If your current goal is to look and feel better by leaning out, then being in a net calorie deficit is necessary.
Naturally, the idea of an 80/20 rule seems like a good idea for people who aspire to enjoy indulgent food, eat healthily and stay in a slight deficit.
80/20, in this case, means eating according to your effective plan 80 percent of the time.
However, a relaxed 80/20, may not be consistent enough to make body improvements.
There are some shortfalls with 80/20. If we rely on our own estimates, almost all of us can’t achieve actual 80% consistency. People who estimate their diet to be on point are often nowhere near the 80% mark.
Women over 40 in particular, may actually gain body fat with an 80% consistent diet, even when they are accurate. This may be due to a slowing metabolism and a higher carbohydrate sensitivity (or insulin insensitivity).
A more effective approach is to aim for 90% nutritional compliance consistently.
This can easily be accomplished with simple parameters.
While many people don’t care to commit to strict dieting, there has to be a system in place to regulate the quantity and quality of calories.
Whatever system you use, consistency must be a priority. If you weigh your protein, carbs, and fat, then do it 90% of the time. If you use your palm and fist for measuring your servings, then do that consistently.
No matter what your eating style is, if your outcome goal is to get leaner you will need to have behavior goals in place.
Progress will also be dependent on eating ample veggies (10 half-cup servings daily) and getting adequate protein (3-4 servings daily), especially for women over 40.
Here is a mini system to help you stick to 90% compliance:
There is no one diet style singled out here. If you are trying to lean out or maintain, you will have to keep portions and meals in check.
Choose your diet style
One that works for your body. (Obviously, we are not talking about the Twinkie diet or any other diet that doesn’t have veggies as and protein as core values) If you are 90% compliant, and not making progress, then this is an indication that your diet style is not right for you.
Commit to a regular number of meals per day week.
There are zero exceptions here. For example, I eat 4 meals a day 5 days a week, and 3 meals a day 2 days per week. That is 26 meals per week.
Determine your 90%.
use simple division to find the number of meals out of your total for the week that equals 90%.
Using myself as an example, my nutrition includes 26 meals per week. If I eat 24 meals in compliance and 2 meals relaxed, then that equals 92% compliance. By using the number of meals per week as compliant and noncompliant, it is easy to know when to have a treat and when to eat according to your nutrition plan.
A word about the relaxed meal.
This does not mean to eat like crazy and with scarcity, because first of all, that feels awful. And second of all, you ‘get’ to do this mini indulgence twice a week. Think of this as being on point and having 10% wiggle room. For most people, that is 2 meals per week.
Schedule it any way you want.
Maybe you like two dinners on the weekend. Maybe you want to space it out to every third and fourth day. It can even change from week to week. The beauty of this is that you can have gratification and enjoy things like social celebrations. It’s mentally easy to enjoy 2 meals per week. You are never too far away from a treat meal.
Keep the 80 fullness rule with these meals. This means enjoy any food you want but stop before you are full.
Write it out on paper with a pencil. This is the best way to keep honest with yourself. If you use a desk blotter or a paper agenda, you have a built-in tracker. Simply number or name your daily meals. For example meals 1,2,3,4. At the beginning of the week (Sunday nights work well) put the number of meals on each day of the week.
For each compliant meal you eat, mark an “x” next to the number for that meal. For each skipped meal put a “-“ , and for each indulgent meal put a “ * “. At the end of the week divide the number of x’s by the total number of meals and you will have your percent of compliance.
Putting that “x” down for a compliant meal rewards us on a meal by meal basis.
Simple, I know, but it’s super effective.
The fact is simple positive reinforcement works amazingly well. It takes maybe 10 seconds to pause and decide if we want that x or not. This little x and a good score at the end of the week makes an impact on how we think. It gives us momentum and the belief that we can be consistent.
We all know being mindful is a key behavior. But most often, this is where the disconnect is.
The ‘mark your meals task’ is a mini system to keep your brain in the game.
If your goal is to maintain your current size and body composition, then stick to this plan, with one exception. Design your nutrition plan to be in only the slightest calorie deficit, so that your indulgent meals bring you to back up to an even energy balance for the week.
What about exercise? Of course, purposeful movement is vital to supple joints, bone and muscle maintenance, and mental release. Just remember that you cannot out-train an energy surplus.
This 90/10 “mark your meals task” weekly monitoring on paper will keep your brain engaged, without food FOMO. This helps to have you think ahead. You get to decide when to have a mini splurge. You will eliminate eating mindlessly in random situations. If you decide to have one of your mini splurge meals at a different time, then you can just take out one later in the week.
If you are stumped as to how to structure your ideal diet, it’s ok. Take this simple Ideal Diet Quiz to help you get started.