Let’s face it. We all love eating junk food, but we aspire to be fit and healthy simultaneously. That certainly does sound contradictory, which is why we are drawn to restrictive diets and intense workout routines that we optimistically believe will transform us.
Unfortunately for most of us, they just don’t work. It’s not because those diets are ineffective, but because they are just not sustainable and once you get off the diet, you start to pack on the pounds a lot faster.
Balanced Diet: The 80/20 Diet Rule Explained
On the other a hand, a diet that embraces your love for food that tastes great (invariably unhealthy, fattening, and junk food) sounds positively liberating and exciting. That is precisely what the 80/20 diet promises, which is probably why it’s rapidly gaining popularity across the world, including here in India.
What Is The 80/20 Diet?
“As the name suggests, the diet is based on a simple principle that recommends healthy eating for 80 percent of the time, while you get to indulge in tasty treats or cheat meals the remaining 20 percent of the time”
The 80/20 diet isn’t a diet in the strict sense; at least not what we’d expect a diet to look like. It doesn’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t eat and when you can or can’t eat. Instead, it offers you plenty of personal freedom, but encourages you to be responsible and moderate in your approach to food.
As the name suggests, the diet is based on a simple principle that recommends healthy eating for 80 percent of the time, while you get to indulge in tasty treats and cheat meals the remaining 20 percent of the time. While the diet may be ambiguous about what foods are healthy or unhealthy, common sense and nutrition science dictates that fresh fruits, veggies, lean meats, seafood, nuts, and pulses are healthy, while processed, deep-fried, and high-sugar foods are not. Unfortunately, for most people nutrition is likely to be skewered with the diet, as you will land up getting most of your calories from the 20 percent junk food. A more sensible approach would be to ensure that your caloric intake from junk food does not exceed 20 percent of your total caloric intake.
“If you eat 5 small meals a day, 4 of them should be absolutely healthy, but you can indulge in whatever you like for the 5th”
That’s really all there is to the diet! You just need to do the math and figure out how many meals or snacks you can have in a day or week with unhealthy foods. If you eat 5 small meals a day, 4 of them should be absolutely healthy, but you can indulge in whatever you like for the 5th. It’s basically no different to the idea of cheat meals when you’re following a rigid diet.
Getting to indulge occasionally, ensures that your unhealthy food cravings do not grow too strong, to the extent where it hijacks your efforts at eating healthy. It is a psychological approach to make any diet seem more feasible, as you need some reward or motivation for eating healthy most of the time.
Does The 80/20 Diet Really Work?
“A study that was published in the journal Obesity Facts found that weekend weight gain with cheat meals is quite normal and can even help achieve long term weight loss goals”
The 20 percent binge that you enjoy on the diet is more than a cheat that allows you to indulge in junk food. Aside from the psychological boost, there is also physiological benefit from this diet philosophy. This boils down to leptin, which is a protein that helps regulate your appetite and energy levels, thereby helping control body weight and fat mass.
Long term dieting aimed at weight loss or weight management usually results in some form of caloric deficit, causing a drop in energy levels. Cheat meals that are evenly spaced then provide an influx of calories, helping maintain those high energy levels that are so essential for staying on your diet and exercise plan. A study that was published in the journal Obesity Facts found that weekend weight gain with cheat meals is quite normal and can even help achieve long term weight loss goals.
The only downside to the 80/20 diet is that it’s rather vague, but this could also be seen as its strength, since it gives dieters more flexibility. Of course, if you really are serious about getting healthy, you’d do better to just make healthy eating a regular habit, while breaking the junk food addiction.