The 80/20 “Diet”

Written By: Elsie Ross, CPT at Prescription Fitness (Cleveland, Ohio)

We all know how hard it can be to follow a diet plan.  While the 80/20 rule is not technically a full-blown way to lose weight, it is an easy plan to follow that actually works.  If you are the type of person (like me) who hates to follow strict food guidelines, you don’t want to count calories, carbs, or macros, then this type of eating plan may might be right for you.

What is the 80/20 Rule?

The 80/20 rule is one of the easiest ways to reach and maintain the weight you want. The plan requires that you eat a clean diet 80% of the time and then allow for a more “relaxed” diet 20% of the time. The plan allows you to enjoy a few indulgences on regular basis without feeling the guilt you usually feel when you “cheat” on a stricter plan.  An easy way to incorporate this diet is to follow clean eating during the week and relax a bit on the weekend.

While the 80/20 rule is easy, in order to fully benefit fully from it, you need to make sure that your 80% is really clean. For the most part, this means having meals that focus on lean sources of protein, fruits, and vegetables.  Also, eating whole grains instead of processed, avoiding trans fats, drinking plenty of water and avoiding sugar and alcohol.

When you relax your diet during the 20%, portion control and moderation are very important. For example, during your clean eating days, you should avoid alcohol. Then, during your more relaxed days, you might enjoy a drink or two. During your clean eating days, you should eat veggies or fruit as a snack. During the 20% days, you could have guacamole and chips.

Benefits of the 80/20 Rule

  • Moderation is fairly easy. This is not a feast or famine plan. All of your days, whether you are in the 80% or the 20%, should be moderate eating days. The only thing that changes is your food choices on the 20% days.
  • There is no calorie counting or need to use food apps or food journals.
  • No food is really off limits. You can enjoy the foods you like, just not most of the time.
  • You probably won’t feel deprived. Because of the 20% aspect, you can enjoy a night out and indulgences like pizza, cake, ice cream, etc.
  • This plan encourages healthy lifestyle habits.  Because you are eating clean most of the time, you learn to shop for healthier foods and cook healthier meals.
  • This 80/20 plan is sustainable – the fact that it is not as restrictive as other plans makes it something you can stick with.

Tips for following the 80/20 Rule

  • Don’t overindulge on your 20% days.  If you overdo it on your 20% days, you can gain weight.  For example, eating a slice of cake is good but eating the whole cake is not.
  • Avoid starving yourself on your clean eating days. If you restrict yourself too much during the 80% days, you will be more likely to overindulge on your 20% days.  Also, it will be less sustainable, which is one of the benefits of following the 80/20 rule.
  • Don’t overestimate your 20% days.  In other words, don’t start on Friday morning and go through bed time on Sunday.  It is better to choose a few meals to indulge rather than the entire weekend.
  • Don’t ignore portion control.  Always remember that if you consume too much of any food, even a healthy food, you are likely to gain weight.