Most of us are familiar with the 80/20 rule. Sometimes called Pareto’s principle, it refers to the fact that 80 percent of what we gain comes from only 20 percent of our effort. Conversely, 80 percent of our effort produces only 20 percent of value. It’s a widely accepted rule of thumb that applies to virtually every area of life.
Knowing which 20 percent to focus on, then, is really the key to success. Your health is certainly no exception.
Interestingly, the most common questions I receive from people looking to improve their eating habits have nothing to do with that critical 20 percent. Usually these questions begin with, “What about…?”
- What about commercial salad dressings? I know they’re all made with omega-6 seed oils, but I don’t have time to make my own.
- What about eating at a restaurant or someone’s house? I couldn’t possibly stick to your program all the time.
- What about potatoes? Hunter-gatherers would have been able to dig up tubers, right?
These are all great questions that deserve a proper answer. But for those who haven’t nailed down the basics of eating real food, these questions represent the fine print. The exhausting 80 percent. A subtle form of procrastination where you get stuck in the planning phase at the expense of actually implementing that perfect plan.
Improved eating habits: The critical 20 percent
There is absolutely nothing wrong with sourcing out grass fed beef from your local farmer, for example, but hopefully we can all agree that this would be a waste of valuable resources for a pack-a-day smoker who eats fast food at every meal. Yet it might be the ideal next step for someone who has mastered the basics of eating vegetables, protein, and healthy fat at every meal.
Everyone’s 20 percent is going to look a little bit different, depending on their starting point. In other words, the tricky part of making the 80/20 rule work is determining what that critical 20 percent looks like for you.