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Question about the "80/20" rule!

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 28, 2012 at 5:45 AM

Ello. I've been reading more and more about the Paleo diet through websites, blogs and journals. Something that crossed my mind was the 80/20 rule. So, I would really appreciate it if someone would elaborate on that rule. PLEASE and THANK YOU! looking forward to your answers!

2fd93e91bb14e641a2bac9c6033e84e2

(1614)

on February 28, 2012
at 08:57 PM

This is probably how most people consider it; their 20% is the morning coffee with cream, the occasional non-paleo condiments, dark chocolate and glass of wine, etc. However, others will eat very strictly paleo 80% of the time, and have 1-3 nonpaleo meals a week. Whichever way works for you.

C56baa1b4f39839c018180bf63226f7d

(3499)

on February 28, 2012
at 05:24 PM

I think what people miss about the general Pareto principle is that there always exists some x, 0 <= x <= 100, for which an x% subset of the inputs yields approximately (100-x)% of the outputs. The Pareto principle, then, is a *measure* of inequity within the set of inputs, and not a hard rule that the inequity must be 80/20.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on February 28, 2012
at 05:01 PM

This is great as far as the historical view of the principle, but I do recall in the 4hr book you mention it was actually said that learning 80% of a language for instance would allow you to communicate with over 95% efficiency. Learning the last 20% (the nuances) would be a disproportionate use of time and effort in respect to the payoff. That is how I view the 80/20 of eating...i.e. Jeff's answer.

474ae29b80569199c6589e879e6cd7d1

on February 28, 2012
at 04:21 PM

Thanks. Interesting comments. To be honest, I'm 33 and in reasonably good shape. To the outside world, I think I'd qualify as healthy. If I lean out too much, I'll have xylophone ribs. I'd like to put on muscle but I'll beat pretty much anyone at a long hike (+20 miles) More just trying to improve health, have a happier digestive system. The 5% was an estimate that may be high or low. Portion size is the same as the rest of the time, though, by definitation said portion is weighted toward the unhealthy. Thanks for the thoughts.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on February 28, 2012
at 03:03 PM

I agree wtih Susan, there's a difference between 5% of the time and 5% of your food. Also, flip it the other way and you can see that that 5% has a disproportionate impact on your health. If your aim was to be healthy you could argue that 20% of the 'benefits' come from 5% effort. So it depends how bad you go, and how well you recover. But being healthier overall should mean you can cope better with those things occasionally, and you can learn to be as responsible with your food choices as most people are with their drinking.

Fb677d93955eb0fac597e3d94db92980

(1115)

on February 28, 2012
at 02:38 PM

Depends on your definition of "really bad." If the 5% is literaly about 5% of your week's calories, then it's probably not a big deal. But if that one meal is a HUGE binge-fest that is an inordinate amount of calories, it can't be considered just one meal and can undermind your progress. Especially if your goal is leaning out - and more so as you get closer to your goal BF%/weight.

A4587cfef29863db612c43f89c202cc1

(2053)

on February 28, 2012
at 02:36 PM

That being said though, I think Voltaire was right when he opined, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

A4587cfef29863db612c43f89c202cc1

(2053)

on February 28, 2012
at 02:35 PM

I disagree with DThoris and I agree with Mash. In my mind the 80/20 rule has always related to the Pareto Principle and more specifically that 80% of my results come from 20% of my efforts. The issue becomes that you don't know which 20% of your effort that is. Is it the first 20% that you're already doing, or is it the last 20% that you're not doing yet. Could 20% more effort or compliance with something yield a more dramatic return? Or, are you getting 80% of your current results from your first 20% of effort? If so, any additional effort has a dimished rate of return.

9140810eb28b318fb081c1f98c0989c8

(459)

on February 28, 2012
at 12:05 PM

The Pareto Principle may be the 80/20 rule as applied normally, however, I don't see that being the case here. I believe it was more along the lines of the other responses - don't let perfection stand in the way of progress.

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10 Answers

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13
F4d04667059bc682540fdfd8b40f13a7

on February 28, 2012
at 06:29 AM

I think this rule is best interpreted as strive for 100% - but if you slip up every once in a while don't beat yourself up over it!

2fd93e91bb14e641a2bac9c6033e84e2

(1614)

on February 28, 2012
at 08:57 PM

This is probably how most people consider it; their 20% is the morning coffee with cream, the occasional non-paleo condiments, dark chocolate and glass of wine, etc. However, others will eat very strictly paleo 80% of the time, and have 1-3 nonpaleo meals a week. Whichever way works for you.

9
3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on February 28, 2012
at 06:18 AM

Don't let perfectionism impede progress.

5
Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on February 28, 2012
at 09:54 AM

'Pareto principle' from an Italian man named Vilfredo Pareto.

He observed that in Italy 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the people, and that 20% of the peas pods he was growing contained 80% of his harvested peas. Then economists picked up on this and called the principle the 'Pareto principle' as this same principle appears to exist all over the place. 80% of sales come from 20% of customers, 20% of people in the world own 80% of the worlds wealth.

I actually first came across it practically with Tim Ferris who keeps hammering on that 80% of your benefits come from 20% of your efforts. Eating, weightlifting, time-management, relationships and even sex if I remember.

So it is not so much that you should aim for 80% (or 100%) but rather that the majority of the benefits from your diet and lifestyle change 'may' likely come from 20% of your efforts.

While looking for more examples I came across this: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/the-top-4-misapplications-of-the-8020-rule.html

A4587cfef29863db612c43f89c202cc1

(2053)

on February 28, 2012
at 02:35 PM

I disagree with DThoris and I agree with Mash. In my mind the 80/20 rule has always related to the Pareto Principle and more specifically that 80% of my results come from 20% of my efforts. The issue becomes that you don't know which 20% of your effort that is. Is it the first 20% that you're already doing, or is it the last 20% that you're not doing yet. Could 20% more effort or compliance with something yield a more dramatic return? Or, are you getting 80% of your current results from your first 20% of effort? If so, any additional effort has a dimished rate of return.

9140810eb28b318fb081c1f98c0989c8

(459)

on February 28, 2012
at 12:05 PM

The Pareto Principle may be the 80/20 rule as applied normally, however, I don't see that being the case here. I believe it was more along the lines of the other responses - don't let perfection stand in the way of progress.

A4587cfef29863db612c43f89c202cc1

(2053)

on February 28, 2012
at 02:36 PM

That being said though, I think Voltaire was right when he opined, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on February 28, 2012
at 05:01 PM

This is great as far as the historical view of the principle, but I do recall in the 4hr book you mention it was actually said that learning 80% of a language for instance would allow you to communicate with over 95% efficiency. Learning the last 20% (the nuances) would be a disproportionate use of time and effort in respect to the payoff. That is how I view the 80/20 of eating...i.e. Jeff's answer.

C56baa1b4f39839c018180bf63226f7d

(3499)

on February 28, 2012
at 05:24 PM

I think what people miss about the general Pareto principle is that there always exists some x, 0 <= x <= 100, for which an x% subset of the inputs yields approximately (100-x)% of the outputs. The Pareto principle, then, is a *measure* of inequity within the set of inputs, and not a hard rule that the inequity must be 80/20.

2
6ba8b4ef453010c8ae07f7b9de32130c

on February 28, 2012
at 04:39 PM

I started following the 80/20 rule when I first went Primal in August 2010. That lasted 4 months and I then went 100% Paleo. For me 80/20 meant I ate Primal all week, had one cheat meal and cheat dessert once a week. I would get so sick after my cheat meal that I finally listened to my body and went 100%. I stayed 100% for 6 months, then tried some gluten free treats or gluten free pizza. That also made me sick. I function best @ 100%.

2
Fb677d93955eb0fac597e3d94db92980

(1115)

on February 28, 2012
at 08:56 AM

To me, the 80/20 rule is meant to ease CW people early in their transition onto paleo, so that you don't make the lifestyle an all or nothing thing and then give up before any results are achieved. However, following it at 80% is, in theory, enough to attain benefits which should convince you that striving for that 100% is a worthy goal. (One that your body will appreciate.)

2
06935be03aaa3cc589afb3b5e01268ad

(158)

on February 28, 2012
at 07:08 AM

Do not let perfectionism impede progress. Rather 80/20 than stop eating Paleo.

Give yourself the space that makes you continue.

2
64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661

(15236)

on February 28, 2012
at 06:18 AM

Basically that if you follow the diet 80% of the time you'll get 95% of the benefits. There are some caveats however, most notably for those who are gluten intolerant. Those people need to strictly avoid gluten, however some ice cream may be okay, for example.

1
F514c59692c45189d46cc01c34961153

(375)

on February 28, 2012
at 03:13 PM

I wouldn't consider it a rule, it is a guideline to help people because eating paleo in modern society takes a lot of effort if you want to be 100% and live normally too.

Unless you never eat out, cook all your own food, live in an area with access to all sorts of fresh foods, and have the funds to supply yourself with this fresh food...chances are you can not possibly be 100%. 80/20 accounts for the times when you: slip up on purpose, accidentally, unknowingly, or just because there isn't another option.

It also works for individuals who feel they need to slowly switch over to eating differently, a little room for adjustment helps some people. I honestly feel that dropping all crap and doing a whole30 is the best way.

1
7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on February 28, 2012
at 03:12 PM

I think both versions of 80/20 are at play in a paleo lifestyle. 80/20 as applied to compliance is more along the lines of the other responses ... i.e., you are unlikely to see useful benefits by eating SAD 80% of the time and paleo 20%.

But the Pareto is also at play too, more along the lines of what Keith Norris talks about regarding performance vs health: 20% of your effort gets you 80% of the benefit of health and after that, you expend a lot of work for far less benefit proportionally, in fact, it can be detrimental:

question-about-the-

1
Af3e3615beba642bcafd0f21d64d74f7

on February 28, 2012
at 06:58 AM

Translate=ion = 3 off meals per week, however... it doesn't appear to work for Cordain at his age. So do what Suz says above.

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