Living by the 80/20 Rule

Living by the 80-20 Rule - The Lemon Bowl

The secret to maintaining a long term healthy lifestyle is to live by the 80/20 rule in all aspects of diet, fitness and nutrition. 

Living by the 80-20 Rule - The Lemon Bowl

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People often joke they wish they could bottle up my willpower and use it for themselves. Most recently, a friend said “If I had half as much willpower as you do, I would be in great health.” At first, I brushed these remarks off as polite sentiments with a dash of sarcasm. But, over time, people continued to make similar comments which made me really stop to think about why I am able to control my cravings and make smart choices every day, long after the New Year’s Resolution buzz wears off.

Healthy New Year 6-Week Challenge Logo - The Lemon Bowl

Of course, this all leads us to our 6th and final Healthy New Year 6-Week Challenge: Finding Balance. If I had to pin-point the one reason why I’ve been able to maintain my weight loss for over 8 years it would come down to one thing and one thing only: the 80/20 Rule.

You’re probably already familiar with the well known 80/20 rule (aka Pareto Principle) which explains things like why 80% of your phone calls are made to 20% of the people in your phone, 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients, etc. but I’m talking about a different type of 80-20 rule that I apply towards living a healthy lifestyle:

Asparagus - farmers market

80% of the time, I eat clean foods that are minimally processed and provide maximum nutrition. The other 20% of the time, I choose to relax the rules and indulge in whatever I’m craving. Since I know that I can always eat anything I want during that 20%, I am able to make smart choices throughout the remaining 80%. This simple 80-20 rule has allowed me to maintain my weight loss for over 8 years and continues to help me reach my healthy living goals.


How each person chooses to spend their 20% is up to them. For me, I tend to prefer quality over quantity which is why I love Lindt EXCELLENCE with A Touch of Sea Salt Dark Chocolate. Made from only the world’s finest cocoa beans to create the best textures and flavors, I am satisfied after two or three squares and don’t find myself wanting to eat the entire bar in one sitting.

Prosecco - The Lemon Bowl

Other times, I might want to splurge on a cold glass of bubbly prosecco or, if I’m really lucky, crispy duck fat fries. By taking a moment to indulge in my cravings each week, I am much more motivated and focused on reaching my goals the rest of the time.

Back Bend

Of course, it doesn’t only apply to food. If I’ve been challenging myself in my workouts all week, I am ok taking a gentle yoga for my mind, body and soul one day. Will I reach my step goal that day? Maybe not. Will I reach it the next day and the day after that? It’s almost a guarantee.

Living by the 80-20 Rule - The Lemon Bowl

Finding that happy balance not only gives you something to look forward to but it teaches you to trust yourself and your ability to make smart choices. The key is knowing that you are making a choice to indulge. You are not falling off the wagon or derailing your efforts. Satisfying your cravings 20% of the time is all part of the plan which is why you will be more willing to stick with your plan long term.

What is your favorite way to achieve balance each week? I’d love to hear from you.

40 thoughts on “Living by the 80/20 Rule”

  1. Lynn Schaefer

    I just discovered your blog through an old issue of Real Simple magazine. I would like to know how to “calculate” the 80/20 rule. Also, do you keep a food diary, and if so, is it via a website or on paper?

    1. It’s not a strict calculation – I just try to incorporate the 80/20 rule in every aspect of my life. For example, eating right 80% of the week or getting to the gym 80% of the time. That way I can relax and enjoy the 20% of life when you can’t always be the healthiest. :)

  2. When you explain it like that, living a healthy lifestyle seems extremely feasible. There’s no way I could get through life without chocolate or wine, so I’d definitely need that 20 percent. I like the way you think, girl. And that asparagus is gorgeous.

  3. This is so smart, Liz! Following an 80/20 rule is such a fantastic way to give your body, mind and soul the nutrients they need, both with smart, healthy choices as well as with indulgences. It really is a great way to live life!

  4. Corry Oosterhouse

    I love this 80/20 challenge, Liz!! In fact I have loved all of them!!! And I hope we can keep this going beyond the six weeks!!! Having been a Lifetime member of Weight Watchers for 14+ years I know how important a support group is! I still attend my WW weekly meetings even though I only need to weigh in once a month! Keep up the good work, Liz!! And keep the pictures of your cute little boys coming too!!❤️

  5. I loved this challenge and am sad that’s it’s ending. I am hoping the support group remains! Staying motivated is so hard, especially when life gets in the way. Eating raw foods has made me feel better about myself and if I stray from it, I can feel it and my body starts to crave it more. I am not vegan nor am I paleo or any kind of diet. I just enjoy finding healthy recipes and trying them. I have also gone sugar-free. Its amazing how salty or sweet foods are when I eat out, even when selecting the healthy choices. Same with my free days, which is key! I learned that from the Body-for-Life diet way back when. Let yourself indulge one day a week and stick to healthy the rest of the time. As for exercise, I am getting a puppy next month! So no more excuses as the pup will force me to have to walk it! Now that’s motivation! Thank you, Liz and Dara for this challenge, all the support and motivation throughout the past six weeks! And congrats to everyone who participated in the challenge for a job well done!! Maybe there will be a mid-year challenge during the summer? ;)

  6. I love that you and Dara chose balance for the final part of the challenge. I think I’ve finally found some, by dropping some of the constraints of the eating plan we’ve been on for over 3 years. What I did eased the pressure to get food on the table by a certain time, plus it’s enabling me to consume less food. I’m not where I want to be with my weight yet, and its only my second day with the food changes, but I feel like I’m finally getting in some balance, eating healthy food, eating fun stuff like Trader Joe’s Belgian chocolate, and scheduling my meals for when I am really ready for them. It’s a good feeling.

  7. I have really not had cravings for anything for a long time. I attribute that to being able to eat whatever I want (all things are allowable). I can’t say that there is a particular percentage of time when I eat things that are generally considered to be indulgences, but I do eat things like dark chocolate pretty regularly. I also have wine and/or beer somewhat regularly. My favorite chocolate these days is Trader Joe’s Belgian chocolate. My most frequent choices are for healthy, whole foods. Processed foods that are full of sugar do nothing for me and fortunately don’t call to me. It’s been a long journey, my weight is not yet where I want it, and there is still an emotional component to eating that I have to deal with, but at least I feel like my eating is pretty stable on the healthy side.

  8. I absolutely love this! The 80/20 life looks sort of perfect. I’ve always been a proponent of allowing yourself indulgences throughout the week. It’s when you make a food entirely off limits that you binge on it. I find when I let myself eat treats I eat them more responsibly.

  9. Liz, I’ve been so inspired by your motivation and grace to be healthy in body, mind, and soul. For me, I find it difficult to stay on top of exercise. I start gun ho, then, fail to continue. I’d love to reach a point where fitting an exercise routine into my schedule is like second nature, a part of my day, but I do get down on myself and then stop completely. Thinking about exercise though in an 80/20 way is something I can do. Thanks, Liz!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Diana. I can’t tell you how long it took me to make exercise an everyday habit. I firmly believe once you start doing it your body craves it and you can’t live without it. Just do something every day – it doesn’t need to be extreme. I’m a huge fan of the 10 minute exercise videos on YouTube, On Demand, etc. Thank you again for your sweet words!

  10. Liz, I’m totally with you on the dark chocolate – I keep bars in my desk at work and one square is plenty to satisfy the craving. Plus, there’s extra in case some else has a bad day. It’s a win-win, really.

  11. This is my favorite chocolate and after a day of clean eating I have a square of this chocolate and a glass of red wine. Perfection. Applying the 80/20 rule helps you keep a positive attitude about food, everything in moderation!

  12. I like to have a Lindt Truffle after dinner, it really staves off cravings later in the evening. I’m a runner and will reward myself with “treats” after a long or intense run, it keeps me going!

  13. I am so glad you shared, and I 100% agree with this. It is nice to see how others embrace it, but people often think that I eat 100% clean, but in reality I dont, and you dont have to! As long as you make the majority of it good food, life is for living…..not sure I have champagne like you (very fancy), but I do love my sweets :)

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