Every time I turn around there’s another expert, coach, or guru advocating for the 80/20 strategy. If you’re not familiar, their healthy eating tip is that you stick to “the plan” 80% of the time and then eat whatever you want and do whatever you please the other 20%. Somehow, this equates to an easier “lifestyle.”

I’ve talked about this at length before (and here as well) and offered a few reasons why I advocate for a “close to 100% as possible” model with the caveat that nobody is perfect.

I’ll quickly sum up those reasons:

  • 80/20 sucks as a strategy because it forces you to live two separate lives and prevents you from truly committing to a new you. I don’t want to lean toward health, I want to be committed to it.
  • 80/20 makes recovery from addiction and dependency exponentially more difficult and painful, if not impossible by totally screwing with your ability to overcome extinction bursts (see #3 in that post).
  • 80/20 makes conversion to your new lifestyle less likely by feeding the resistance and making you less powerful.

That’s a good list, but I want to add to it. The more I work with clients and the more introspective I get the more I understand about the process. And my job is to share that growth with you.

So here’s my addition…

80/20 sucks because it doesn’t allow for the evolution — the reprogramming — of your sense of taste.

This is one of those instances where I’m going to talk about something that seems impossible until you’ve experienced it. No, it has nothing to do with alien abductions. I hope.

After having shunned hyperpalatable and toxic foods and focused on eating real, whole foods with limited sugar intake for years now, my taste buds and relationship with food have evolved. I still think there’s room for them to improve even more, but I’ve noticed a drastic change, especially over the last two years.

A little background: I grew up eating sweets and hyperpalatable, highly processed foods. I never ate fruit or vegetables — hated them with a passion. I went through one high school year where a few times a week I’d go to the dessert cart and order four hot chocolate chip cookies. That was my lunch. No lie.

The result was that I was a sugar addict and borderline diabetic with high blood pressure who was 60 pounds overweight. Tell that guy that one day he’d crave asparagus and avocado and he’d laugh in your face (not that vegetables are all I eat — it’s just an example).

But that’s where I’m at now. I’m not 100% confident that my sugar addiction is gone (will it ever be?) but I can easily say no to hyperpalatable, sugary goodness that once was irresistible. The more fake and processed it is, the worse it actually tastes to me. I recently went to my niece’s birthday party and didn’t even consider a bite of cake. I used to pound Mountain Dew like it was going out of style and today I don’t think I could drink one without getting horrendously sick.

When you commit, the way you taste things evolves and the way you feel after eating becomes obviously good or bad. The foods you crave change. Real food becomes what you seek and fake food becomes what you tend to easily avoid. What do you think this does for the probability of of long-term success? I’ll tell you: it makes the lifestyle you’re after — fit and healthy — exponentially more attainable.

80/20 doesn’t offer this opportunity because it presents too much confusion and doesn’t allow the process to happen.

And therein lies the worst part of the 80/20 strategy: It’s supposed to make this process easier, but in practice it’s more difficult. It literally steals your opportunity for genuine physical, mental, and emotional change.

When you learn the ropes and get into a groove, striving for 100% isn’t that difficult. It’s tough in the beginning — like anything is — but the learning curve evens out.

Have you tried the 80/20 strategy before? Have you tried the “close to 100% as possible” strategy? Tell me your thoughts.


  • Kim Ludeman says:

    I love this article!! This is soooo right on! From one “former” sugar addict to another, I say congrats on overcoming and sticking to a diet that works for you!

  • Nicole says:


    I absolutely agree with you. I used to do the cheat day.
    What I’ve found starts to happen is I live for my cheat day. I go through the week just getting by until I can have my “drugs”. It’s no way to live. I want to be happy every day and look forward to every day, not live for that one cheat day where I can stuff my face! What a sad life that is. I’m so excited to use food as fuel and not to get high!

    Thanks for the article. It keeps me motivated.

    Nicole S.

  • Amiablejak says:

    “one high school year where a few times a week I’d go to the dessert cart
    and order four hot chocolate chip cookies. That was my lunch. No lie.”
    I did the same. And it was right next to the salad bar.

    I have to watch the hyperpalatable foods so closely. Sometimes I stumble across one.
    I’m also trying to coach a friend out of sugar, but she is quite stubborn.

  • Shawn says:

    In high school it was the giant brownie and a large orange juice for lunch and 4 candy bars after school. As an adult it was donuts for breakfast, pasta for lunch, pizza for dinner, ice cream with cookies and hot fudge for dessert, and bags and bags of candy stashed in my desk drawers so it was never more than 60 seconds before I got another hit of sugar.

    Been there, done that.

    I did do the 6 days on one day off for quite a while, and the longer I went the more I lived for that one day. Being diagnosed as Celiac and knowing I had to leave all wheat products behind was, unbeknownst to me, the beginning of a long slow taper away from sugar. Once I had firmly banished all wheat/gluten from my life, I realized it wasn’t that difficult to omit something else from my diet.

    But it wasn’t until after I committed to 45 days of a 100% primal/Real Food diet that the light bulb truly went on. After that “sweet” didn’t taste right…not even fruit sweet! And other things like gf baked goods, gf pasta and grains just tasted like cardboard filler.

    I experimented with bringing a few ANTI foods back into my diet for a few weeks, and hated the way I felt. Guess I’m committed to this Real Food thing for life now!

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