What is the 80/20 rule, and how do I use it in real life?

I love both. Not sorry.
Sources here + here.

Eat Well. Party Hard. was founded on the principle of balance–that it’s important to eat whole, unrefined foods and lots of veggies, so that you have the energy to sometimes get really, really ridiculous.

But balance, moderation, a little of this + a little of that…it can be a slippery slope. Sometimes, strict standards are easier to follow than flexibility.

There’s a battle between indulgence + guilt that almost every single person I’ve worked with has mentioned struggling with when they want to enjoy a food they love. And often, it’s that mental aspect–not actual feelings of hunger–that stands in the way of improved eating habits. This makes total sense–we’re intellectual and emotional beings. Food isn’t just associated with survival; it symbolizes comfort, fun and love. And that’s why it’s awesome!

So is it healthy to eat a cheeseburger at every meal, just because it’s been your comfort food forever? Probably not. But is it necessary to give them up completely? Oh HELL NO.

Enter: the 80/20 Rule.

You’ve probably heard the philosophy already–that striving for 80% healthy food in your diet and 20% purely “fun” food will result in sane, functional health. And I love this idea! It helps calm that battle between indulging in a cupcake after several healthy meals, and gorging on an entire tub of ice cream because you were too busy to remember to eat lunch or dinner. But it’s a pretty vague formula, so…how does it actually work?

Let’s break this down.

7 breakfasts per week + 7 lunches per week + 7 dinners per week = 21 meals per week.

80% of 21 = 17 healthy meals.
20% of 21 = 4 “fun” meals.

So if it’s possible to find healthy breakfasts and lunches you truly enjoy, an indulgent dinner every other night is totally doable–no guilty conscience needed.

That’s a stack of diner pancakes on Monday night, pizza on Wednesday night, tacos + Margaritas on Friday night, and a burger + fries on Saturday night. Not too shabby, eh?

And apart from the fact that you can eat breakfast for dinner on a Monday night (swoon), the real beauty of the 80/20 rule is this: it helps you switch your mindset from “I’m on a diet” to “This is just my life.”

Every “diet” is destined to end. Diets are based on restriction and self-denial, and are therefore unsustainable. Who wants to live a life devoid of chocolate frosting?

What the 80/20 rule helps you create, on the other hand, is that beautiful balance. It teaches you to listen to your body, to slowly realize that you’re actually craving protein and nutrients–and not 1,500 calories worth of chips and salsa. Because–crazy as it may seem now–as your body adjusts to eating real food, it actually won’t want to go back.

You’ll be able to order the salad at dinner because you want to, not because you “have” to.

And when you go a little overboard on the summer brews…it’s okay. You’ll enjoy the hell out of it, but the next day, you’ll want to load up on fruits and veggies. Because your body knows what it needs, and you know your body.

Once you quit dieting and focus on designing a healthy life, you’ll get where you want to be. You’ll reach your goals. Sooner or later, they will be your reality.

  • SusanC

    I LOVE this advice! I’m sure most of us have heard the 80/20 rule, but I love how you broke it into really actionable ideas with the mathematics. You’re right that it makes it easier to live a lifestyle if you know that you have some “outs” here and there.

    Thanks again for the inspiration! And the giggles about the partying. :) It’s like you’re in my brain.

    • http://eatwellpartyhard.com Claire (Eat Well. Party Hard.)

      Pretty sure we’re in each other’s ;) Saying “I’m never eating _____” again, or “No more ____ ever” is terrifying and overwhelming; it’s so much more approachable to set some realistic boundaries, rather than swear off beloved food/drink/activities, no?

  • http://www.therheeldaze.com Rheel Daze

    I am forever struggling to reach a healthy balance. I used to be very strict six days a week and spend Sundays eating everything in sight but I began to realize that was more of a deprivation/reward system and it doesn’t work very well. Now I try and eat as healthy as possible regularly and when a situation arises (like today’s Mother’s Day brunch) I can have some bellinis with brunch. It’s still a work in progress but I feel like I will adjust eventually once I’ve made it routine long enough. I’ll keep the 80/20 rule in mind though. Thanks Claire!

    • http://eatwellpartyhard.com Claire (Eat Well. Party Hard.)

      I totally get what you mean about the deprivation/reward system. Cheers to enjoying the bellinis WITHOUT making yourself live on nothing but kale :)

  • http://www.yourstrulymelissa.com Melissa

    I love how your broke this down! Makes it seem totally do-able.

    • http://eatwellpartyhard.com Claire (Eat Well. Party Hard.)

      Thanks, Melissa! So thrilled it helped make more sense of the lifestyle :)

  • Siamka

    Good post and I usually try to eat some salad with my pizza ;)

    • http://eatwellpartyhard.com/ Claire Suellentrop

      PERFECT balance example, Siamka. I usually try to eat some before my beer ;)

  • Amy

    Great post

    • http://eatwellpartyhard.com/ Claire Suellentrop

      Thanks for checking in, Amy! Thrilled to hear it resonated with you :)

  • Pingback: 10 bites is about right | Eat Well. Party Hard.()