In the last two installments of The Rules to Eat By, Dr. Jessica Basala, D.C., Doctor of Chiropractic Training Supervisor, shared two great ways to start you on the path to a healthy eating lifestyle. The first, the Addition Rule, begins with one small step: add something nutritious to a meal without taking anything away from yourself. Once you’ve mastered the first rule, you move onto the Replacement Rule where you gradually begin to replace your unhealthy foods with healthy choices.
Now you’ve arrived at the 80/20 Rule—this is where you’ll stay! You may have heard of the 80/20 Rule elsewhere in life, also known as the “Pareto principle” or the “law of the vital few.” This rule, which often is applied to economics and business, basically says that 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. Another way to look at it is that most things in life are disproportionately distributed.
The 80/20 Rule
Dr. Jessica first started to notice that the Pareto principle could apply to how people eat about three years ago. She saw a pattern where about 80 percent of people ate unhealthy lunches, while about 20 percent would choose healthy foods for lunch. Dr. Jessica was concerned about this large disproportion and wondered if by flipping the rule—eating healthy 80 percent of the time and indulging 20 percent of the time—people could find a healthy eating plan they could stick to.
Think about it this way: there are about 20 meals in a week (at around three meals a day), so pick 16 meals to eat healthy and four meals to indulge. And pick what works for you. Dr. Jessica likes having her 20 healthy meals during the week and saves her “unhealthy” meals for her weekends. This doesn’t have to be set in stone! If you know you have something coming up, like a dinner on a weeknight, just swap days.
Why it Works
Dr. Jessica says this works for her because she never feels deprived. “When you tell yourself you can’t have something, it just makes you want to have it more,” she explains. “You’ll fall off the cliff in an hour, a day or a week down the road.” So instead of telling herself “no,” she tells herself “not now.” She plans out her indulgent meals and looks forward to them, like a dinner out to her favorite taco joint in the city or homemade pizza on Saturday night.
Eating healthy 100 percent of the time is extremely difficult, if not impossible in day-to-day life. Start out with smaller steps and allow yourself to adapt to a big change over a long period of time. Your chances of success will increase tenfold!