why the 80/20 rule is bad nutrition advice

I became a holistic nutritionist because I truly wanted to make an impact on people’s lives, and for the longest time, I believed that in order to do so, I really had to emphasize the importance of clean eating, liver detoxification, hormonal health and finding food sensitivities with everyone who sat down in my office.  It was also my responsibility to inform everyone on the dangers of sugar, processed foods and GMOs, at times, using fear mongering as a tactic.  

It wasn’t all strict – I did give clients some leeway, often throwing in the 80/20 rule (eat healthy 80 percent of the time and fun foods 20 percent of the time).  

The idea of balance and moderation is great.  But not if it means – adhere to my plan 80% of the time, and listen to your own wants and needs 20%. 

The problem:  Being dogmatic about what’s allowed 80% of the time, will only lead to a fixation on the foods they’re NOT allowed to have.

What this leads to: 

Scenario #1: 

Eating “clean” Monday to Friday.  Binging all weekend because you finally can

Scenario #2:

Eating “clean” all morning, afternoon and evening until everybody goes to bed.  Eats all the cookies or chips in the house once everyone is asleep

Why do we do this?

Because 80/20 is still a “diet rule” and restriction can trigger a drive to overeat

Think about what really happens “20%” of the time, whether we’re talking about the weekends or at midnight when everyone in the house is sleeping.  We tend to go “off” our diet, eating everything in sight, which then triggers an immense amount of guilt.  “I feel fat.  I shouldn’t have eaten that.  I guess I blew it”. 

This guilt leads to further restriction, then binge, then restriction, and the cycle continues.

A better option:  listen to your own wants and needs 100% of the time.  

You need to find your own balance and explore what works for you, day in and day out, because it’s your body and you know yourself better than anyone.  A better example of balance would be when you’re eating mindfully and listening to your body, allowing it to guide you, rather than being influenced by diet rules (yes, even the 80/20 one).  This method is especially important for women with a history of dieting, who have never really had the opportunity to explore mindful eating, and learn about their own hunger, satisfaction, and fullness cues.

When we’re able to do this, we free ourselves from the restriction-binge cycle. Changing the way you think about food will help prevent weekend binges and you will notice those  midnight cravings will start to go away.  

Changing your mindset about food is a process – it does not happen overnight, and it may take years to rid ourselves of the dieting mentality, but there IS freedom on the other side.

While many healthcare practitioners still recommend outdated diet and weight loss rules in their practice, there is a growing population of nutritionists, dieticians and health coaches who coach from an Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size perspective who can help you apply strategies to eat more mindfully, and help you get in touch with your own inner cues for hunger and fullness.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This