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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.