The 80/20 Rule and How We Live It

Why do the scales always seem to tip the wrong way?

I looked back recently and marveled at the fact that after many, many years of this “healthy lifestyle” thing, we have actually reached a point where the choice to intentionally move most days and to eat real food most of the time is the rule of our lives, rather than the exception. 

We don’t exercise because we’re trying to burn calories. We don’t choose the foods we eat because we’re trying to shred weight for summer. We don’t take rest days that turn into extra days and weeks and months of sedentary behavior. These things have become ingrained in the fabric of how we live.

I’m thankful for it because when we do have weird weeks, like busy times when we simply can’t fit in the amount of exercise we normally would, we are content to do what we can and resume the schedule we prefer when time allows. When we over-do it with junk food or sugar on a holiday, well, usually feeling like utter crap encourages us to drink a lot of water and eat our fruits and veggies the next day. 

I no longer fear “falling off the wagon,” because the wagon is my rule, not my exception. And some fried food or a day off of exercise is part of the wagon – about 20% of it actually. 

The 80/20 Rule 

Let’s look at the number of meals we all typically eat in a week. 3 a day, 7 days, so about 21 meals. If 80% of those meals (17ish) are based on real, unprocessed foods with a pretty nice balance of protein, carbs, and fat, I know that I will avoid stomach upset, bloating, inflammation and discomfort (honestly, these things bother me more than the risk of weight gain because it is no way to live). 

If the goal is at least 30 minutes of exercise a day and we do that 80% of the time, that gives 5-6 days a week of intentional movement. It helps me feel less stressed, more focused, more inclined to drink water and eat fresh food, and it makes my body stronger and more capable. 

So What About the 20%?

Well, it’s built into the plan isn’t it? So that time we grab pizza on movie night or eat hot dogs and fries at the beach, I don’t feel guilty. I don’t go for a run to burn off the calories. I do try not to stuff myself because it leads to those other symptoms that I hate, but when that does happen I let it serve as a reminder, not a punishment. 

I feel best inside that 80%, but I am not perfect and I really love pizza and sometimes my stress level requires me to take a nap rather than a workout. 

When we can make it this way – life should be about living according to rules that we contently live inside of, not those from which we are are always looking for a way out. 

Now, when it comes to health and fitness, most of us are preconditioned to believe that healthy food is to be tolerated, while real-life and goodness exists in the deep-friend and sugar-coated. That self-care is a day at the spa, while exercise is torture. These conditioned ideas take some time to undo. 

So How Can Healthy Choices Become Our Friend, Rather Than Our Enemy? 

First, it takes acknowledgment of that fact that a healthier body really does afford you the choices of a better life. You can go places and do things when you can breathe, control your heart rate, move your limbs pain-free, and not have your body become so sore that the rest of the week is lost. For us, quality of life comes connected to the quality of our living. We don’t want our bodies to limit our choices, so we chose to make them as resilient as possible.

Then, consider the understanding that our nature often inclines us to do the easy thing. Why do you think processed foods became a thing? Quick, simple, zero prep, tastes good (but does it?). Changing your body and your life isn’t punishment, but it is hard work. So we need to learn to embrace that and find things to be thankful for inside of it, instead of always dreading it or viewing it as a negative. Perspective. Perspective is key. 

You also have to consistently do it. If you are going to experience the benefits of the 80/20 rule, then you need to give yourself the chance to observe how your body feels when you actually live it out. When I eat too much sugar, my body quickly reminds me why I chose to avoid it 80% of the time. Ugh. When I live my life in balance I feel good, I like the way my clothes fit, and my energy level usually gives me a better attitude toward life. It takes time, and that’s different for everyone, but the longer you live something out the more it becomes your lifestyle, rather than something you are trying out.

How Can This Work for You? 

We have been at this practice of healthy living for years. We have had seasons of doing it better than other times, but we give ourselves grace, we refuse to look at food or exercise as a punishment, and we hold ourselves and each other accountable. If we want to improve our lives, we have to change our behavior. These same concepts can and do apply to you. 

If you find yourself on and off of fads, trends, and wagons, what we desire for you is a guilt-free life of consistency. What we want for everyone we love and work with is the health and peace that comes with knowing you can live your life in the 80/20 and not fear disruptions to your plan that may cause backward progress. 

If you need coaching like that, talk with us. We’ll help you make a plan that can turn into a lifestyle, and we’ll help you every step of the way.