The 80-20 principle

Having a healthy relationship with food, is essential to a healthy, yet fun lifestyle. Last January I already told you something about how I try to maintain that balance between living healthy, yet also indulging in the good life. At that time, I mentioned the 80-20 principle. Today, I would like to tell you a bit more about what the 80-20 principle is and how I apply it.

The 80-20 principle

I like a good beer or a glass of wine from time to time indeed…

What is the 80-20 principle?

When you Google 80-20 principle many different applications play up. I can’t remember where I first heard of this, but I pretty much think it was a guy at the gym who was helping me to figure out my weight routine a while back. What this pretty much means is that you eat healthy or clean 80% of the time. To me, this means minimal amounts of wheat (though I do not shy away from other grains), little to no sugar apart from fruits and as many veggies as you can possibly muster.

The remaining 20% you get to eat whatever you like. Whether it is that chocolate bar, or that glass of wine: you get to indulge in those things you love and it doesn’t really matter when or where you do it, as long as you don’t do it too much. The best part is: you don’t have to count calories, you can have that piece of pie and still maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Why use the 80-20 principle?

It’s easy, it’s quick, it’s no rocket science, it’s not expensive, you don’t need extra of special products, you don’t have to use apps, scales or any special equipment. It all comes down to making choices and since you get to cheat a little bit from time to time, you won’t have to punish yourself for making the wrong one.

Do the scales sometimes tip more into the 70-30 realm for me? Sure does, but as long as you don’t have that happen too often of for a long period of time, you can maintain a good balance. Example: I have a major sweet tooth and so I easily fall into that trap of eating too much that isn’t good for me. My body will tell me it is not doing too fab when I do so and I know it’s time to switch back to what works. Easy peasy!

How do you apply 80-20?

Now, what if you are less in tune with your digestive system and aren’t sure when something is right or wrong for you? The first step is to find out how your body reacts. I was ‘lucky’ and build up a massive amount of wheat intolerance which lead to my cutting out a ton of stuff from my daily diet just to feel somewhat okay. Now that I know what feeling okay means to me, I know much better how my body responds to certain foods.

My favorite way of finding out how I respond to foods, and a way for me to sort of ‘reset’ my body (I will come back to that in a minute) is to use FODMAP diet for a week or 2. You can do it for longer or shorter, but basically what it does is cut out any that are on the red list on the IBS website and stick to the green list and only the green list for some time. After a week or 2 you can start adding back in some things from the red list to find out what your system might react unfavorably to. Give it another week or 2 before you add back in the next group of foods etc.

What do I do?

I try to stick to 80-20 as much as I can. But I am no saint. I do know that I feel best if I eat via the principle so it is something I can always fall back on when I feel like I’m about to run myself off the road. And there are plenty of moments in a year where that could potentially happen. I mean, Christmas, New Year’s, and who wants to spend their summer holidays living on salads? Not me! So here’s what I do.

I find that following the principle is easiest for me when I have a routine down, so work days and work weeks are easiest to accommodate. I will use my vacations to indulge perhaps a little bit more than usual and just keep at it while I am at work and that seems to work very nicely. When I come back from an especially nasty bout of overindulgence, I go back to the FODMAP principle or at least I cut out wheat to give my body some time to recuperate and just take it from there.

Now the most important part you should know about is that I tend to lump my 20% into one day. Usually during the weekend I will have one day where I have all the bad food in the world. Not all day long, but just a few bits here and there. It’s the day I get a take out, have chocolate and if I’m feeling especially like having something extremely bad: a can of coke.

But I leave it at that. The rest of the week? None of that, just healthy, whole foods and home cooked meals.

What do you do to live a healthy lifestyle?

2 responses to “The 80-20 principle”

  1. Vind gezond eten toch best wel lastig! Dat 80/20 principe is een goed idee, denk dat ik nu op 60/40 zit 😛

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