The 80% Rule For Dieting

The Problem

You’ve finally found a diet plan that you think you can stick to. You decide to start on a Monday, meaning that Saturday and Sunday you indulge on all of the things you know you’re going to miss out on for the next x amount of weeks.  You meal prep Sunday for the upcoming week and are ready to crush it. You do your official weigh ins and “before” pictures and cant wait to see the progress you are going to make.

Week 1 goes well, you lose a few pounds and start to lean out. You’ve lost some water weight and inflammation has gone down because you have been making healthier choices. You decide on Friday night (5 days into your diet) that you’re going to have a few drinks or eat a non-compliant meal because “Why not? I absolutely crushed it this week!” Whelp… to quote one of my favorite YouTube videos, “you done goofed.”

The Reason

If you follow a diet 80% of the time, you DO NOT yield 80% of the results.

You get far less than that. Why? Because your “cheat days” almost make up the total amount of calories that you have been skimming off during your compliant days. Let’s say your diet plan is holding you to 1800 calories per day when you usually eat 2300-2500 per day. When the weekends come around while you’re on your diet you cheat on ONE MEAL each day, adding an extra 1500-2000 calories total for the weekend. You basically just added another full day of food into the weekend that you’re supposed to be sticking to 1800 calories each day. That’s going to wreck your diet, guaranteed.

The Rule

So, if you follow a diet 80% of the time, you don’t get 80% of the results. In fact, you could end up getting 0% of the results. You could end up working your butt off during the week only to undo all of your work with alcohol or fatty foods each weekend. Does this mean that you can never have a cheat day again? That’s not what we’re saying – we’re saying that if you are going to cheat, you need to account for those added calories elsewhere. Diets vary but you may be able to cut back on fats or carbs earlier in the day if you know later in the day you plan on indulging just a little bit.

Our Suggestions

  1. Prep. Your. Damn. Meals. Even on weekends. If you’re like me, the second you get behind and decide you’re going to figure out a meal on the fly, you’ve already lost. You WILL end up in the Taco Bell drive-thru, and you WILL be pissed at yourself afterwards. (I may be speaking from personal experience). If you have meals prepped in advance when you aren’t already hungry, you’re more likely to stick with them.
  2. Find a diet plan that doesn’t just tell you what to eat, but also has a component that forces you to stay compliant. One of the biggest reasons we are successful with our nutrition program at my gym is that we make clients post their food every single day. We make them keep track of what they’re eating, and we go overboard with following up with them daily. They aren’t paying us to tell them what to eat, most people know what to eat. They are paying us to follow up with them and force them to follow the program. That’s where our success comes from.
  3. Account for your added “cheat meal” calories elsewhere. As we mentioned above, decide what you plan on eating for your cheat meal early in the day, enter it into whatever software you use (MyFitnessPal?) and then work backwards from there in order to keep your total calorie or macronutrient count compliant with your plan.