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80/20 Rule

1200*7= 8,400

8400*20%= 1,680

1680/7= 240

Yes, I am starting out with a math problem. It is a visual example of the 80/20 rule I talk about when I am talking with clients about changing habits. When you are trying to make a change to a lifetime habit, it’s not easy to go cold turkey. If you try to quit anything suddenly, you will not be able to sustain the change. I always advocate an 80/20 approach to lifestyle changes and losing weight. This circles back to why I don’t recommend dieting. It’s difficult to maintain something as restrictive as a 100% diet change.

The math problem above is reflective of a person on a 1,200-calories-a-day diet. That’s 1,200 calories per day. Over the course of a week, that’s 8,400 calories.

Twenty percent of 8,400 calories is 1,680 calories. Divide 1,680 by seven days in the week and you get 240. That means you have 240 calories to eat something you love each day. OR you can use up 500 of those calories on something that makes you happy one day. You can instead choose to indulge in a decadent meal or dessert two to three days in one week. You aren’t supposed to blow all 1,680 calories all in one sitting. That is not the point! Don’t do it! That leaves nothing to look forward to for the rest of the week. A few minutes of pleasure is not worth it! I promise. Don’t listen to your heart on this—it will lie to you. You want to be sensible and keep your long term goals in mind.

The goal of the 80/20 eating plan is that you are eating clean (i.e. no processed foods) including all your fruits and veggies 80% of the time. The last 20% can be used on something that makes you happy. The key to keeping to your 20% is portion control. Jenna at Physician’s Weight Control & Wellness describes portion control in a helpful way: “Think toddler-size portions.” I think this is a great way to look at your 20%. You still get to indulge in your favorite foods from time to time, but you are controlling how much you are eating. This is where willpower needs to come into play. This is the part that can be most challenging for a lot of people. Having willpower is a daily struggle for me personally. I listen to my heart and NOT my head! It is a very common struggle that everyone fights with, and it takes planning to get to a place where you can say no when faced with your favorite desserts. Having a strategy is key to making sure any changes you make will work.

Everyone has their favorite food or dessert. Mine is the picture associated with this post. These treats are only made once a year, and I’m not even certain of what exactly is in them. My mom’s friend has made these Haystacks for as long as I can remember. As I got older, she would provide me with my very own baggie of them! I look forward to them every year and know I can count on receiving my baggie of Haystacks. I decided this year I needed a strategy to avoid eating all of them within two days of receiving them (it has been known to happen!). My strategy now is to put them in the fridge. Yes, the fridge. They get too hard to eat, so I have to pull them out of the fridge to soften them up before I can eat one. This way, I’m eating only two at a time and have to wait for more. The waiting helps my heart catch up with my mind! Might sound simple, but it works for me!

Think of a strategy that works for you, even if it’s making you work for your treat. It may be something else, such as prepping your food in smaller portions ahead of time so you aren’t eating it all mindlessly.

The key to the 80/20 rule is balance. You can have your glass of wine or cocktail as long as you are eating a healthy meal. 

So, let’s sum it up: you have 6,720 calories to eat clean and healthy foods and 1,680 calories to eat your happy food. Use your calories wisely!!

My weight loss programs are unique in that they are individually tailored to each client. Everyone is different. No two treatment plans are the same. I approach every new client as an individual and not a person to fit into a pre-determined plan.  

Get in touch to learn more about my Nutrition Consulting program!

Niki Claybrook holistic nurtitionist