Like most human beings, my family has an obnoxious amount of unhealthy food ready and waiting during the holidays. All the starch, sugar, and cream-based goodness you could ask for is just sitting there, staring you in the face. How do you, someone with fitness and health goals on the brain, survive the temptation, especially when grandmas and aunts are personally offended if you don’t eat what they have provided?
Enter the 80/20 approach to food. This is not a diet. It’s a lifestyle guideline designed to focus on balance, but allow some indulgence, in your intake. Let’s be honest, a hyper-restrictive diet that allows for no deviation is difficult/impossible to maintain. You can’t be perfect 100% of the time. You just can’t. And if you attempt that 100% perfection and slip up by having one sip of soda or a nibble of chocolate, it’s very common for a person to feel guilty about what they have done. A lot of people feel like a failure if they indulge slightly. This can wear on a person’s mental health as well as their self worth.
Food is delicious! We shouldn’t feel bad for being humans and enjoying it. On the other hand, indulging too much can have the same effect as being too restrictive: a loss of self-worth and feeling out of control.
The beauty of the 80/20 rule is it allows you to satiate your cravings for salty chips or sweet candies every now and then without compromising your entire diet. 80% of the time, (and this can be per day, week, month, what have you), consume clean food. Clean food means unprocessed munchables. Stuff you can pull off a plant and eat or meat, (for you herbivores, some protein substitute that’s naturally produced). Cook this with healthy fats, spices, and herbs. Essentially, follow Greg Glassman’s credo to eating. We’ll discuss that further down the line. Food for fuel!
The other 20%, feel free to eat whatever you want. Within reason.
Always a catch.
Sure, nom on the good stuff, the things you have cravings for during the other 80% of the time. However, since you are part of the community that is focusing on self-betterment, challenge yourself to select “treat food” that is on the healthier end of the spectrum. Instead of ice cream, try mashed frozen bananas with a little vanilla extract. No, it’s not the same, but your body will thank you later. Instead of four slices of cheese pizza, try two slices of veggie or meat pizza. Homemade sweet potato chips instead of Doritos. The list goes on and on.
Spread out your 20%, too. Instead of being healthy and consistent through the week then gorging on the weekend, allow yourself a small treat each day. Small. Did I say small? A SMALL treat each day. And while you’re enjoying a SMALL indulgence every day, make healthy, clean meals that taste good. Do your research. Find recipes that include foods that you know you like. Take time to prep them for the future so you don’t deviate from the 80/20 world into the 50/50 world.
Other than the 80/20 allowing for little bits of happiness each day, it is also sustainable. This is a highly functional method of thinking about food consumption. When you eat primarily healthy food, you will see improvements in athletic performance, brain function, and bodily function, such as digestion and respiration. At the same time, acknowledging your cravings and being in control of them keeps you from going crazy with said cravings. Guilt will be less and less of an issue because you know you are fueling your body more than you are spoiling it.
Take the time. Prep your food, prep your snacks, prep your treats, and don’t worry. You got you.
As I get older, one of the things I appreciate more and more is sleep. Yes, sleep. Not just for the ability to completely relax and shut off my brain, although those are the primary reasons that I enjoy it. Sleep performs multiple other functions that lead to a more productive and fulfilling life.
Sleep helps with concentration. This is a no-brainer. If you’re at your desk during the day and you start to lose focus, daydream, or do the recognizable head-nod, it’s probably because you didn’t get enough good sleep during the night. Just like a fatigued body doesn’t perform as well as a rested one, a tired mind doesn’t think as well as a rested one. Getting enough quality sleep sharpens the mind so that daily tasks, even the tedious ones, stay crystal clear.
Sleep speeds up recovery after workouts and makes you a better athlete. That downtime of 8 hours at night requires nothing of the muscles. This means that blood full of oxygen and nutrients can flow uninhibited into worn out tissues. Sleep is shown to reduce inflammation and cool down an over-worked body. It’s a paradox, but as long as you’re sleeping, you’re working to repair and re-energize so that you can take on the next day. If you miss sleep, you’ll likely feel even more sore and tired after a hard day at the gym.
Sleep regulates your metabolism. Interestingly enough, the area of the brain that controls sleep also controls your metabolism. When a person doesn’t get enough sleep, (Coach Emily is a good example), they tend to make unhealthy food choices. It’s kind of linked to the grumpy-tired mentality of, “Screw it, this is yummy.” Or maybe that’s just me. Anyway, if the body doesn’t get enough rest, the metabolism gets wonky. It doesn’t burn at as high a rate as it could if the body was well rested. Just like tired muscles, a worn-out metabolism won’t perform. If you’re trying to lose those last 5 pounds that just keep hanging on, make it a priority to get quality sleep at night. Chances are, that weight will disappear more quickly than living on a treadmill.
Sleep makes you more creative. A refreshed mind is capable of more complex thought and critical thinking. Everyone has heard the wisdom of, “Go to bed. You’ll have an answer in the morning.” This isn’t just for advice or decision-making. Getting sleep allows a person to see problems from different angles, and thus makes them more capable of problem-solving instead of problem-dwelling. And let’s not forget dreams. Some of the most creative phenomena for mankind are dreams. A whole artistic movement was founded on the impact of dreams (surrealism).
Sleep reduces stress. Not just in the fact that everything is shut down when you’re sleeping. After taking that power nap, or even sleeping on something, a person is generally more willing to look at a situation with a level head instead of being overloaded with emotion. Stress is emotional and, as humans, we are slaves to our emotions whether we like it or not. Allowing ourselves a break from our emotions via sleeping calms us down, letting us see things more clearly.
With all these benefits of sleep combined, sleep can be credited with lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease, and can reduce your risk of depression. Just to name a few. Sleep is the most basic natural-healing regimen.
To make the most out of a night of sleep, set up your bedroom specifically for sleep. Make sure it’s dark and quiet. If you need white noise, try a fan or sound-machine. Ensure that you will be comfortable. Get a good mattress, supportive pillows, maybe even weighted blankets. Stay away from screens for at least 30 minutes before sleepy-time. TV and cell phone usage immediately before bed stimulates brain activity, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Train your body to learn that your bed is for sleeping. When you hit the bed, you are going to sleep.
Sleep is the one thing that requires zero work but gives 100% return on investment. Get ready. Set. SLEEP!
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Sara Mozingo is the Co-Owner, head coach, and programing wizard at CrossFit Icehouse. When she’s not developing rep schemes and diving into the nerdery she enjoys hanging out in nature hiking trails or climbing rocks with her side-kick Mr. Mosely.
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