The 80/20 diet

Katie Occhipinti

By Katie Occhipinti
Correspondent

Personally I have missed out on way too many ice cream tripswith my friends because of the fear of how my jeans would fit. However, I understand that one unhealthy meal or one over-indulgence does not cause someone to be overweight and it is not why our country is experiencing an obesity epidemic. Rather, it is our eating habits and what we consume on a daily basis that matters.

Improving your eating habits is not easy, especially in a college atmosphere. Let’s face it, food has much more social implications than we realize. Not only was I missing out on the ice cream, I was missing out on all the bonding with my friends in the car ride over. It may sound strange coming from an aspiring nutritionist, but I have left those days behind me. No longer will I go on passing up my grandmother’s cheesecake on Christmas Eve — after all, she’s not going to be making it forever. Believe it or not, as college students it is possible to improve and maintain good nutrition and reach our ideal body weight, while still occasionally enjoying the foods we love with the people we love.

I did not invent this concept, but it helped me find my balance and it may help you find yours. It is the 80/20 rule and I am challenging you to give it a try. It’s simple — 80 percent of the time strive to make the healthiest food choices possible and reserve the other 20 percent for those special occasions and treats. For example, during the weekdays try replacing your usual side of french fries with a side of brown rice. And lose that cookie every night after dinner. This counts for 80 percent of the time. Save your fries for that weekend BBQ or fully enjoy a guilt-free cupcake at that Halloween party. Chalk this up to the 20 percent. No need to over-indulge or confess to your friends how “bad” you are eating. You deserve it! Simply enjoy and move on.

Somewhere along the way, it became normal to believe that the only way to reach our ideal body weight is through deprivation and completely eliminating foods or even entire food groups from our diet. How long can a diet like this actually last? It is time we start making long lasting lifestyle changes. After mastering the 80/20 rule, one “bad” meal on the weekend will not be enough to set us back on the path of fried foods and fill us with guilt and self-loathing. The days of fearing what holidays will do to our waistline are no more because every other day of the year we will make ourselves healthier.

Here are some key points. Make your majority — 80 percent — filled with a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and proper portions. And whatever you choose for your 20 percent, make it the best. You want pizza? Do not just eat any pizza, make it your favorite kind, from the best place around. If you want a cookie, do not just eat any old cookie out of a box, wait for a homemade one fresh out of the oven with an added dose of vitamin L (love). Allow yourself to eat it slowly and enjoy it.