The Body Retreat

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The Surprising Reason Why The 80/20 Weight Loss Blueprint Really Works

No doubt you are already aware of the 80/20 Principle.  Often referred to by its full title of The Pareto Principle, its the fundamental business and mathematical equation that states that 80% of the results come from just 20% of the actions or input.

Now, I’m not a great fan of statistics, equations or numbers to be fair, I’m much more comfortable with ideas, feelings and words.  So the thought of exploring the finer details of an equation that is the key to sustained weight loss leaves me pretty cold. Or rather it did.  Until I spotted a trend in sustained weight loss at The Body Retreat.

Patterns of Successful Weight Loss Maintenance at The Body Retreat

Over the last few years of working on The Body Retreat I have been tracking the longer term weight loss performance of some of our clients.  From a behaviour point of view I was very keen to learn what was the difference that makes the difference.  I have undertaken numerous studies and profiled key clients who not only lost the weight, but more importantly kept it off.

At first the findings were inconclusive, but there were patterns forming around the shift in mindset and adoption of key behaviours that seemed to come up time and time again.  One of the main drivers of successful weight loss maintenance  was the shift in mindset that these clients did not feel they were on a diet when they returned home from their retreat.  Our eating plan at The Body Retreat is not about excluding certain foods, its not about deprivation and will power, that doesn’t work.  What does work is adopting the 80/20 principle.

The 80/20 Principle for Eating

The 80/20 principle basically means that 80% of the time you choose to eat balanced healthy nutritious foods and you cut the CRAP* and then the other 20% of the time you can have a little treat, enjoy a splurge meal, have a night out with the girls.  Its all about balance and moderation.  Its about planning.  In the beginning healthy eating doesn’t just happen by chance, its a new skill that must be practised until it becomes a natural habit.

“Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail”

For most of us 100% abstinence from any food , especially those diets which advocate exclusion of carbs, sugar or  fat is not only not achievable or sustainable its down right unthinkable… Its just not normal.  You can end up feeling unable to set foot over the door again as eating becomes a chore, a puzzle that is a lot easier to solve in your own kitchen.  Yes its true,  reduce your calorie consumption for a couple of weeks and you will lose weight, but…and its a pretty big BUT… its not sustainable.  Repeated studies have found that  weight lost during crash or extreme “dieting” is almost always regained and the negative impact the diet has had on your appetite hormones can take-up to 2 years to rebalance, making you more likely to Yo Yo for that period.  Total abstinence leads to boredom and feeling deprived, which almost always results in your swinging back the other way and over eating those very items you were avoiding.

The Importance of the 20%

So back to Pareto and this equation for successful weight loss. Would you be surprised to know that on our post weight loss retreat meal planners we mandate that our clients have one treat meal and one treat snack every week, non negotiable?  Believe it or not , its not the 80% of “being good” that produces sustainable weight loss, it’s the 20% of the treats and splurges that does.  Really????  Eating treats helps you lose weight!! Yes …if you do it correctly.  The Body Retreat clients who not only lost weight but kept it off never thought of themselves as on a diet but they only had their mandatory treat meal and snack every week, there was no cheating on the cheating!

The 20% is what keeps you on track, its the difference that makes the difference.  The 20% helps you to keep focused on your goal, it rewards you for your efforts in the week of planning, preparing and enjoying healthy and nutritious foods.  Having those treat meals, that afternoon tea and cake, the cocktails with the girls make you feel normal, makes you feel like you are living a full and balanced life.  Nothing is off limits, nothing is excluded, there is no deprivation and abstinence , only balance, control and moderation.

You Still Need to Stand Up to Yourself

There are few rules and restrictions on the 80/20 Weight Loss Blueprint, but it is not an invitation to eat everything that you want every time that you want it.  It is important that you keep a sense of balance, you have an innate ability to know when you are full up, to know when something tastes good and when it doesn’t.  So you do need to listen to your body and stand up to yourself.  Check your portions sizes, are you serving yourself and your partner the same about of food? When you do eat, do so mindfully and slowly, really savouring every single mouthful and when you are satisfied stop eating.  You do not need to finish everything on the plate.

NOT 20% Treat Behaviour

On our Weight Loss Retreat we show our retreaters how to eat consciously for life.  So that the 80% begins to feel natural, easy, desirable. While at the same time the 20% feels balanced and controlled.

“Perhaps the time has come to Stand Up for Your Health by Standing Up to Yourself?”

Anxious about Splurging?

We have ladies on our weight loss retreat who have literally battled with food for year and have become anxious about eating perceived “unhealthy” foods, worried that if they allowed themselves to have a biscuit that they would eat the whole packet, have a glass of wine then order a large pizza. They are worried that if they start to have the treat meal that they will not be able to stop and will spiral out of control.  If this sounds like you then this may be a sign that you have an unhelpful emotional connection with eating or food and it may be helpful to discuss these feelings with a professional as this is something that you can work on making you free to live a more balanced nutritious life.

There is NO One Size Fits All Plan

Some of you eagle eyed mathematical types may have spotted a potential calculation flaw in my equation for successful weight loss.  On the basis that you eat 20% of your basic three meals as treat or splurge meals thats an awful lot more than the one meal and one snack I’ve set out above.  Heres the thing the Pareto Principle isn’t exact science, in some cases its 70/30 and in others 90/10 dependant upon the variables.  Likewise with weight loss , unfortunately it is not an exact science, if it were then the person who found that formula would be a gazillionaire and everybody would be slim.  The old weight loss equation of calories in vs calories out or “Eat Less Move More has long since been proved to not work long term.  The reality of weight loss is that there is no one size fits all plan.

Making the 80/20 Blueprint Work for You

So how does the 80/20 Blueprint work in practice.  Well, you can choose the method that suits your lifestyle.  You can have 20% of your Meal.  So having a grilled chicken breast salad with a few fries on the side.  Or you can have 20% of your Day.  So eating three clean healthy meals with one small treat snack, perhaps a couple of digestive biscuits with your tea.

In practice we have found that both of these methods become too complicated and can lead to “treat creep”  where two biscuits becomes three, a few fries becomes the full portion etc etc.  What we have found works is to have 20% of your week, so one treat meal and one treat snack each week.  This way you can plan it into your week, have dinner out with friends,  sunday lunch with all the trimmings or that deliciously decadent favourite pudding.  Your choice.  But remember to listen to your body and enjoy them consciously.

The 80/20 Blueprint can release you from the guilt of eating the “wrong” foods, save you from the dreaded diets and give you the energy and motivation you need to choose to eat healthily for life. Perhaps now is the time to Ditch the Diets for good, stop counting calories or grams of fat and instead choose to eat clean and healthy for 80% and then enjoy the planned 20% splurges. Literally you can have your cake and lose weight too.

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Enjoy your 20%

If you have found this article useful?  I’d really love to have your comments or questions.  You will find the comments box all the way down at the bottom of the page, look forward to hearing from you.

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*CRAP = Carbonated Soft Drinks, Refined Carbohydrates, Artificial Sweeteners & Processed Foods

4 Replies to “The Surprising Reason Why The 80/20 Weight Loss Blueprint Really Works”

  1. Thank you for writing such a sensible blog about eating. So much of what we read these days is unrealistic and limiting, which as you say, works in the short term but is not what people really want. Great advice.

  2. This sounds like very sensible advice. From my experience, depriving yourself, as a lot of diets prescribe, only leads to wanting what you can’t have more and then when you do have it, ending up blowing the diet out of the window.

  3. Hi Juls

    Good article.Easy to read and understand. Some of the information resonated with me such as the treat-creep.

    Well done

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