Regardless of what might’ve introduced you to this rule, I’m sure you’re familiar with it in either of its two forms.
In the first form, it says that you will always see 80% of your results from 20% of your work. While that definitely applies in fitness – specifically since eating properly is easily the most important of developing a fit life – this isn’t the version I’m addressing today.
What I’m embracing today, is the version of the 80/20 rule that says you shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Look at it this way. During the Clean Eating challenge, I had a lot of people send me e-mails about how they were doing soooooooo well with the challenge until they encountered the [insert processed food] or until they drove past the [insert fast food joint.] At that point, they realized that they had failed, and gave up on the challenge.
A few weeks ago, I wrote that I don’t believe in the concept of “cheating” on your clean eating, and I meant that. Let me quote something I said there:
People who take on temporary diets to lose a few pounds, only to revert right back to the habits that caused them to pack on the pounds in the first place… they “cheat” their diets every now and again. They “cheat” and eat the way they used to, because they’ve realized that they took on a diet that was far too restrictive for their natural liking – in a cold turkey kind of way, at that – and regress… without really learning anything from the situation altogether.
I can’t support that for a ton of reasons.
Firstly, it implies – like I mentioned – that you took on something too restrictive and too soon. Why? Are you trying to fit in a dress before the weekend, or are you trying to change things up so that you never have a problem getting in that dress again? Why did you go cold turkey? Don’t we know a gazillion people who’ve tried to cut things (namely smoking) cold turkey, only to regress because it was too much to bear?
Secondly, it implies that we don’t recognize that the habits/food items we used to “cheat” are the ones that got us in this mess in the first place! If I have committed to clean eating, decide to have a “cheat day” when I come home from work and have a TV dinner… y’know, because I’m sooooo tired and need to relax after a long day? C’mon, man! That ain’t gon’ cut it! The TV dinner might not even be that terrible – it’s not the food that’s the problem! It’s the habit. Coming home and not having anything healthy prepped for you to take? Coming home and having the TV dinner in the house in the first place? That’s the kind of stuff that results in you hitting up a fast food joint.
So, having re-stated that… let me explain the 80/20 rule as it applies to fitness. You don’t give up 80% of all of what you’ve earned for the 20% that you don’t have! You don’t give up on what you’ve taught yourself simply because you haven’t learned to resist a few things, or because you haven’t learned to get up from the bed and hit the gym early or even because you can’t seem to put down the ice cream after a few scoops!
You’ve worked hard. You’ve read all my posts about processed food, and you know that some foods that you’ve lived for and grown to love are the foods that are getting in your way. You can’t just snap your fingers and expect to wake up one morning with all of those cravings to just go away! This isn’t a temporary deal – this is a lifestyle that you must embrace, and quitting on the whole thing simply because you can’t give up the scalloped potatoes (yes, I go hard on the scalloped potatoes!) is the most absurd thing you could do.
I used to have an addiction. I used to slaughter giant boxes of goldfish crackers. I mean, I could kill an entire small pack in one day’s time.
I can assure you I didn’t just wake up one morning with the ability to resist them. I’d buy them for my little one, and I’d spend an entire day creeping back and forth getting small handfuls of them. I’d spend all day going back and forth just getting one. Then, I only bought the small packages that came pre-wrapped (and subsequently felt bad about all the trash they created.) I eventually realized that I simply couldn’t come in contact with them, and stopped buying them. It literally took me a year to resolve my goldfish craving.
Let me put it into perspective: it took me a year to resolve my goldfish craving. It took me approximately 8mos to lose 100lbs. Had I taken that mentality of “Aw, I can’t give up my goldfish cravings, I might as well quit.. this is hopeless,” I’d still be 300some odd pounds. I would’ve given up 80% of my successes because of the 20% that I struggled with.
This is not about dieting. It’s about changing the lifestyle that allowed you to put on (and KEEP ON) the weight that you shouldn’t have on in the first place. So no, the concept of “cheating” is ludicrous… as is the thought that you should quit after completing 80% of the race because the 20% gets too tough. Don’t get hung up on the simple stuff. Not only is it a small hurdle in a long race, but it’s a hurdle that – with enough momentum – you can easily hop right over.