Why The 80/20 Rule Makes Sense

By: Jeremy Robinson, Certified Personal Trainer

The biggest struggle with losing weight or even getting into shape is minimizing the amount of junk we put into our bodies. Optimal word: minimizing.

It is almost impossible to completely eliminate the bad foods and incorporate good foods into our diet. That is why there must be a balance. Balance keeps us sane and leveled throughout our dieting process. Without balance the feeling of being restricted can arise and force us to want to rebel because the body wants what it wants: enjoyable food.

This is why I am a huge proponent of the 80/20 rule — also known as the “Pareto Principle” — when it comes to dieting. This rule gives you the flexibility to indulge without going overboard or feeling guilty. This approach is simple and can be quite rewarding for individuals looking to become more physically fit.

Jeremy Robinson

The 80/20 rule is the process of filling 80 percent of your week (roughly 5.5 days) with clean and healthy eating while the other 20 percent (roughly 1.5 days) of your week can be filled with more “relaxed” foods. Relaxed foods being foods that you enjoy that completely goes against your diet.  One of the best parts about this approach is that it gives you something to look forward to at the end of your 80 percent.

I like to save my 20 percent for the weekend when I usually don’t have much to do and can have the opportunity to work out for longer periods to help balance all of the not so healthy food I’ll be taking in. Trust me, a pizza never tasted better than enjoying it within your cheat window after you’ve been self-deprived all week.

Even when I am indulging in my 20 percent, I still try to find the highest quality foods possible. This means lots of protein, and I’ll even throw in some green veggies. Mentally, this approach eliminates the urge of wanting to cheat on your diet because you know the day is coming where you can literally eat whatever you want.

The most important part about this principle is ensuring that you are filling your 80 percent with high quality, nutrient packed foods that are helping you reach your goals. These foods include: protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants. Examples of each would be:

  • Protein: Lean chicken, fish, grass-fed beef, eggs, milk, lentils, etc.
  • Healthy Fats: Cheese, avocado, nuts, salmon, etc.
  • Complex Carbohydrates: Fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, etc.
  • Fiber: Beans, legumes, dark-colored vegetables, potatoes, etc.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Fruits and vegetables
  • Antioxidants: Kale, beets, spinach, seeds — plant based foods!

Essentially, the diet battle is mostly won once we are able to regulate and get our eating to a regimen. This is the hardest part of hitting your physical fitness goals, but once you master this step, you’ll be ready to conquer the rest of the journey!

Jeremy Robinson is a certified (NASM) personal trainer and fitness instructor. He trains clients all over the Southern NJ region in their homes, gyms, and outdoors. Follow Jeremy at @gods_son_jay@j_fitness4u, or @JFitness Jeremy Robinson.