Recently when I read an article on the 80:20 approach in diet, I said to myself ‘yes!’ and I felt smug. Although it’s not only me who feels this I secretly see myself as one of the first advocates of the 80:20. For the past few years, I have seen over 1,000 patients for cardiovascular health checks and this 80:20 approach was the core of my advice. This is also the basis of my approach to overall health.
Realistic and Achievable
We often feel that we need to make lifestyle changes in order to become healthy, lose weight and become fitter. The biggest culprit is self-imposed perfectionism. Modern women (ironically sounds quite dated) set the bar too high and we feel the pressure in just about all aspects of life: work, home life, self-care and lifestyle goals (there is even such a word like ‘lifestyle envy’). Easier said than done but a reality check is needed. We can’t do everything perfectly. Instead, we need to allow ourselves to be realistic and lower the bar a little. Setting realistic and achievable goals is the key to emotional wellbeing. Eating a healthy balanced diet is essential for health but we shouldn’t beat ourselves up if we have occasional treats.
80% Healthy : 20% Treat
Some people use the word indulgence instead of a treat. It’s a personal preference and both mean the same basically. In terms of diet, I recommend being mindful of making healthy choices roughly 80% of the time. Then you ‘earn’ your treat (approximately 20% of your diet). There are no rigid rules to achieve this. You might want to take this approach on daily basis. Average reference intake of daily energy intake for a woman is 2,000 kcal, so about 400 kcal of it can be a treat! Please note that I don’t want you to start neurotically counting calories of food.
So how we do it?
What I wanted to say is that an extra calorie from pizza lunch with a friend or a croissant from a newly opened French bakery can be negated by making healthy choices for the rest of the day. Some people may prefer a weekly approach. Another example; you are invited to a dinner party at the weekend. You know that it will most certainly involve a few glasses of wine and a pudding. To make it alright you can choose to have matcha or herbal tea instead of daily latte for the rest of the week.
We can apply the same approach in other areas of daily life. Doing your best and aiming 100% all time doesn’t necessarily lead to a positive outcome. Our concentration span lasts only about 45-50 minutes. We can input only so much information and need a short break in between. Have a short walk, make a cup of tea or listen to one song. Be kind to yourself. If you achieve 80% of what you have planned for the day then well done!