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What is my 20%?

What is my 20%?

Many people ask me, "What do you eat?" While there are many examples of my food on the Clean Kitchen Instagram page, I understand those are just snippets of meals. So what does a day or week, or even year round look like for me in meals? I've tried to explain in the article below, which is actually one of the lessons from the Clean Kitchen 12 Week Challenge.

Following up with part 2 of yesterday's lesson! Together these two lessons can hopefully help you understand what the 80/20 model looks like for your life.

Don't feel like reading? Today Coach Jamie reads your lesson.




Back to the original question from yesterday's lesson—how do I know what my 20% is?

I know people want to know what the “coaches do” so I’ll do my best to describe just that. The 80/20 model goes much deeper than just what goes on my plate at each meal.

My split is really determined how I feel, how much I exercise, how much rest I get, and how stressed I am. My body sometimes needs more food if I am more active than usual. Sometimes my body handles treats and cheats better than other times. And my “20%” looks a whole lot different than a person trying to eat pork rinds as a healthy chip alternative. To someone else, I have a different idea of what a “compliant” meal is for myself.

My 80/20 split reflects what I value in my food, what I know will add value to my health and what I deem worth my “credits.”

Rather than focusing on trying to figure out the exact 80/20 split, I just try to do better with the situation I’m in.Sometimes I want pizza, so sometimes I eat it. Sometimes I want pizza, but sometimes I don’t eat it. Some days I eat my son’s leftovers every meal, other days I don’t. Some days I crush Lucky Charms marshmallows from the cereal box at my sister’s house (by the handful), and most days I don’t.

So you could say I don’t focus on the 20% or trying to figure it out. I focus all my energy on what my 80% meals should be. My 20% is left up to my “oh what the hell” moments or “I’m so dang tired and hungry” or “It’s pizza night!”

So for me 80/20 means I don’t justify stupid choices or decisions. There will be some oopsies, but it just a speed bump. Below I have listed my daily habits and choices that have built the body and health I have today. This is my a glimpse into my 80/20.

My 80% Habits - meaning these are things I do every single day with intention.

  • I eat plant-loaded meals with lean protein sources almost every meal.
  • I eat about 4-5 times per day, and each meal usually has a plant in it.
  • I eat about 8 servings or more of plants per day.
  • I eat carbs every single day—even on non-workout days. If I do eat a lower carb meal, it is usually for dinner.
  • I eat random handfuls of fruit through out the day without thinking twice whether I have had “too much” or if it is paired with a protein.
  • I drink at least 100 oz of water on most days, usually more.
  • I go to bed around 9:30 pm every night.
  • I really try to make sleep a priority.
  • I wake up at 4:30 AM every day during the work week.
  • I workout at a specific time everyday, except weekends.
  • I take rest days from working out in the middle of the week if I don’t feel good.
  • I rarely drink alcohol, not because of health benefits, but just because I don’t like the way it makes me feel. It makes me sleep terribly. 
  • I don’t weigh myself. I don’t even own a scale. I have weighed the same average 140 pounds for several years now.
  • I don’t do a lot of long duration cardio. Maybe run 3-4 miles if I’m purposely going on a “long run.” And I’ll go weeks in between runs. I do love some short interval style aerobic capacity workouts.
  • Wednesdays are usually my “off” from the gym day every week. This is the day I’ll either not workout, or go on a run 3-4 miles, or some type of interval running workout.
  • I weight train 4-5 times per week, and sometimes an extra day on Saturday if I am feeling good.

My 20% Choices - meaning this is in-the-moment choices that I do not really plan on.

  • I eat bigger portions than my hand size more times than not.
  • I eat leftovers off my son’s plate…AKA treasures…almost single everyday. If there is a flour tortilla involved, there’s no question I am going to eat it.
  • Occasionally I eat my son’s snack foods and cookies (damn those goldfish and snack pack cookie bags).
  • Almost EVERY. Single. Time. I go to my sister’s or mom’s house, I raid the pantry looking for snacks.
  • When I go out to eat, I will usually eat a sensible, habit filled entree. Sometimes I have the bread at the table or an appetizer or choose dessert. I usually only choose one.
  • My husband orders pizza every weekend. Not joking. But I’ll go an entire month without eating pizza. And then have it two weekends in a row.
  • I eat an entire pizza by myself. Not just sometimes, but every single time I decide to eat pizza. I do not share.
  • I eat cake at pretty much every party or shower I go to. Sometimes I feel like it makes people more comfortable if I do, haha! But I eat it because I want to, regardless.
  • I love weddings and showers because of all the finger food. I have really hard time not overeating at parties because of finger foods. I do go for the habits first, like fruit and proteins, because I know I want dessert.
  • I keep a mental tally of my 20% “credits.” If I am feeling lean and not bloated and I feel my “tolerance” is good, that usually results in me dipping into the 20% more. But if I feel bloated or puffy, I can refrain knowing full well that in a few days I will be back to feeling normal.

Now whether or not all the above really adds up to be the “80/20,” I will never know. But I do know the above allows me to maintain what I have, and to me, that is the true definition of the “80/20” concept.

The 80/20 is not a hard rule, but more like a system to keep yourself in check. So while in the CK Challenge we do set these “finite numbers” with the meal compliance chart and habit tracker percentage, in the end it is just to give you a baseline to work with.

I think people get stuck on this idea of “gotta hit my 80/20” or “I’ve gotta hit my macros” exactly or I will fail.  When that is not true at all.

We constantly go through seasons of life where priorities change. Eating to make body composition changes is hard work, but learning how to maintain a healthy weight should not be. People miss that part though. Maintenance is probably the most important phase of all when it comes to your eating habits and health. This is where you will find if your REAL habits actually align with what you say you value. Because your body is your food journal, it will reflect what you do, not what you say you do.

You can count macros, track habits, food log, etc. for a time period and see great results or gain some more awareness. But, if you don’t know how to maintain with foundational Level 1 habits you will never keep your results. You will always yo-yo. You will never be satisfied. You will always be looking for the next fad-diet-strategy to “fix” you. You will always see the 80/20 as finite numbers to hit rather than a mindset.

I love eating healthy, not just to keep a leaner body, but also because of how it makes me feel. So I live for my 80%. It is my focus. The 20% is just the leftovers. We all love birthdays, barbecues and holidays. And with those things we will all fluctuate in weight year-round. It’s a constant ebb-and-flow of letting loose and then pulling the reigns back in. There is nothing wrong with fluctuating 5 pounds here and there. 

But I believe most people think the 20% is bigger than what it really is. I think too many people are “living for the 20%.” I think our lifestyles allow us to justify over indulging. You still have to be in control and aware while in the 20%. Being stressed and tired = wanting more food/sugar. We don’t intentionally over do it. Our brains are just hardwired to drive us to crave it and think we deserve it. Our choices are influenced by our environment and mood. But until you have learned and gone through the long process of taking back your health, you will probably never reach that honest place of 80/20. Many of you now have reached it or your are just on the cusp of it.

To truly understand what your 20% is, you have to become aware of what your 80% is. And that is something that I can’t give you exact numbers for, because your 80% is your way of life, what you normally do and choose. Clean Kitchen can give you the tools, the knowledge and accountability to get started, but the journey is ultimately your responsibility.