Let’s be realistic—asking yourself to eat clean, nutritious, good-for-you foods 100% of the time is unrealistic. Drumroll please… that’s why fad diets DON’T work.
Going on a restrictive diet can help you lose weight quickly, but you’re left feeling deprived. What happens next? You burn out, feel like a failure and gain the weight back, plus some. Sound familiar?
Making dietary and lifestyle changes that are maintainable can prevent this vicious cycle from ever happening again. So, how do you create balance? For starters…
There is a place for EVERYTHING in our diets. Yes, everything!
We shouldn’t have to completely eliminate carbs, say no to a glass of wine with friends, log every calorie consumed or skip meals entirely. Eating should be a positive experience; a celebration of tastes, textures and smells; and something that brings us joy.
When we ditch the all-or-nothing restrictions surrounding diets, it establishes a trust and understanding within that this isn’t the last time we’ll be able to have a certain food. This helps us combat that “last supper” mentality.
That’s where The 80/20 Approach comes into play. It teaches balance through realistic, guilt-free eating by promoting healthy foods and self-control.
Aim to make healthy choices 80% of the time
This rule teaches you balance and moderation, a concept that doesn’t exist in fad diets. By allowing yourself treats 20% of the time, you feel satisfied without the crazy cravings or the need to count calories.
The 80/20 Breakdown
of the time you focus on eating clean, nutritious, good-for-you foods.
of the time you have the freedom to indulge in some of your favorites.
The math is simple
- If you eat three well-balanced meals a day, four meals a week are reserved to indulge in your favorites (remember, portion control is vital).
This concept allows you to feel good about your food choices, removing guilt and restrictions.
What to eat during your 80%
The majority of the time, you’re going to fill up on FfL-friendly, nutritious, whole foods. Some that come to mind first are vegetables, fruits, lean protein, whole grains, beans, eggs and nuts.
During your 80%, eat salads packed with summer squash, chicken and quinoa; enjoy hummus; bake a sweet potato and top it with cinnamon; snack on nuts; make an open-face avocado and egg sandwich; just keep it clean!
Save your 20% indulgences for wine, chips and guacamole, a slice of margarita pizza or key-lime pie. Just be sure to keep those indulgences to 20% of the time or less.
Your 20% does not mean you get to overeat less-nutritious foods. Moderation is key.
When you’re enjoying your 20% you have to be conscious of HOW MUCH you’re eating. A modest deviation from an otherwise nutritious diet is okay, but overeating any food, nutritious or not, will NOT allow you to maintain a healthy weight.
What we mean by this:
One serving of your favorite dish is okay, but eating a whole day’s worth of calories in one meal is not. Essentially, binge eating is not acceptable.
Don’t scarf down a heaping plate of Alfredo pasta at dinner (darn!). Instead, enjoy a portioned serving of it. Remember, the goal of your 20% is to relax your normal standards, not throw them out the window.
The same goes for snacks or things outside of your traditional meals that count toward your 20% indulgence: a snack bag of chips in the afternoon, a glass of wine in the evening or a small piece of cake for an after-dinner dessert. Even though you’re allowed to indulge a little, you can’t have half a bag of chips as a snack or five chocolate bars during movie night for dessert and expect to lose weight, even if your other meals are healthy.
Remember, this isn’t the last time (or even the only time this week, necessarily) you’ll be able to have a certain food, so there’s no need to fill up as if you’re giving it up forever.
If you love pizza, plan out your 20% and enjoy a slice rather than telling yourself you can’t have it, and then bingeing days later as an emotional response to deprivation. Remember, if you’re following The 80/20 Approach, four meals a week are reserved to indulge in your favorites (the 20%); so, for example, make pizza one of the four.
The same goes for clean foods. It’s possible to eat too many calories even while eating “nutritious” foods. Both moderation and portion control play a role in your diet, whether it’s nutritious or not. Watch for hunger cues and be mindful when eating.
Look ahead and plan it out
Look at your week ahead and think about when you may want to splurge. You might enjoy indulging a little more on the weekend or break it up throughout the week. If you have a BBQ, birthday party or are eating out, reserve your less-healthy meals for those times. You may even want to plan what foods you’ll treat yourself to. This helps you refrain from becoming overly tempted and indulging in more than you should.
Think about which treats you love and are worth your 20%
Is the day-old cake that’s been sitting out at work worth part of your 20%? Ask yourself this question when you’re tempted to treat yourself. Decide which indulgences you can live without and which are worth your splurge.
With practice, healthier choices become second nature
As crazy as it might sound now, once your body starts getting used to cutting out processed foods, minimizing sugar and thriving on nutrient-dense foods, you won’t want to go back. You’ll feel more energized, alive and alert.
Then, when you indulge in a handful of chips, a cookie or small slice of cake as your 20% treat, it’s not a big deal. You’ll enjoy every bite but instinctively return to eating nutritious meals.
Stop being so hard on yourself and release the guilt, stress and anxiety
Okay, now that we know we’re allowed to eat the foods (in moderation) that we’ve craved but stayed away from for so long, how do we combat the feelings that set in after eating them? You know—guilt, shame, panic and anxiety?
Letting go of negative feelings associated with these trigger foods is CRUCIAL to fostering a healthy relationship with food. Remind yourself that you have PERMISSION to eat that particular food. There’s a place for it in your diet. You’re committed to eating it in moderation, and there’s absolutely no need to stress or feel ashamed about it.
Build a lifestyle, don’t just follow a diet
Most people who start diets inevitably fail. They’re not sustainable. They’re based on restriction. They’re boring, frustrating and overwhelming. And, more often than not, they’re based on the latest fad decided by the health and fitness industry and not all that good for you.
Rather than a diet, build a healthy lifestyle—one that is maintainable and allows you to listen to your body and its needs. The best way to do this is by committing to one simple change at a time. Maybe that’s starting with a 60/40 approach and setting a goal to work toward an 80/20 approach over the next 6 months.
Start slowly, then, build on it!
Keep this approach in mind regarding all aspects of wellness
This same 80/20 grace-over-perfection mentality can be applied to fitness and wellness in general. When you give yourself permission to enjoy and celebrate the healthy choices you are making, rather than focusing on your shortcomings, incredible things happen.
So, rather than exercising 3 days over the last week and feeling guilty about those days you took off, reframe your mindset and celebrate your accomplishments. Rewiring your brain to view wellness in this way takes time, but the payoff is SO WORTH IT!
At the end of the day, it’s all about balance, balance, BALANCE
Simply put, a healthy lifestyle ISN’T about restriction, constant self-criticism or perfection; it’s achieved through balance and flexibility.
Remember, a healthy, FULL lifestyle is all about allowing yourself little indulgences here and there, so you don’t feel like you’re depriving yourself of the things you love.
Creating balance means you don’t have to obsess about every morsel of food you eat or workout you miss. It allows you to try new things, be adventurous and most of all, it gives you freedom. And that’s what life is all about!
Let’s live FULL and create the lifestyle of our dreams — together!
P.S. If you’re looking for a simple, but powerful accountability tool to help you make healthier choices (including implementing the 80/20 Approach), you’ll want to check out the Healthy Living Log. It’s geared specifically to support the health of your entire being (mind, body and spirit).