The 80/20 Rule

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Eating perfect 100% of the time is actually something I don’t recommend. Don’t believe me? Just ask my friends and family. I practice what I preach and there is rarely a week that passes when I don’t eat something outside of my “perfect” diet plan.  Whether it’s a bowl of ice cream or a hamburger with a side of french fries, I would be lying if I said I only eat meat and vegetables. Let’s face it, I love those healthy, nutrient dense foods but I also crave variety and a treat just like any other human on the planet.

You see…?

Food is more than just for nourishment of our physical body. It also nourishes our emotions and our soul on a deeper level. Food connects us to memories past and certain aromas instantly connect us to moments of joy and sadness. This may help explain why only mom’s chicken soup makes us feel better!

We use food to soothe the pain and celebrate the victories. Certain chemicals are released in our brains when we are stressed and food, especially sweet foods, calm our nerves and can help us escape one bite at a time. Is this necessarily an evil function of food? I dare say not. We could say food is so much more than a plate full of vitamins, minerals, fat, calories and carbs and this awareness moves us into a place of curiosity instead of judgement when it comes to what we eat. 

So how do we strike that balance between eating ALL junk food and still adhering to a nutrient dense eating plan? 

People love numbers so I love to share my personal rule of thumb: The 80/20 Rule. For general health maintenance, clients who stick with their nutrient dense eating plan 80% of the time and indulge outside of their plan 20% of the time are going to do well and feel good. For those who need to lose weight, heal their gut or fix a chronic condition, perhaps they will need to go 90/10 or 95/5, but usually it’s only temporary. There may be times in life when being more strict with nutrition is advantageous and other times when being too strict adds unneeded stress and negatively influences health.

In functional medicine, we honor a truth that each and every individual is unique. It’s called biochemical individuality. Not only do we look and act differently, we also react to food and medicine on a completely personal level — this is the beauty and mystery behind medicine. There is no “perfect” diet out there for everyone despite what some clever marketing will tell you. When we honor this individuality and combine it with the pleasure experience derived from eating, we set ourselves up for a better, more personalized variation of perfect health.

To your health!