Understand the (real) 80/20 rule – and use it to get more consistent
The 80/20 rule is a pretty common concept in the health and fitness space, so you might be familiar with the general concept as:
If you eat healthy 80% of the time, the other 20% doesn’t really matter.
And honestly, it’s not the worst advice. If we all ate healthy, whole foods 80% of the time, we’d be pretty set.
However, this rule gives no instruction on how to achieve that level consistent, healthy eating and offers a false sense of precision (what the heck is 20%?) which can cause crazy anxiety for us perfectionists.
So lovely, if you’re having a tough time eating healthy consistently and have been trying this whole 80/20 rule thing on for size, I have good news.
The common 80/20 rule specifies an outcome – not how we get there.
In order to determine exactly how to get to your goal of eating healthy most of the time – while still enjoying your favorite foods without guilt – I’d like to teach you MY interpretation of the 80/20 rule for nutrition, based on the Pareto Principle.
What’s the Pareto Principle?
The Pareto Principle states that in any given problem, about 80% of cases will be standard. If we can identify that simple 80% and automate a process around them, we no longer have to work on them. As an example, maybe you work in customer service and you get 100 requests per day. If 80 of them are on the same topic, you can very easily automate a response or create a help center article to answer the question. Once you resolve the 80 simple requests, you can spend time working on the more complicated ones in your inbox. Win win.
On the other hand, because the remaining requests are more complex, they’ll make up the majority of your efforts and outputs. You’ll need to focus more intensely and come up with customized solutions for each one.
By the end of the day, 20% of your requests generate 80% of your work. And if you can automate that 80%, your day becomes a heck of a lot easier…and more efficient.
This sounds appealing, doesn’t it? Because we all want to focus our energies on the things that really matter, the 80/20 rule (or Pareto’s Principle) can be applied to so many areas of our lives, including our nutrition.
If you wanna see results like these, without stressing about food, counting a single macro, or giving up wine, read on.
My 80/20 rule offers specific strategies to get more consistent with healthy eating – without having to be perfect.
About four years ago, I signed up for my first online bootcamp. After battling with anorexia for 8 years at that time, I really wanted to change my physique: more muscles and less belly fat (don’t we all?).
I was SO excited. I took my initial progress pictures, gathered all my equipment, and got ready for week 1. But as soon as I opened the nutrition guidelines, my stomach sank. The portion suggestions, calorie counts, and macro breakdowns were incredibly overwhelming.
As I cooked my chicken breast with vegetables on Wednesday of week 1, all I wanted was a glass of wine. In that moment, I felt like a failure and sunk to the floor in tears. All of the counting and measuring made me so stressed, because even though I was trying to do everything right, I still couldn’t do it perfectly.
If we wanna get consistent without stressing about being perfect, my 80/20 rule is the answer. It allows us to focus on the things that really matter, while automating the rest. It also gives us some structure so we don’t feel like we’re blindly trying to hit “80% healthy.”
Let’s break it down.
In order to use the 80/20 rule, we’ve got to consider two things: the 80% (standard) and the 20% (non-standard).
Handling the 80: #ProteinAndProduceFirst
When it comes to the standard 80%, we’ve gotta automate. To automate our eating, we create behaviors that are SO automatic that we don’t even have to think about them.
This super simple strategy makes all the difference, because we’ll be eating lots of nutrient dense and non-calorie dense foods. This will allow us to eat more AND make we you aren’t missing out on any key nutrients. In layman’s terms, low calorie density = large portion size. And large portion sizes keep our bellies happy.
After doing this for a few weeks, we stop thinking about it and the behavior becomes automatic.
Before automating my eating, I ate well all week long but by Friday, I’d overdo it on boozy beverages and treats. All weekend long, I’d feel guilty and disappointed in my lack of willpower. Now, I eat consistently every single day, without feeling anxious about my indulgences. That’s why I created my #ConsistentNutrition Cheatsheet to help all of us implement the things we know we should do with our nutrition. There are no crazy meal plans or calorie counts, just the handful things you need to implement daily to eat moderately and find that middle between restriction and guilt. Grab your copy now.
Handling the 20: #MindTheMiddle
Now comes the fun part: the tough (and impactful) 20%.
When we’re outside of your automated nutrition, we do not restrict or aim for perfection. Instead, we focus on moderation and minding the middle.
To mind the middle, we take each eating situation and pick the moderate option.
As as example, maybe breakfast, lunch, and dinner are automated but that after dinner snack is still tough. In that case, we’d pick an option that’s not the best but also not the worst. Instead of having a bowl of ice cream or nonfat plain greek yogurt, maybe we grab some Halo Top or my chocolate mug cake.
Is it the best option? Heck no. But it’ll also keep you satisfied and less obsessed with your next treat.
Wanna try it? If you’re looking for more examples of how I #mindthemiddle, I’ll be posting on Facebook and Instagram about how I stay consistent during all situations my eating using the hashtag #mindthemiddle. Don’t miss out!
If you need a little more help, download my #ConsistentNutrition cheatsheet. I walk you through two of my best tools to help you mind the middle – and find more ease when you’re outside of your regular routine.