Why I Hate the 80/20 Rule

Yes, another food rant.

This one I just can’t keep to myself any longer. I constantly see the 80/20 rule everywhere and it drives. me. insane.

Let’s backtrack a little. I’m a numbers gal. I dig them. And I have obsessive compulsive tendencies am a perfectionist.
So when someone throws numbers out there that just do not make logical sense, I can’t handle it.  And I could NEVER buy into it.

For those of you who don’t know what the 80/20 rule is… here’s my attempt at an unbiased explanation. I’ll leave the ripping-it-apart to another paragraph.

The 80/20 rule is a rule that I see applied to many different food philosophies.
In the real food world, it can mean a diet that is 80% strictly real and 20%… not so much.
In the raw food world, it usually means a diet that is 80% raw and 20% cooked.
Seems simple. Seems fair enough, right?

But, the numbers… The numbers, I say! They make no sense, I say!
Here’s why~
If I were to assign a percentage to the meals that I eat, it would look something like this:
Breakfast: 20-25%
Lunch: 25-30%
Dinner: 30-35%
Snacks etc: 10-15%
Give or take a little, depending on the day

Now, based on the 80/20 rule… I could eat cocoa pops, soy milk, and vegemite on highly processed and chemical-filled toast for breakfast. As long as I eat a perfectly real diet the rest of the day. And then I could do the same thing the following day. And the day after that. And the day after that…. I’m sure you get the point. That would pretty quickly undo everything good that you’re doing for your body in that 80% of real food eating time.

Or, let’s look at it from a weekly viewpoint…
7 days in a week – each day is worth a little over 14% in terms of total food intake.

Which means I could eat perfectly for 5 days, plus two thirds of the sixth day, and then totally gorge myself on whatever the heck I want for a third of the sixth day and the entire 7th day.


I’m sure you can all see, based on numbers alone, how ridiculous that would be.
And THAT, my friends, is why I don’t like the 80/20 rule. It’s this odd combination of specific numbers and vague recommendations of ‘cheat foods’ and it just doesn’t sit right with me.

And then there’s that other issue of people who supposedly eat an 80/20 diet which is realistically more 70/30 or even 60/40… What’s the point? Anyway, I digress…

But what do we do, they say. I want a burger, they say!

I say: Have your burger, and eat it too. But make it yourself.
Follow the guidelines you would follow any other day, or any other meal. Make your burger buns from organic, unbleached flour. Or buy them, there are some great companies out there making great stuff – including unprocessed, real burger buns. Mince up your meat in your Thermomix or food processor with some herbs, chuck the patties on the BBQ. Hopefully you’ve got some homemade tomato sauce in your fridge. Maybe even some homemade mayo. I don’t make my own mustard, I buy this amazing brand (affiliate). Grow your lettuce (seriously, it’s the easiest thing to grow) and your tomatoes. Or buy them. If you are suuuuper desperate – just buy the whole damn burger. The important thing is, don’t do it every day!

Have your burger, and eat it too. And other ‘cheats’. Cakes. Sausage rolls. Chocolates. Fries. Donuts.

You don’t ever need to ‘miss out’ on a real foods diet. Sure, you may not want to make fried donuts every day. But you can make them, on occasion, and fry them in real and nourishing fats – like in this recipe here, or this one here if you can’t have gluten. And you should make your donuts. If you have a seriously unbeatable craving for a donut, you should satisfy it before you end up overindulging at Krispy Kreme.
Just not 20% of the time!

Does this mean I’m a fun-sucking spoil sport who never goes out to dinner, or starves herself when travelling?

If you think I might be – Hi, I’m Sarah, I don’t believe we’ve met before.

I go out to dinner. To *shock horror* non-organic restaurants who serve gluten.
When I go out to dinner, there are certain things I will pretty much always steer clear of. When I go out to dinner, most of the time I choose well. I choose exciting, delicious food that doesn’t stray too far from how I like to eat. But of course – sometimes the menu is just far too exciting and I don’t choose so well. But the important thing is, this does not comprise 20% of my meals. I don’t eat
out for one meal every day. I don’t eat out for an entire day every week. I don’t do ‘everything in moderation’ or ‘cheat days’ or anything like that.

I eat out maaaaaybe once a month. Usually less. I find I just don’t really want to eat junk more often than that, because I know what’s in it and it grosses me out. I’d rather eat food, thank you.
I cook at home. I cook treats at home. I cook things that we looooove to eat – that we would be tempted to go out for if I didn’t cook them. But I find a way to cook them, within the guidelines of what I believe is the right diet for me.

And ultimately, that’s what I believe is the best solution for both your body and your soul. Satisfy your soul with comfort food and appease your cravings – but don’t sacrifice your body to suit your soul. Cook for your body – eat for your soul.


What rules do YOU follow (or refuse to follow) around food? Let me know in the comments below.

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