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Health & Fitness: The 80/20 Rule

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By Kim Duke, NETA & AAFA Certified Trainer

As a personal trainer and nutrition advisor, my job is to advocate, recommend and encourage my clients to enjoy a “healthy” lifestyle and diet.  And, as we all know, this can be difficult with all the unhealthy temptations that exist in modern society.

The way people eat is also very personal.  It is driven by many things, including emotions, peer pressure and socialization.  People’s dietary habits are often set in stone and are extremely hard to change without a strong personal commitment.  However, there is nothing that has a greater impact on your overall health, mood and well being than your diet.

That brings me to “The 80/20 Rule of Healthy Moderation.”

To the dismay of many, discipline is often regarded as a major aspect of healthy living.  Although it’s certainly an important part of achieving optimal health, occasional rule breaking is also important!

There’s a simple guideline called the “80/20 Rule” that many health practitioners use with their clients. According to the rule, if you spend 80% of your time adhering closely to a healthy lifestyle, your health should be able to withstand whatever you do during the remaining 20% of the time.

In order to properly implement the 80/20 Rule, you must have a broad perspective and consider all the factors that can affect your health.  For example, your level of stress, the amount of rest you get, your diet, and how frequently or infrequently you exercise all play a significant role in your health.  According to the 80/20 Rule, you can only afford to spend 20% of your time deviating from the combination of all of these factors.

Plus, there are so many differing opinions on how to manage your weight safely and effectively.  From the Beach Body craze to the Paleo diet, we have seen that not all programs are created equal.  You need to find what works for you, your lifestyle and your body.

Presently, I am trying my hand at the Paleo diet, which is heavy on protein, mostly from animal sources. To strictly adhere to this diet, you’d need to consume things you’d hunt for or gather in the wild.

That’s almost impossible to do in our modern age, so you follow a modified version: eat plenty of animal flesh and seafood. Round out the diet with eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. This way of eating is related to the way cavemen ate as hunters and gatherers.

It also means you are to avoid all processed, dairy, cereal or wheat products, as well as tubers, legumes, salt and sugar.

I love the diet so far, but I also love whole grains.  So I have adopted the 80/20 rule.  If I do not feel like eating eggs for breakfast, I will have old fashioned oats with walnuts, blueberries and cinnamon. I also drink wine and that is NOT Paleo (apparently the cavemen did not drink so they would not become prey).

We’re all different. Each of us has a unique tolerance for the burdens our body can withstand, and this can even depend on the type of burden it is.  For example, diabetics are sensitive to sugary foods. Some people are prone to anxiety, so may have more trouble with stress when on strict diets.  People with food sensitivities can have reactions that last for days and far exceed the amount of burden your health can withstand without issue.

The bottom line is that you have to decide for yourself how far you’ll take this.  You need to consider how much of a priority your health is, how much you are willing to sacrifice, and how much indulgence you need to maintain your sanity and happiness.

Obviously the less you cave in to unhealthy behaviors the better your health will be, and the more mentally and physically capable you’ll be of enjoying life. However, if you’re so strict that you make yourself miserable, it defeats the purpose.

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