Updated: Jan 17, 2019
We've all been there; you're excited and ready to start a new diet on Monday. You gorged yourself on junk food, sweets and greasy fast food over the weekend, to ya know, "get it out of your system". You're pumped and prepared with a house full of healthy food. "No temptations here," you think. Then about day seven reality sets in and you're fighting the urge to stuff your face with anything sweet, salty, crunchy and satisfying you can get your hands on. It happens time and time again, and you can't figure out why diet after diet attempt fails.
Diets are designed to fail. You know this, but what you don't understand is why. You don't have a real understanding of how the psychology behind diets is failing you. You think it's your fault. You're a failure; you have no will power, you can't control yourself, yadda, yadda, yadda. It's not your fault. Let me explain.
When you decide to go on a "diet," you unconsciously set yourself up for a power struggle with yourself. Your inner dialogue is all about what you CAN'T have. This thought process leads to feelings of deprivation, restriction, sacrifice, and isolation. Those are very powerful emotions that are difficult to combat with will-power alone. Eventually, you will start to lose this power struggle and give up because it's just too hard. Who wants to always be fighting with themselves and feeling lousy day after day?
Instead, I recommend you ditch the diet and use the 80/20 rule. Simply put; you'll eat healthy, clean, good for you foods 80% of the time and 20% of the time you can indulge in your favorite desserts, snacks or treats.
Why does this work as a sustainable, long term plan?
1. It removes the mindset of deprivation. Knowing you can indulge in a treat every so often removes the mindset of deprivation and the daily power struggle surrounding food. You're not always thinking about the foods you can't have; instead you start thinking about how to achieve balance in your diet. It becomes about balancing out your diet not restricting it. Most people will pick a date in the future to start a diet, they do this because they correlate dieting with giving up pleasurable experiences. This is why most people will start a diet on a Monday. Their mindset is telling them; "I don't want to ruin my weekend". Food shouldn't have that much power over your happiness. The 80/20 rule will help you change the way you eat which will in turn, change your mindset about food.
2. Foods lose their tempting appeal. When you put foods into different categories, the foods you can eat and foods you can't, the foods you can't eat all of a sudden become irresistible. You may not even really like donuts, but when you can't have one, you better believe you'll be dreaming and drooling over donuts. When you are allowed to eat what you'd like in a balanced, appropriate way, you no longer label food as forbidden and you can stop obsessing about them. You know you can have a small piece of chocolate or some fries eventually, and in turn, those foods aren't as tempting anymore.
3. It helps you plan accordingly and stay on track. If you know you're going to a Super Bowl party or a family celebration with lots of less than healthy food choices, you can plan accordingly during the week so you can indulge at the party. It's okay to have some of your friend's famous hot wings because you balanced your diet with clean, healthful food all week. If you've got a date, romantic dinner or night with friends planned for the weekend at your favorite Italian restaurant, eat a healthful breakfast and lunch and enjoy that glass of red wine and a bowl of your favorite pasta.
4. It removes guilt from your life.
Feeling guilty is a powerful emotion that can nag you and bring you down. You know when you've been so good on your diet, and then you stuff your face with a deep dish pizza? You spend the next three days feeling guilty about it and feeling bad about yourself. Feeling guilty won't happen on the 80/20 plan. Okay, you ate the pizza, move on and balance the rest of your meals for the day and week. The guilt is gone because you can recover from a misstep instead of throwing in the towel and giving up all together.
5. It removes the isolating feeling of social eating. We've been trained to think of food as a way to celebrate, show our love and feel connected to each other. Many people struggle with feelings of isolation when they are on a diet. Having to order a special meal, prepared a particular way that may not be on the menu can be overwhelming and anxiety provoking. Bringing your own food to a party can make many people uncomfortable as well. Eating is a social activity sometimes, and when you are on a strict diet, you can feel isolated and left out when the rest of your friends and family are eating and ordering whatever they want. All of a sudden you don't want to go out or attend functions where food is involved ( and when is food not involved???) because it's too uncomfortable for you. The 80/20 rule allows you some wiggle room, so you don't have to be faced with these situations.
How do I do this?
It's up to you when and how you breakdown the 80/20 rule. Here are the most popular ways people incorporate the 80/20 rule into their lives. The weekend is considered your 20%. Eat healthfully Monday through Friday and give yourself some wiggle room over the weekend to enjoy pizza and a movie night with friends. Plan accordingly and save your 20% for special nights out or celebrations you want to attend. Indulge in your 20% when the mood strikes you. If you are dying for a piece of chocolate, go ahead and have a small piece in the evening after you have eaten well all day. It's really up to you. Some people do better with stricter rules on when to indulge with their 20% while others do better flying by the seat of their pants. What matters is that you understand the 20% rule doesn't mean you gorge on a 1,700 calories Peanut Buster Parfait. It means, if you are craving ice cream, have a small cup and enjoy it, then move on making sure you have eaten well the rest of that day.
So go ahead, give the 80/20 rule a try and see the difference for yourself.
Let us know what you think in the comments section. We love to hear from you.
~ Christian Koshaba
For more great content like this, follow Three60fit on our social media accounts.