Many weight loss diets require a strict adherence to healthy eating. Following a very strict eating pattern could later lead to binge eating for some people which hinders weight loss efforts. This type of going back and forth between dieting and eating whatever you want is termed as yo-yo dieting.
Yo-yo dieting means you have some weight loss for a short period of time, but after going off a diet you gain the weight right back maybe even plus some extra weight than before.
People who go through yo-yo dieting often have poor results for weight loss.
Following a diet with the 80/20 rule is meant to avoid yo-yo dieting. The premise of the 80/20 diet is you follow a healthy eating pattern 80% of the time, and 20% of the time you can indulge.
The thought behind this principle is including some splurges can make it more likely to stick a healthy eating plan.
Weight loss can be possible on the 80/20 plan, but there are some important tips to make this plan work for you.
What does the 80/20 diet look like?
The rules of the 80/20 diet are fairly loose. You are supposed to eat healthy 80% of the time. Eating healthy can be interpreted different ways and tailored per individual.
In general, eating healthy 80% of the time should mean eating high amounts of fruits and vegetables, limiting intakes of sweets and processed snacks, eating whole grains instead of refined grains and choosing heart healthy fats and proteins in your diet.
Eating what you want 20% of the time can be applied different ways.
For example, if you are counting calories, you can have a certain amount of calories that can be from what you like and the rest following a healthy eating pattern.
1,500 calories per day eating plan following the 80/20 diet: 1,200 calories from healthy foods and up to 300 calories from splurge foods.
An important consideration is the 20% doesn’t give you free reign to eat whatever you want and however much you want. For this example, 300 calories wouldn’t even be a full meal at a restaurant.
Another way of looking at it is 80% of your meals will be healthy and 20% of meals can be more of a splurge.
Eating three meals a day for a week would be 21 meals per week. Following the 80/20 plan would be about 17 meals following a healthy meal plan and about 4 meals that could be more of a spurge.
Can weight loss happen?
Yes, weight loss can be possible following the 80/20 diet. It can be successful if you eat appropriate healthy foods on the 80% and stick with only 20% as a splurge.
An important component for weight loss and overall health is to incorporate exercise in your routine.
This shouldn’t be overlooked while on the 80/20 diet. It’s important to note the 20% should not overwhelm the efforts from the 80% healthy eating.
It can be easy to overdue the 20% which could have the same effect on weight loss as yo-yo dieting.
In a July 2016 Fox News article, Dr. Brian Quebbeman (1) suggests following the 80/20 diet can avoid the failure prone mindset of following a strict diet.
For some people, this could help them stick with weight loss for the long haul and not get caught in the yo-yo dieting cycle.
Allowing for some splurge foods in your normal eating habit could prevent the need for eating foods in excess.
Knowing some foods are not entirely off limits may lessen the appeal of over indulging on favorite foods.
There is not a lot of research behind the 80/20 diet because the parameters of the diet are somewhat ambiguous.
However, many people claim to have success with this eating approach. Keep in mind weight loss is not a one size fits all approach.
Trying something like the 80/20 diet could be helpful for weight loss, but more direction from a dietitian for healthy portion sizes, balance between food groups, etc. may be needed.
Other considerations for the 80/20 plan
If you have a hard time keeping the splurges to the 20%, you may need some further guidance from a health professional for the 80/20 diet.
Something more structured may be helpful for some people. Eating the right kind of foods is also important for the 80% part of the diet. Eating nutrient dense foods and eliminating empty calories is key for success.
Dietitian Christine Palumbo (2) suggests if the 80/20 plan isn’t quite working for you, you could modify to following a stricter 90/10 plan. For some this may help them keep indulgences limited.
Intuitive eating is also designed to be part of the 80/20 eating plan. You should still listen to your body to stop eating when you are full and not over stuff yourself, especially when indulging.
The main focus behind the 80/20 plan is to eat healthy most of the time but still allow an occasional treat. The occasional treat doesn’t totally derail your weight loss efforts; it is part of your plan.
The 80/20 diet is meant to be a healthy weight loss approach for people who are sick of being on the yo-yo dieting cycle.
This yo-yo cycle consists of following a restrictive diet for a period of time that can result in weight loss, but eventually eating habits don’t stick and eating cycles to excess of indulgent foods that can lead to weight gain.
In order to make this successful for weight loss, eating the right type of foods and portion sizes while following the 80% plan is crucial.
Also, it can be easy to overdue on the 20% splurge part of the plan. This is meant to give room for occasional treats, not freedom to eat whatever you want.