The 80/20 Rule Explained
The 80/20 rule is a popular rule in the health and fitness world meant to describe a way of eating. In short, it means 80% of the time you're eating healthy, well-balanced foods and the other 20% of the time you're treating yourself.
I am a huge fan of the 80/20 rule. I've tried fad diets, depriving myself and cutting out foods I love, it never worked for me. I almost always ended up purging on the goodies and yo-yoing. Following the 80/20 rule means being able to stay on plan, but also not depriving yourself of the goodies you love. The best part, it doesn't have to look any one way.
How to Use the 80/20 Rule
You can use the 80/20 rule in anyway that works best for you. Some people use it as one cheat meal on the weekend, others give themselves one treat afternoon snack. Personally, I like to give myself one treat snack each day so I don't feel starved for yummy fun food all week. It does not have to be an exact 20% but that's what I shoot for.
A good rule of thumb is to calculate your calories or macros and take 20% of that. For example, if your daily calorie intake is 1,800 calories, give yourself a 360 calorie treat in the afternoon or after dinner. This could be a slice of cake, a cookie or some buttery popcorn. If you prefer a cheat meal once a week, consider that at 1,800 calories per day you're eating 12,600 calories per week, giving you a 2,520 "cheat" or treat calories.
I'd like to reiterate that this does not need to be exact, it's just a general rule to strive for so ensure a well-balanced diet. Focusing on eating healthy 80% of the time will draw more attention to nutrient-dense foods.
Why is it Effective
Bottom line, it's effective because you're not depriving yourself. If you're the type of person that can cut out foods without any problem, first of all, I'm super jealous, second of all, you probably don't need this rule in your toolbox. But for the majority of people I know, deprivation usually leads to gorging on the foods we love. This prevents that because you're still allowing yourself a treat but in moderation.