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.

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