Thursday, July 5, 2012

80/20 sounds pretty lame to me

You see a lot of references in the paleo/primal world to the so-called "80/20" rule.

And it usually translates to something like, "You can get most of the benefit of paleo/primal eating if 80% of your food is paleo/primal-compliant and 20% is a cheat." You know, it's as if 80/20 is intended to be a lifestyle.

I hate to be Captain Bringdown, but that sounds like a lot of rationalizing bullshit to me. Do the math: if you eat 21 reasonably equal-sized meals a week, that means that, under the 80/20 rule, four of them (and occasionally five) can be 100% off-the-paleo-reservation grainfests. Theoretically, you could have pizza and beer four or five nights a week for dinner, and, as long as the rest of your food were paleo/primal, that would be considered "fine?"

That doesn't sound all that "clean" of an eating strategy to me.

I remember those "transition" days into paleo -- I referenced them in this post,where I told you that, in my experience, you can half-ass paleo for a little while as long as you are moving toward what Ron Swanson would call "whole-assing" it as your goal. Back in the transition days you learn a metric crap ton about your body -- maybe more than at any other time -- because on the compliant days you are feeling awesome. Have a pizza-and-beer night, and you wake up bloated, irritable and weird. Easy, right? Learn a lesson, move on, repeat less and less until it is gone, or at least really rare. But 20% is a long way from "rare."

Unless your goal is best defined as "feeling great most of the time, but really shitty sometimes," the idea is that you are going to minimize/reduce that off-the-reservation stuff until it is essentially gone, not be satisfied at an 80/20 ratio.

I mean, I don't care what you do -- I like to think I have made it clear that I am not your surrogate parent in your nutritional journey -- but viewing 80/20 as anything other than a very temporary waystation on the way to actual paleo/primal healthy eating seems like a bad joke you are playing on yourself. If 20% of your food is non-compliant, you are, quite likely, feeling crappy at least (and maybe more) than 20% of the time. And, yeah, I suspect some of it is age-related. I probably bounce back from a pizzafest a lot slower at age 49 than I did at 23 (you know, theoretically, if I actually ever ate the stuff anymore). But I am not just talking about hangover-level incapacitation. Even you young pups are probably dragging in the gym, relatively speaking, on the days that follow the 20% meals, or at a very minimum not doing what you could be. And then there are the more subtle effects that grainy/gluten-filled meals have on things like mood.

I know; it's all relative. There are few fixed rules in all this, and you have to see how you look, feel and perform, but you also have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and agree that you are doing the best you can to make yourself feel great. I am betting that 80/20 compliance isn't doing that job for most of us.

Because in the end, aren't you doing this to feel great?

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