People share a complicated relationship with food. You eat out of physical necessity — but also when you’re bored, in need of TLC or celebrating a milestone. How can you safeguard your health without losing your mind watching everything you put in your mouth? One solution: Use the 80/20 diet for mental clarity.
What is the 80/20 diet? It’s simple — you focus on eating healthy 80% of the time while giving yourself leeway and grace the remaining 20%. Here are five tips for getting started.
You could chuck everything in your pantry and stock what you need for the latest fad — but doing so is hardly cost-effective or necessary. Instead, dedicate your 80% to adding more healthy foods to your daily diet.
For example, you can slash your risk of heart disease by 30% by substituting seafood for meat one or two days per week. Increase your phytonutrient and antioxidant intake by adding a new plant-based meal or snack each day. Doing so is as simple as replacing that salty, greasy bag of chips with sliced carrots and jicama with hummus dip.
Some nutritionists dub the 80/20 diet the “weekend” diet, but it works best if you sneak in room for a little cheat each day. Comfort foods reward your brain with a flood of happy neurotransmitters, after all, and sometimes, you need that boost. If you had a trying day at the office but ate clean regardless, it’s okay to reward yourself at day’s end with a dinner salad — and a slice of pizza.
A calorie is a calorie, and you have to reduce the unhealthy ones you consume to make room for all the healthy goodness you add. The beauty of the 80/20 diet is that you need not eliminate these foods — only reduce your intake.
White flour should make your reduction list, as processing produces a chemical called alloxan, which is used to induce diabetes in laboratory animals. When paired with the blood sugar effect of such foods, you have a recipe for a health disaster.
Other foods to avoid include any overly processed foods, like most chips. Processing converts the healthy omega-3s in some vegetable oils like canola into unhealthy trans-fatty versions, damaging your heart.
Human beings aren’t biological robots who eat only to refuel. We have tons of emotions associated with food and depriving ourselves of favorite treats creates stress.
Guess what? Excess stress raises your cortisol levels, which can make you crave unhealthy foods even more. The 80/20 diet lets you find balance. It’s fine to swing by the drive-thru for an occasional french fry fix as long as you don’t do so every lunch break.
Another perk of the 80/20 diet is that it is a-okay to celebrate hitting your weight loss goals with a slice of cake. You also have much more freedom to honor life’s special moments without worrying about your meal.
If you want both pumpkin and pecan pie for Thanksgiving, save your “cheats” by eating especially healthy in the days leading up to the feast. If you go overboard at dinner, make up for it the next day.
Worrying about everything you put in your mouth wastes way too much brainpower. Please use the 80/20 diet to improve your mental clarity.