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Applying the 80/20 Rule to Dieting

Sometimes you just need a new perspective. We tend to look at things as very black & white, especially when it comes to dieting, that we fail to see the larger picture. Don’t worry, that’s why you have me!

I’m sure you’ve heard about the 80/20 rule.

It’s not something that you have to take super literally, but generally speaking, the 80/20 rule means eating “healthy” 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time you eat what you want without worrying about the health aspect.

Of course, you don’t have to sit down and do the actual math of what 80% of your total calories equates to. As a general rule of thumb, if you eat 4 times per day (3 meals and 1 snack), allow one of those meals or snacks to contain a food that may be less than optimal. Or, give yourself one day per week to eat some foods that you wouldn’t normally eat on a typical “diet.”

The 80% just means staying on track MOST of the time, but allowing yourself flexibility.

It’s a great rule to adhere to, but a lot of people only look at this on a day-by-day basis. In other words, they try to make sure their day is full of 80% healthy foods at all times. If it’s not, that day feels like a failure because they didn’t reach their goal of 80%.

But what if we take this same approach and stretch it over a year?

The 80/20 Diet Rule

Suddenly, that 20% looks a whole lot different.

Instead of trying to make sure 80% of your day is healthy, why not make it 80% of your YEAR? If you follow this general rule, that means that 73 days out of the year can be less than ideal.

Sure, every single other day isn’t going to always be perfect, but this means that 73 of your days can be the days where you typically feel like you “fell off track.”

73 days. Thats two and a half months! And yet, here you are, freaking out that you ate too many cookies today and ruined all your progress. One day is never going to ruin your progress… even 73 days won’t!

This is not me saying that you should have a two and a half month food frenzy and stuff your face with everything on Earth. Let’s not get carried away. But if you have goals, especially when it comes to weight loss, this is to show you that every single day doesn’t need to be perfect.

There is plenty of room for days that include extra dessert, plenty of pizza, drinks with friends, etc. There’s truly no need to stress if you feel like you didn’t adhere to your ideal diet- there’s room for error here!

If you eat well most of the time (80%) you’ll easily stay on track to your goals. When a day, weekend, or whole week gets away from you, that’s okay! Look at the big picture. You haven’t ruined anything.

Your diet never needs to be perfect. Perfection is dumb. No matter what your goals are, there’s room to relax and enjoy yourself without ruining your progress!

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About Matt Rosenman

With over 15 years of experience in health and fitness, Matt Rosenman is the expert voice behind Matt’s philosophy is simple: no foods are off-limits, and a healthy lifestyle shouldn't be complicated or restrictive. As a former certified personal trainer with a bachelor’s degree in Health Behavioral Sciences, Matt brings well-rounded expertise to his blog. From revamping classic recipes with a nutritious twist to breaking down fast food menus, his goal is make healthy living less confusing for everyone. Featured in major publications and with a strong following on social media, Matt is committed to making “healthy” uncomplicated—no matter where you are in your health journey. Join Matt on his mission to simplify health without sacrificing flavor. Learn More