Why the 80:20 Rule is Flawed.

Running feels good!

Why the 80:20 Rule is Flawed.


‘’Can’t lose weight? Forget the treadmill, forget The Biggest Loser style grueling boot camps, why, you don’t even have to walk the block if you don’t want to! Your long awaited body of perfection is just on the other side of your dinner plate!!’’


 You’ll hear it a lot today, especially espoused by popular diet gurus: ‘’It’s 80% what you eat and only 20% exercise!’’ 

 What is ‘it’ exactly?

Well of course, we’re talking weight loss, which you’d be forgiven for thinking was our only goal in life. It is in fact a valid statistic in that instance. The trouble is, it seems to be bandied around so much as a panacea for improving overall wellbeing that I think we are forgetting that there is a very real and valid place for exercise in our lives. It also seems to be ‘misused’ by some diet proponents who almost dismiss exercise and make it seem as if we have been flogging ourselves for years for nothing. Finally the truth is out and we can put our feet up! This is seriously good marketing hype.

Sure, your 80:20 rule is useful if you’re significantly overweight and have limited mobility. It’s also a useful reminder when you try to exercise off poor food choices - is there anything more demoralising than doing 200 crunches to 'pay' for a Mars bar?

But what this leads to in many cases is worrying 80% of the time about what you’re eating and giving little thought to exercise as a contributor to overall wellbeing. Exercise is in fact the number one promoter of healthier food choices.

Even though you apparently don’t need to do any; exercise offers a host of other benefits, almost all of which have the flow on effect of helping us feel better about ourselves, giving us mental clarity and body confidence. As if that wasn’t enough; regular exercise improves outcomes for many health conditions and reduces the likelihood of many too, such as heart disease.

People who exercise are most likely looking to see the physical benefits of better muscle tone, increased strength and endurance; but perhaps as importantly, exercise and mental health are also inextricably linked. Anyone would notice the difference in their head space after a brisk walk around the block to get the day started. Endorphins are released when we expend energy and they make us feel amazing, or at the very least, help us to reframe things. It's most certainly prescribed in any plan to treat depressive disorders.

Exercise is also social (as much as you like!) and we know that connecting with others is great for our state of mind. I enjoy a long workout on my own, it helps me go inward for a while which some people need too. 

I also like to go to my local gym, which caters for people from all walks of life. I especially love seeing older people doing their workouts and having a chat before heading off for the day. As well as the usual suspects, there are people there recovering from serious health episodes; but they know they feel better for the effort and the opportunity to connect.  

Exercise helps you understand how you are.

You know the days when you wake up raring to go? And the days when you don’t. Exercise is adaptable, it allows us to challenge ourselves mentally and physically, to exit comfort zones and see what we’re really capable of. It’s also fine to take it back a notch when your body needs a rest.

Following a diet programme that tells you to walk for half an hour twice a week because ‘that’s all you need to do’’, doesn’t take into account that you might want to go to Europe and walk around for 2 weeks without being exhausted every night; or that you might want to get that triathlon off your bucket list; or you just want to keep up with your energetic kids.

True health is about LIVING; not about weight. I don’t even own scales, I ditched them years ago because my day is not dictated by a number at 6am. It’s dictated 100% by what I can do with my body on any given day and how great that makes me feel.

Forget the numbers.

Eat good food.