The 80/20 rule is simple–eat healthy, clean foods 80% of the time, and enjoy more indulgent foods 20% of the time. The basic premise behind the 80/20 diet is that you can achieve a healthy balanced lifestyle by focusing on nutrient-dense foods most of the time while still eating your favorite treats in moderation. This approach focuses on the long-term sustainability of a diet which can be helpful for many people who find other diets too restrictive. Ultimately your long-term weight loss goals will depend on what diet you can stick to when your motivation wanes.
Personally, I adhere to the 80/20 diet year-round, which allows me to indulge in some of my favorite meals and treats while still keeping fit.
Here are three reasons you should adopt the 80/20 diet:
Anything that is too restrictive isn’t realistic for the long haul. Balance is key.
In most cases, when you are too strict with your meals or cut out an entire macronutrient group (e.g. going super low carb, or cutting carbs completely), it ends up backfiring.
While you may be able to stick to this approach for a week or two, maybe even a month, inevitably you'll learn this is not realistic or sustainable.
Instead, it puts you in a position to binge on tons of foods that were previously “off limits.”
The beauty of the 80/20 rule is that no food is EVER “off limits,” as you can quite literally have your cake and keep your abs too. Everything in moderation!
A meal or two got off track this past weekend? Don’t sweat it.
With the 80/20 rule, you can kick that “all or nothing” mentality to the curb. Instead of fretting over an extra cheat meal or a few cookies, you can make these options PART of the plan.
As I mentioned earlier, no food is ever forbidden, so you’re in control of when you have your cookies and when you have your protein pancakes.
Unfortunately, people automatically assume eating healthy and being fit means making extreme sacrifices. They believe it is necessary to skip out on events, holidays, social gatherings, etc., and only eat home-cooked meals that are “on plan”. It doesn’t have to be this way!
With the 80/20 rule, you can think outside the Tupperware container.
If you have an event coming up, follow your meal plan wholeheartedly leading up to it.
Enjoy the event, live in the moment, then get right back on track and on plan the next day.
These are some tips to help you get started with an 80/20 diet:
- Plan your meals: Stay ahead of your diet by planning some of your nutrient-dense meals in advance. This can help you stay on track with the 80% nutrient dense portion of your diet. Once you get the hang of the diet you don’t have to keep planning but initially when you’re getting started this can be a helpful way of creating a routine.
- Track your meals: Ultimately for the 80/20 diet to succeed you’ll need to be eating more nutrient-dense meals than caloric-dense meals, in other words you’ll need to make sure your 20% doesn’t turn into 40 or 50% of your diet. Some people use a food tracking app or food journal to help them stay within the 80/20 ratio. Like the planning of meals, the tracking phase is something you can do when you get started and once you have a better understanding of the diet, you can be more flexible.
- Stick to your 80/20: Choose whole, nutrient-dense foods for most of your diet. This means during the 80% portion of your diet you’re eating foods like lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and fiber containing grains. When it comes to the 20% portion, it’s easy to identify which foods are high in calories and low in micronutrients. Try your best to keep the two ratios of your diet separated from each other.
- Be flexible: The philosophy behind the 80/20 diet places an emphasis on having a flexible approach to eating. So don’t stress if you’re not perfect all the time, if you slip up, don’t be hard on yourself. Keep a perspective of sustainability when you’re thinking of this diet, one nutrient-dense meal or a cheat meal won’t make or break it, it’s about finding something that’s sustainable for you.
The 80/20 rule allows you to stay fit but leaves room for you to enjoy Grandma’s lemon squares during the holidays or a burger and some sweet potato fries on the weekend.
It's ok to splurge a little! Having an indulgent meal or dessert factored into your meal plan means you’re more apt to stick to healthy meals other days of the week.
Don't feel guilty about enjoying yourself in moderation!
About Jen Jewell
Jen Jewell is the bubbly meets badass fitness personality who takes a versatile “fun with fitness” approach to training. Although she is a fitness pro, she isn’t overly restrictive with her nutrition and workouts. She loves yoga, hiking, and outdoor workouts. She actively coaches people around the world who want to get healthy and fit. Follow Jen on her journey.