if it's full of brightly coloured fresh produce you know you're on the right track. Although I’d always lean towards more of the colour green…..Portion sizes also need to be managed- just because it is healthy doesn't mean you can eat huge amounts in one sitting.

This works for me with my Paleo diet also which I’ll touch on at a later stage. But it’s important to make it suit’s you and not be too fanatical about it.

A healthy meal plan for this part of the diet could include:

Breakfast: Quinoa porridge with cinnamon, fresh mixed berries, goji berries, chia seeds and natural yoghurt. Lunch: Warm chicken salad with mixed leaves, sliced carrot, bean sprouts, black beans, fresh herbs, avocado and lime dressing. Dinner: Almond-encrusted fish with steamed seasonal vegetables. Snacks: Fresh seasonal fruit, raw mixed nuts, raw cacao protein balls.

2o percent indulgence

To get the most out of this approach, you could apply the bulk of the 80 per cent part to the weekdays. It can be easier to live healthily Monday to Friday and roster in your treats and cheats as a reward on the weekend.

But just because you're eating well 80 per cent of the time, that doesn't mean you should use the remaining 20 per cent to go on an all-out unhealthy binge. You should still watch your portion sizes and try not to have all your treats filled with sugar and fat.

It can be safer to plan your treat meals in advance to give you more control, as well as something to look forward to. And if you don't feel the need to splurge, then don't. You may be surprised to find that after five days of healthy eating you may not feel the need to tuck into a sugary treat.

Plus, it can make sense to save up your weekly splurges just in case there's a slip-up during the week, such as an impromptu lunch with friends or workmates.

Apply the rule to life

The 80:20 rule can extend beyond just your eating habits. You can also apply it to your exercise routine, for example, by committing to training on at least 80 per cent of the days each week (such as Monday to Friday). A good tip is to not schedule treat meals and exercise-free days on the same day. If you know you’ve got a big weekend coming up which often happens for me, make sure you’re week leading up to it is extemporary and you’ll feel even better when the weekend arrives.

All in all, the 80:20 rule works as an eating philosophy because it's unrealistic and demotivating to think you can never enjoy your favourite foods in order to lose weight and keep it off.

With this approach there should be no "bad" foods and no guilt associated with enjoying treats. When someone slips up on a strict diet they often adopt the mindset of, "Oh well, I may as well eat bad food for the rest of the day." However, the 80:20 plan is all about guilt-free moderation, which is a realistic long-term approach.


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