I’ve never been very good at 100% so I no longer endeavor to achieve it when it comes to nutrition and health, I just make the right decisions the majority of the time and don’t go crazy or feel guilty when I don’t. In the past I’ve followed strict elimination diets, partly to understand the experience and benefits they have to offer and partly to help fix up my gut or maybe ditch a developing reliance on something, usually caffeine.
However, in all of these cases my end goal was to establish a more enjoyable, easy and sustainable approach to my nutrition where I can have a little of what I love but still feel ultimately awesome. For different people this will mean completely different things.
Our bodies are pretty kind to us and work hard to function and thrive as long as we nourish them most of the time. We’re big fans of the 80:20 rule but in terms of establishing that balance between eating the good stuff and the not so good stuff there is no one-size fits all solution and you may need to test the water in order to find out how this works and looks for you. Many of the outcomes of this approach cannot be predicted as we all have our own intimate history with our nutrition.
I’ve outlined a few of the different approaches people use to balance their nutrition so you can ponder on what might be right for you.
1. Planned Cheat Meals
Some people find they are better planning meals or days where they will eat completely outside of their usual nutritional principles. I’ve had clients explain they love this approach and feel anything is possible if they can have a pizza or their favourite takeaway at some point each week – usually the weekend. Many people say this helps them with compliance for the rest of the week and they can eat super clean knowing there’s an evening of indulgence waiting for them. However, for this approach to work it’s also important that you are able to ensure there are no strings attached in your affair with this cheat meal and know you’ll be able to walk away without guilt or any sense of the relationship continuing! Some people find this difficult as the experience can open the flood gates of craving, binging and fuel an uncontrollable appetite. Your hormonal profile and emotional disposition is likely to figure in whether this is the right approach for you.
2. Spontaneous Free Meals
Some people don’t impose any strict guidelines on themselves about when or how they will eat the ‘not so good’ stuff but know that 80% of their general nutritional intake is great and there will likely be a couple of meals or snacks across the week that won’t be. They don’t sweat these divergences from the norm and just let their social calendar decide when and how it will happen. Again there is a full commitment here, no guilt or regret and generally not going over board, it’s a brownie (not 10) after some steak and chips or a cake and cappuccino at the weekend.
3. A Little Of What You Love Daily
This is my preferred approach as I have a history of disordered eating and I’ve done my fair share of dieting, overeating and food restriction. I find if I deny myself anything and then plan an occasion to have it again, the novelty factor sets in, I lose all control and usually overdo it. The bloating and lethargy that follows often leave me feeling rubbish, not necessarily guilty but more annoyed at myself for wasting a day feeling like crap. I have found not denying myself too much works best. It may surprise you to learn that most days I will eat or drink things I’ve previously tried to eliminate. For example, dark chocolate, coffee or a glass of wine. The key to this approach is moderation, I’m pretty ok with having one coffee, a glass of wine or a few squares of chocolate and stopping there. I discovered this by doing an elimination phase and destroying any particular reliance I had on certain food or drink items. This relaxed day-to-day approach works better for me personally.
Despite my 80:20 approach to my own nutrition I still continue to eliminate things that don’t agree with me digestively and avoid foods that have the potential to damage my gut health most of the time. As I mentioned earlier establishing a nutritional balance is all about your past experiences, I’ve worked hard to improve my digestive health and after years suffering from IBS I’m determined not to go back there. Equally, I don’t really feel a need for much else as my daily nutrition is not restrictive, I love the food I eat and feel great for it.
Have Yourself An 80:20 Summer
Summer is the hardest time for most people to stay on track with their nutrition and health goals. The picnics, BBQ’s and holidays all bring the usual temptations and gradually your healthy and not so healthy split is looking more 60:40 than 80:20. We set up our Fitter Food Summer Camp to coach people along a plan with moderation in mind for the summer months. The programme takes campers through a basic elimination phase and then guides them back to an 80:20 approach with our Fitter Food Power Habits and educational webinars offering guidance on striking the right balance with your nutrition.
Registration closes this week so if you haven’t already done so join us for a summer that brings out the best in you. You can find out more about Summer Camp here.