What is the 80/20 Diet?

Some call it the 80-20 diet, some call it the Weekend Diet.

If you’ve read my blogs before, you’ll know I’m a very big proponent of intuitive and balanced eating.

Because I have a history of disordered eating, I know what it’s like to restrict and then binge over and over again. When I saw what the 80-20 diet had to offer, I figured this could be a great option for those who have struggled with not allowing themselves pleasurable foods. That’s when I decided to dig a little deeper… 

Today, I’ll take you through the pros and cons of this diet and why this one may not work for everyone, even though it’s pretty well balanced (for the most part!).


What is it?

Usually diets are pretty strict and require you to eat specific food groups, certain macronutrients, or eliminate certain foods.

That’s not exactly how the 80-20 diet works. It can change depending on the person and your workout regime.pasta salad with feta

The majority of sources will likely lead you in the direction of eating a mostly Mediterranean-style diet, which includes around half a plate of fruits and vegetables, a quarter of your plate being a lean protein, and a quarter of your plate being whole grains. You can even add some dairy in the form of cheese or a cup of yogurt as a dessert or in a meal.

So, in a broad sense, the 80-20 diet focuses on eating nutritious food 80% of the time and having a serving of your favorite treat the other 20% of the time.

Here are the specifics:

  • Drink lots of water
  • Eat whole grains
  • Eat plenty of (in-season) fruits and veggies
  • Eat lean protein (animal-based or plant-based)
  • Limit your fat intake (even from healthy fats such as coconut oil or avocado)

The great thing is that this diet allows for some balance. You are allowed to enjoy your favorite foods in moderation. The trick here is that you want to have 20% of fun in every meal! So that means if you want to indulge in a slice of cheesecake and a glass of wine, you should aim to not consume those together. You will want to have one today and the other tomorrow. Having these at the same time can spiral into you adding another favorite food and then making it an entire meal.

The one thing to keep in mind here is that although you are restricting yourself to only 20% of your diet being your favorite, not-so-healthy-foods, you are still allowed to eat them in moderation! No more, “I can’t eat that”. Now you can say, “I can eat this tomorrow or enjoy it today!”.


Who might benefit from this diet?

  • Those who want to learn how to eat in moderation
  • Those who want to lose weight steadily (not necessarily quickly) – focus on portion control and moderation!
  • Those who want to maintain their weight

man feeding woman

  • Those who like to count their calories (for example: If you eat 1500 calories a day, 1200 will come from healthy, nutritious meals, and 300 calories will be your treat!)
  • Those who can manage the diet on the weekend (If you want to enjoy a bit more endulgence on the weekend and you are eating healthy 100% of the time on weekdays) – warning: this one is tough and can lead to overeating! 
  • Those who want to repair their relationship with food – the 80-20 rule allows you to keep a balanced mindset around eating by removing the guilt, emotion, and stress associated with dieting.
  • Those trying to manage their diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic conditions – I highly recommend working with a dietician, nutritionist, naturopath, or doctor if you want to test out the 80-20 diet.

Why this won’t work for everyone…

I’ll start with a little anecdote about my personal experience. This diet won’t work for me personally because I find I’ve restricted a lot in the past. I have a history of disordered eating and restricting certain foods. I would frequently label foods as “Good” or “Bad” based on my relationship with the food. Removing the “good” and “bad” picniclabel from foods came with lots of other challenges, like learning to love my body, rewiring my brain to accept food as fuel, and understanding what foods made me feel strong versus those that made me feel weak or lethargic.

Recently, I’ve adopted the Intuitive eating style, where I eat what I want based on what my body is craving at the time. Working on my impulsiveness has helped me make the appropriate choices (most of the time), and when I decide to indulge, I accept the potential consequences ahead of time so that I know what I’m getting myself into. An example of this is going out to get drinks (beer specifically) or eating ice cream made of dairy. I love these things, and don’t want to give them up forever, but I limit them because of how they make me feel!

Now, for those of you who need something more specific… by this, I mean, a meal plan or macros, it’s still possible! But you will need to create these based off of your specific needs and your lifestyle. For example, I personally can’t have a lot of dairy or gluten. Technically, both of these are allowed on the 80-20 diet. This doesn’t mean you can’t partake in the 80-20 diet, but it does mean you need to be flexible and do a little more digging.

In this case, I’d have to swap in some gluten-free breads and dairy-free yogurts and cheeses if I wanted to stick to the format above. It’s important to remember that as long as you are eating 80% healthy foods for YOUR BODY, you’re sticking to the 80-20 diet. No need to include dairy, breads, or plant-based alternatives if you don’t want to.


Conclusion

The key to the 80-20 diet is BALANCE!

Although it isn’t a 50/50 split, it’s important to note that this diet is not meant to be restrictive, as it still allows you to have your favorite foods 20% of the time.

Remember to split your fun foods so you aren’t having them all at the same time. Maybe let yourself have chocolate one day, and then the next, you may decide to go out for ice cream with a friend. However, you don’t need to limit yourself all the time. If you know you’ll be going to an event where there won’t be any healthy food, you can choose to eat healthy 5 or 6 days out of the week and give yourself some leeway 1-2 days of the week.

Have you or would you ever try the 80-20 diet? Perhaps you’ve tried a diet similar to this. If so, let me know how it went in the comments down below!


Resources:

  • https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-80-20-weekend-diet
  • https://www.virtua.org/articles/the-80-20-rule-eat-healthy-and-have-your-cake-too
  • https://www.insider.com/why-nutrition-reporters-love-8020-rule-for-healthy-diet-2021-4

Alexia Palmeri

Alexia Palmeri is a 28-year-old personal development enthusiast! She looks at life experiences as an opportunity to always learn and grow. Alexia is also a broadcast journalism graduate with a passion and knack for communications and media. She is always on the lookout for new trends on social media and keeps up to date with what's happening in the world. In her free time, Alexia enjoys socializing with family and loved ones, being in nature, cooking nourishing meals, and discovering new places to dine and adventure!

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