You’ve probably heard it before: 80% clean meals & 20% cheat meals to stay healthy and balanced.
Now, cheat meals are okay on occasion, but going off track every fifth meal (that’s once a day if you eat 5 small meals!)? Your body will have trouble getting into a healing state with that routine. Healthy meals should be most of your meals. And when you do need a cheat meal, try to find something that doesn’t completely derail you. For instance, if you’re sugar-free, make a desert at home using coconut sugar or honey (Word to the wise: Make a small portion or you’ll end up eating the whole thing by yourself over a few days ;). If you’re gluten-free or dairy-free (by choice, not necessity), cook yourself one of your favorite out-of-bounds recipes where all of the ingredients are still organic. I would suggest McDonald’s never.
So let me introduce you to the real 80/20 rule:
Health is 80% about what you eat & 20% everything else.
Your diet will always catch up with you if you let it go, even if you’re hammering out reps and miles at the gym.
Eating healthy is 80% of the battle. The other 20% includes things like exercise, mental state, sleep, and stress. Now you’re probably thinking “Only 20%? But those are all good things! Shouldn’t everything be equal?”
Well, here’s the deal. Each of the factors listed under the 20% are dependent on a high quality diet. Your body first needs nutrients, minerals, protein, fiber, good fats, and everything else from good food. Without these things, the body won’t perform well in workouts, stress levels are harder to control, and sleep quality decreases, all of which promotes an unhealthy mental state. These things aren’t only 20% because they’re far less important, but they’re 20% because food is the foundation that the other things are built from. If you skip the foundation and dig into the other stuff first, you won’t find real, lasting health.
If you’re looking to get healthy and feeling overwhelmed, start with the kitchen. Learn about nutrition and food. Learn how to cater your schedule to cooking and meal planning and grocery shopping. Build up an arsenal of yummy recipes. Then when you’re managing that piece, add another element. I would suggest exercise come next because exercise has been proven to lower stress levels and improve mental states and sleep quality.
If you’re wondering why some foods seem healthy but aren’t, start my series about chemical food additives to get all the science-y details.
Drop a comment below and tell me how you feel. Do you notice the 20% start slipping if your diet gets off track? Do you have a different approach to balancing everything?