The 80/20 rule
Would you like to achieve your weight target while enjoying life, going out with friends and eating your favourite foods? Sounds impossible? Well, let us tell you about the 80/20 rule and introduce you to a wonderful new world where dieting doesn’t mean abandoning all the life’s little pleasures!
Restrictive dieting and its consequences
Restrictive diets require you to change your whole lifestyle in one go and abandon all things considered not healthy. Often a result of the latest fashion trend among the stars, these diets focus on consuming only one food group or one type of food. They are extremely difficult to follow as they require you to change your normal eating habits and eliminate from your diet the foods you’d normally enjoy. While they can deliver quick weight loss, these extreme diets often lead to malnutrition and depravation of essential nutrients. They also usually bring about a ‘yo-yo effect’ as soon as you go back to your normal eating habits.
The 80/20 rule explained
The 80/20 rule is a guide for your everyday dieting which recommends that you focus on eating ‘clean’, proper healthy food for 80% of the time (or in quantitative terms, 80% of the food you eat should be healthy) while the remaining time/amount can be spent on the ‘unhealthy’ snacks or meals.
While it’s not a full-scale weight loss plan, it is a rule which can help you reach your weight goals while leading a normal lifestyle, enjoying everything in moderation, without restricting yourself, counting calories or eliminating any food groups (who really wants to give up carbs for good?!).
“Nutrition professionals back this approach, as it’s feasible for all, allows for a variety of foods, and avoids deprivation” says Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH1.
The 80/20 rule is not a diet plan – it’s a way of eating in a balanced way while still allowing yourself to go out with friends and enjoy a pizza every now and then or a slice of birthday cake.
How to follow the 80/20 rule
You can follow the 80/20 rule in whatever timescale works for you: within a week or day. Here is how it would work in practice.
Following the 80/20 rule throughout a day
If you eat 5 meals a day, 20% of your meals can be ‘unhealthy’: that’s 1 meal per day. So that gives you an opportunity to enjoy a sweet snack or a dessert. Make sure the dessert also fits within the 80/20 rule in size (and if you know how to count calories, in calorie value, too). A chocolate bar may well fit within the 80/20 rule but if you choose to eat half a birthday cake then you’ve gone over and the balance would have been disturbed.
Following the 80/20 rule throughout a week
A lot of people choose to follow the 80/20 rule throughout a week by allowing themselves to let go their healthy eating habits a bit during the weekend. Be careful with this approach though! It doesn’t mean you have 2 days of eating unhealthy things all the time – this would not only put your metabolism out of balance but it would also distort your gut bacteria and probably jeopardize your progress in feeling better and having more energy. Perhaps a good way to balance the 80/20 rule is to allow yourself a take-away meal on Friday or Saturday and a bigger dessert during the weekend while still enjoying a couple of small snacks throughout the week. For the rest of the meals aim to eat healthy, well-balanced meals following the nutritional recommendations (check out our last week’s post about the Healthy Eating Pyramid).
Some people prefer to alter the rule and make it a bit more rigorous, e.g. 90/10 or 85/15. This may work better for those who are trying to lose weight or want to ‘up their game’ in eating healthy.
The 80/20 rule – is it worth it?
The 80/20 rule is a great way of learning to eat healthy with common sense: understanding that we all sometimes have days when we crave some unhealthy snacks or would like to go out for a meal and not think about what we’re ordering. The rule also helps to keep us going without the feeling of failure if we let ourself eat something unhealthy every now and then. We don’t have to give up, we can count it in the 20% and carry on eating healthy for the rest of the time. There’s no starting over.
Finally, unlike restrictive diets, the 80/20 rule doesn’t require us to eliminate any particular groups of foods, doesn’t require us to give up going out and enjoying life. It is a perfect way to start eating better, being a bit more rigorous with our eating habits but not restraining us from enjoying life.
At Fitasty, we believe that eating healthy should be normal, it should be your standard. We believe the best way to do that is by following the 80/20 rule. Our goal is to help you learn to eat better for good, without restraining you from enjoying the classic dishes (such as fish & chips) or sweets.
Our Complete Meal Plan options are balanced in a way that helps you stop sweet cravings – there’s a healthy but delicious and sweet dessert included every day. The weekly Complete Meal Plan provides you with balanced, nutritious foods (including the desserts) for Monday-Friday. This still allows you to enjoy a take-away or meal out with friends during the weekend.
Yes, indeed, we thought about everything.