How do you follow the 80/20 rule for eating? Well to summarise quickly you choose to eat healthy foods for 80% of the time, which then gives you the opportunity to indulge in your favorite foods or treats for the remaining 20% of the time.
Here’s how we apply those basic principles to our lifestyle and a guide to help you do so as well.
This is a follow on from the “what is the 80/20 rule”? article I wrote last year, I’d encourage you to read that first before you read this "how to follow the 80/20 rule for eating".
It's referred to as the 80/20 rule (Pareto’s Principle) which when we apply it to food, is definitely more of an approach to eating healthily than a diet.
Why is it not a diet?
A diet is temporary. A person restricts himself or herself to eating special kinds, or particular kinds of food in order to specifically lose weight over a defined period of time.
In contrast, when you follow the 80/20 rule for eating, its a sensible guide to following a healthy balanced sustainable lifestyle for the rest of your life. Today I feel great thanks to the 80/20 eating rule. However, it wasn't always like that.
Back in 2009 I was almost much eating anything I liked, when I liked. I was drinking a bottle of wine most days too. At that time, I wasn’t feeling good about myself. I wasn’t happy with my life or where I was going. My poor diet was the major reason.
I did try a few diets. I did lose some weight but only to gain it back again.
It took me a while but I learnt that diets aren’t a sustainable way of living. Sure, they do work in the short-term but living a life of restriction and / or taking a weird concoction of powders and pills (as with some diets) isn’t natural, is it?
And then I read and learned how to follow the 80/20 rule for eating.
The 80/20 rule for eating is a perfectly sensible, all in moderation rule which can be applied to your weekly eating. It’s what Lynne and I have followed successfully and happily over the last six years.
At the start of learning how to follow the 80/20 rule for eating, I lost two stones initially and Lynne lost five. We now both maintain healthy weights.
The 80/20 rule for eating works because it’s NOT a diet.
If you’re on a diet and you suddenly have a glass of wine or a piece of chocolate cake, then you’re racked with guilt. You blaming yourself.
A diet is complete denial of certain food, in order to lose weight. It’s unrealistic and pretty depressing to think you can never enjoy a treat. You begin to question what’s the point of it all. But you CAN change all that, because if we were able to do it, you can too.
- Start out by properly planning.
Planning is key when learning how to follow the 80/20 rule for eating. I usually plan all our meals for the week ahead on a Friday morning, meaning I can shop for everything I need over the weekend. I also plan for when we’re going to use our 20% treats.
If you consider it, there are 21 main meals in total during the week. Thus, for the 80/20 rule for eating perhaps you’ll want to aim for 3 of those meals to be more “indulgent”. Maybe a glass of wine with your Friday dinner, a reward for working hard all week and abstaining from alcohol? Maybe you’ll save all your 20% up for the weekend and go out to dinner? Maybe you’ll treat yourself to a piece of cake on a Saturday if you’re out shopping. Or maybe you’ll make and have a pudding on a Sunday evening?
That’s the great thing about incorporating the 80/20 rule for eating into the 80/20 way. You decide when you’re having those 3 treats. It’s flexible and no one is dictating it to you. You are the master of your own.
- Eat 5 smaller meals per day, rather than three large portions.
Take a packed lunch such as a soup or a salad to your work. Not only will this help you follow the 80/20 rule for eating, but also as you’re not going looking at all the lunch temptations in the shops, it’ll also save you money in the long term.
Have your evening dinner before 8pm, to allow your body time to digest your food.
At the start of following the 80/20 rule for eating, in order to become familiar with portion sizes and average calories you might want to weigh foods and use nutrition labels (I provide all of those details in my recipes).
Once you become more familiar with knowing what’s healthy and what’s not, you’ll soon start following the right way. It’s not much fun to track every mouthful of food constantly, but it can help at the start. As with anything new you’re starting, you’ve got to start somewhere until you become familiar with it.
- Don’t forget exercise.
Proper physical exercise increases your chances for overall good health.
The 80/20 rule for eating doesn’t work unless you have a regular exercise routine of at least 30 minutes per day on a 5-day week. This could be two 30 minute runs at a gym, plus 30 minutes of fast walking, plus two 30 minute sessions of strength training. Don't forget to consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.
Key Principles On How To Follow The 80/20 Rule For Eating
- Cut down on alcohol (maybe have a glass of wine with a more indulgent meal at the weekend)
- Choose wholemeal and wholegrain products (for example wholemeal bread and wholegrain rice)
- Cut out sugar (tea, coffee, fizzy drinks)
- Make every meal (no ready-made meals)
- Plan every week’s menu in advance
- Watch your portion sizes
- Cut down on caffeine
- Take packed lunches to work
- Eat a breakfast every day
- Eat slowly to allow your brain to register when you’re actually full.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
It works but only if you are honest with yourself. It won’t work only by doing a minimal amount of exercise and only eating healthy at lunchtimes. You’ve got to think of this as a lifestyle. Always follow it and it will become a healthy sustainable lifestyle and second nature.
You might be interested in my next article in this series, how we follow the 80/20 rule, in which I write details about how exactly, giving you a typical week of meals and exercise, Lynne and I live by the 80/20 rule for eating.
I hope you'll check back soon for that update!
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