One of my favorite books about nutrition and health is The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. I think the book provides a great framework for building and maintaining healthy habits of diet and exercise. If you’re looking to make a change in this area of your life, I would recommend getting yourself a copy.
One of the most helpful ideas in the book is the 80/20 rule.
The 80/20 rule says that a realistic goal is to adhere to your healthy lifestyle regimen about 80% of the time. I like this rule because it acknowledges that we are imperfect people living in a real world of happy hours and birthday parties. It recognizes that perfect compliance isn’t realistic or sustainable over the long haul. It sets us up for a program that can be maintained over the course of a lifetime.
This is how the 80/20 rule looks in my life: In general, I have a set of healthy principles that I try to follow. For example, I try to fill my diet with fruits, vegetables, and healthy meats. I try to drink water throughout the day. I try to limit my alcohol intake. I try to exercise for an hour every day. I try to get 8 hours of sleep per night. I try to have ample opportunities throughout my week to de-stress, such as going to counseling and hanging out with friends.
But I also don’t freak out if I don’t adhere to these goals 100% of the time. For example, this past week, I went to see the movie Eye in the Sky with a couple of friends. I wanted some popcorn, so I bought some, even though popcorn isn’t really on my diet. If I’m feeling exhausted from my week, I might skip a workout. I try to balance adherence to my principles with letting myself experience the fullness of life.
That’s really what the 80/20 rule is about. It’s a commitment to a set of healthy principles, and it does take discipline. But it also allows for the natural flow of life, which doesn’t always follow a pre-determined plan.
Mark Sisson describes the 80/20 rule this way: “It’s not a white knuckle ride. Loosen the grip, look for smart adjustments, absorb the overall vision and weave it into your life instead of nailing it over top of your old habits.”
Discussion: What do you think of the 80/20 rule? How could you apply it to your life?