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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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September 15, 2010

Remember the 80/20 Principle

By Mark Sisson
91 Comments

We’ve officially rounded the corner into the second full week of the 30-day Primal Blueprint Challenge. Updates, anecdotes, anyone? How is everyone doing – and feeling? As the Challenge progresses, it’s inevitable that the surge of initial gusto moderates while something else – something ultimately more important, more influential – takes its place. With a week under your belt, you’re undoubtedly shaping the Blueprint to your life, using the principles but adapting the particulars to your own circumstances and tastes. That’s how it’s designed. In fact, it’s exactly how it works best! I thought now would be an apt time to add another layer of perspective to our efforts. It’s a bit of advice that nicely reflects this personal progression as well as the overall versatility of the Blueprint. I’m talking that bastion of PB pragmatism: the 80/20 Principle.

The central point of the 80/20 Principle is this: if you’re eating fully Primal 80% of the time, the other 20% offers room for well-intentioned but practical choices when we can’t be Primal or choose not to be for a variety of personal reasons. Maybe it’s the limited options for an impromptu business lunch. Maybe it’s a family get-together. Whatever the context, our Primal lenses learn to seek out the most Primal option. Nonetheless, we hardly live in a hunter-gatherer world anymore. Sometimes we do the best we can. Once in a while, we deliberately make concessions for a special occasion. Compromise, a serviceable centerpiece of life, also plays a purposeful role in the Primal Blueprint.

Truth be told, I have my “sensible vices,” foods that I love and make reasonable Primal compromises on like dark chocolate, wine, good cheese and, as I mentioned in today’s contest post, the occasional dark beer. As part of today’s mini-challenge, I hope you have fun exploring your own sensible, Primally-inspired vices and their place in your PB picture.

Going Primal is not a perfection or bust proposition. Nonetheless, the 80/20 Principle doesn’t serve as an excuse to go on a junk food bender. Nor should it be cause to lose your footing.

Consider the 80/20 Principle a guide that accentuates the truly plausible and healthy intersection of the PB with everyday real life. Internalize it in your own way to bring perspective to your overall Primal lifestyle – to not lose the forest through the trees. (Let’s just say it comes in handy when your grandmother says she’d be heartbroken if you didn’t try her freshly made apple butter.) After all, the PB isn’t a form of asceticism. Nor is it some dictatorial dogma that imbues guilt and shame for the smallest dietary transgression. The Primal Blueprint is all about enjoying eating while taking ownership of our choices. The 80/20 Principle helps give shape to that accountability, but you provide the substance.

How are you making the PB your own as the Challenge progresses? How would you say the 80/20 Principle figures into your Primal picture? Let me know how things are going at this stage of the Challenge. Best to everybody, and I’ll look forward to reading your comments!

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91 Comments on "Remember the 80/20 Principle"

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David Eckmann
David Eckmann
6 years 15 days ago

I’d have to say my best 20% moment was right before the challenge. Each year, Oakland hosts the Eat Real Fest, which is a gathering of street food vendors from all over the Bay Area for three days. Tacos, falafel, BBQ and everything in between. I spent 6 hours on Saturday, hanging out with great friends, eating fantastic food, listening to interesting music, drinking refreshing beer, all while enjoying the perfect 80 degree weather. One of the best days in a long while.

http://eatrealfest.com/

Aaron
Aaron
6 years 15 days ago

Until a few years ago, my diet was atrocious, even by SAD standards. Whole pizzas, 12-packs of soda, half gallons of ice cream galore, etc., all on my lonesome. Now that I’m “on track” I only invoke the 80/20 to stave off guilt for my occasional “off track” straying ways. I don’t think about cheating anymore, because the flexibility afforded by 80/20 doesn’t make it “forbidden,” and therefore 100x more tempting. (No more all-out compulsive binging!)

Now, I usually think, “You want a cupcake? How about a steak instead?” It works every time.

Tricia
Tricia
6 years 15 days ago

Old out, new in; calculations done; good first week, but man–tough time finding the motivation today. I was amazed as how high my carb intake was; and I know this is a big struggle for me now.

Karyn (Calvin's wife)
Karyn (Calvin's wife)
6 years 15 days ago

Husband & I went on all out Mexican food bender last Saturday night… enchiladas, 2 baskets of chips, lots of salsa and guacamole. I felt like a stuffed sausage for 24 hours and beyond. Makes me appreciate our normal eating lifestyle. Besides that hiccup, we’re doing great! Lots of meat and veggies, and some nuts and avocados. Delish! ~Karyn

Jason
Jason
6 years 15 days ago

Everything is going pretty good for me, I was already eating Primally for several weeks before the contest started. My biggest issue to this point has been procuring good pastured meats, etc. I finally found a local farm that sells both Pastured GrassFed Beef, Eggs, and Pork.
I need to lock down on removing some more salt from my choices.
My energy has been good for a while now, just still tweaking my eating habits.
I agree with the comment above I think my 20% is Fajita’s at a local Mexican place.

kim
kim
6 years 15 days ago
this post today is very fitting. i was feeling stink as yesterday my eating got off as I worked from 7am to 1am to get a project done. It was so busy I really didn’t get to eat much during the day – had to go out with staff for dinner… tried my best with the menu and got carb and gluten free but I know there was probably veggie oil in it. And I had two small wines and a small miso soup. But out of all the stuff listed I think these were probably the better options. Usually… Read more »
Jess
Jess
6 years 15 days ago

My “sensible vice” is full fat Fage Greek yogurt. I treat myself maybe twice a week. Other than that, I’m going strong with the challenge.

Mike
Mike
6 years 15 days ago
So far, generally so good for me. Had a massive “sick headache” last Wednesday after day 1, but no issues other than that, excepting a low grade headache the first few days that I think was a mix of caffeine withdrawal and dehydration caused by low carb. Was worried about my willpower when my wife and I went for our regular Sunday dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, but I found a good steak and steamed vegetables entree and limited myself to just two chips–avoided my usual piled-high-with-chips-beans-and-rice selection and the three refills of Coke that I wash it down… Read more »
Debra
Debra
6 years 15 days ago

I’ve been doing very well in improving consistency when it comes to my workouts. I’m still working on reducing my fruit intake. I’m loving taking the time to really focus on my issues during this challenge.

Chellie B
Chellie B
6 years 15 days ago
Took the month of August to wean off grains and then jumped right in on September 1. It’s been a solid two weeks for me, with the Labor Day holiday thrown in. Weight loss began back in August and accelerated like a house on fire for the last two weeks. I probably should not lose anymore weight, so now I have to play around with upping grams of protein and fat consumed. My healthy vice is a nightly glass of red wine. It’s my chance to chill out and catch my breath at the end of the day, and I… Read more »
David Grim - Get Fit Get Lean

The 80/20 rule is something I tell people about so that they can ease into Primal Blueprint. After seeing results from going 80/20 they usually get closer to 100% Primal and see even more results.

David

Primal Toad
6 years 15 days ago
Love this: “You want a cupcake? How about a steak instead?” The 80/20 Rule is completely necessary when one is looking to dive into the primal blueprint. My brother is very curious in the whole deal but has yet to make the leap. I do see him trying it for 30 days at some point but I am not sure when. I will have to remind him that he can drink his beer (just make it less) and have some chips and salsa once in a while if he wants it. One needs to just quit buying packaged food and… Read more »
David Grim - Get Fit Get Lean

It’s going well. The 80/20 rule is something that I tell people about when they are starting. Once they see results from this they usually get closer to 100% primal and see even more results.

David

Peggy
Peggy
6 years 15 days ago

In the bottom rt hand corner of my computer screen I see “Remember the 80” & I’m thinking “80’s” while listening to some good 80’s punk…
I was taking the 20% a little too far lately, well maybe just letting my carbs get ahead of me (yesterday’s post was great for me) so my 30 days I’m trying not to binge on dried fruits & such. I have been doing lots better at reining in my sweet cravings & feeling better for it. Not even a kernel of popcorn (my hardest “cheat” to avoid. SO makes it often)
Keep these posts coming!

Rachel
Rachel
6 years 15 days ago

Thanks for reminding us of Fitday, Mark! I haven’t done tracking in a while and I made an account there. I was seriously surprised at how high my carb intake was yesterday. I thought I was doing pretty decently! Oops. So now I’m tracking it and keeping it better. Hell, I feel satisfied and I haven’t touched the birthday cake on the counter at work 🙂

Tara
Tara
6 years 15 days ago

After going prima,l eating grains has caused me so much pain that it’s not even worth 1% let alone 20%. These days, when I’m craving a treat, I’ll go for a big ol’ bag of trail mix! Sometimes it’s sweet, sometimes it’s savory, and if I’m lucky, sometimes it’s both. The assortments give me a little bit of everything… I go nuts over nuts! Throw in some dried fruit and chocolate and I’m ready to Grok on!

Joe
Joe
6 years 15 days ago

I always thought it was the 20/80 rule!

Ken Lawler
Ken Lawler
6 years 15 days ago

Couple of light beers, a few chips at a Mexican place and some red wine here or there – otherwise hanging tough with no problem. Really helps knowing there are so many people doing this.

lady_daraine
6 years 15 days ago
I have a few 20% vices. My first is beer. I love a good craft brew and the occasional bottle of Shiner Bock (Texas microbrew). I rarely indulge any more, but when the occasion warrants I don’t deny myself. Dairy is another indulgence. I don’t worry about the additional dairy-based fat in my diet. If a tablespoon of sour cream is on my taco salad, why would I freak out? I am blessed with a genetic adaption to dairy, and as long as I don’t over do it, the healthy fats are welcome. As for the rest? Sure, we all… Read more »
Magness
Magness
6 years 15 days ago

Salad dressing, not any salad dressing, just Briannas Home Style Chipotle Cheddar Dressing. I eat a salad (or two) every day I go to work, and no matter how many dressings I try I get tired to death of eating salad unless I have this stuff. I don’t know what it is, but I figure that if a couple tbsp of this stuff can keep me going it’s worth the trade.

Cj
Cj
6 years 15 days ago

It is easy to make your own…not familiar with that brand…but just look at the ingredient label….if there are more than two or three ingredients, chuck it and make your own…Good olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, minced parsley, some of your favorite spices….keep in refrig…take along in a small Nalgene bottle to work…it’s fabulous! And so good for you…I am a flight attendant, and carry this with me on my trips. Fifteen pounds on the PB plan…gone.

Cj
Cj
6 years 15 days ago

I forgot! Add a little bit of organic maple syrup to the above dressing…OOOoooOOOh My!

Nancy
Nancy
6 years 14 days ago

The homemade dressing that finally got me off the commercial stuff (it was a commercial honey mustard one that was my downfall) is a mixture of avocado oil and balsamic vinegar. Yum!

Cheryl S.
6 years 14 days ago

Brianna’s dressing (my fave is Poppy Seed)is much better than most dressings, and it made me fall in love with salads! They use canola oil and sugar, but no HFCS and all natural ingredients.

That said, I would LOVE to find a recipe to make my own that I love just as much!

Dave from Hawaii
6 years 15 days ago

My invoking of the 80/20 principle is primarily for social cohesion with friends and family and associates.

If I’m at a family members birthday party…why yes, I’ll have some of the birthday cake.

Nancy
Nancy
6 years 14 days ago

My family doesn’t really do “cake”. Our last two birthday parties had birthday apple crisp and birthday boysenberry crisp. We make them low sugar, with no flour in the topping, so the “treat” is the fruit and the oats in the topping (along with almonds and coconut shreds). Plus my Dad gets ice cream on his .

BeeHollee
BeeHollee
6 years 15 days ago

I went to Albuquerque on vacation and had tortillas, chips and green chili enchiladas. They were good but not as good as I remembered, in fact, I felt a little disappointed. My tastes have definitely changed because I used to look forward to visiting Albuquerque specifically for the food. I couldn’t wait to get back to my Primal foods! The night I got home I ate a ton of roasted chicken and veggies and literally felt my body restoring itself and I slept great that night whereas I got terrible sleep on those vacation days.

Cheryl S.
6 years 14 days ago

I picked up the the Primal Blueprint Cookbook yesterday and there’s a recipe in there for enchiladas!!! No tortilla of course. Looks pretty yummy.

Alex
6 years 15 days ago

So far, so good. I’ve been 100%, mainly because if I feel the need for sweets, I have frozen organic strawberries or the occasional apple. Otherwise, I’m actually quite happy to be able to eat lots of eggs, bacon, beef, greens, butter, salad and avocado.

And in the last 7 days, I’ve dropped from 207 – 197lbs!

Smash
6 years 15 days ago

Thank you for this post today. I’m starting out primal again after trying it a few weeks ago and this really puts me in a positive mindset.

stephen sherman
stephen sherman
6 years 15 days ago
I moved to the Pacific Northwest in March. Since then I’ve jumped head first into my two new favorite sports: rock climbing and whitewater kayaking. There are obvious, inherent dangers with both of these activities but with those dangers come excitement and camaraderie unlike any other activity I’ve been involved in. There really is nothing like getting the crux move of a tough slab or getting pulled out of the river after getting pummeled by a class V rapid (which seems to happen more often than not). After a great trip to the rock or the river, my buddies and… Read more »
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Kim
Kim
6 years 15 days ago
It’s amazing that in the short time since I started PB (I started on July 28), I have incredible energy, I sleep like a baby (I used to have insomnia), I’ve lost weight, and a lot of other benefits. I started the Challenge mostly because I wanted the boost and encouragement to enhance my fitness routine (no, actually, I want to win a COW! he-he). For the past two or three weeks, I have been able to follow the Lift Heavy Things routine twice a week–previously I was only able to do it once a week, and for very short… Read more »
Fletcher
Fletcher
6 years 15 days ago
Mark – thanks for working so hard and devoting so much time to research, only to share with anyone and everyone who wants to be healthier! I went primal 3 weeks ago and never thought I’d be able to give up carbs. But I have – with no problems or regrets. And I feel better than I have in YEARS. Yeah – the weight is coming off, which is nice – but the fact that I feel so good and don’t feel trapped by food anymore is worth its weight in gold. this is the healthiest relationship to food I’ve… Read more »
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6 years 15 days ago

[…] Remember The 80/20 Principle – Mark’s Daily Apple […]

Carl
Carl
6 years 15 days ago
I have found PB to be the answer that I have been looking for, for a long time. I have found it very easy to follow. Yet there are those times that just don’t work out. I love ice cream but have had little urge to partake in the past month and a half since going primal. I just sent my oldest daughter off to college. The first to leave the nest. Right before she left, I took her to the ice cream parlor we have frequented since she was a toddler. It was a warm sunny day and we… Read more »
Earth Beauty
6 years 15 days ago

I love Greek or homemade yogurt and Marietta’s Chipotle Ranch Dressing. OHH YUM.

Kev
Kev
6 years 15 days ago

One thing I have learned is that Wheat is never going to be in my 20%. I can eat corn chips at a Mexican restaurant or A bit of rice with some Chinese, but Gluten is never worth the price I pay. My thought is “If I am going to cheat, I won’t eat wheat!”

gilliebean
6 years 15 days ago

I’ve had to learn the same lesson Kev!

Cheryl S.
6 years 14 days ago

Me too…and thankfully its much easier to eat gluten free now than it was even a few years ago. wheat = evil!

Mia
Mia
6 years 15 days ago

I feel this lifestyle is really effortless…I don’t want to go off and eat foods that don’t provide me with optimal health. That is doing a disservice to my body and well-being. Sure it takes a bit of discipline and willpower. But when I see my loved ones suffering from effects of poor choices I want to help them because I have been there and I never wish to go back.

PB is for me, and that does not stand for “peanut butter” =)

hans keer
6 years 15 days ago

Dear Mark, This 80/20 rule is not always applicable. Some things have to be done for 100%. Example? When you suffer from an autoimmune diseases and grains, legumes or nightshades are the cause, you must avoid those foods for 100%. Otherwise, you will stay sick. We wrote a very popular, layman level post on this http://bit.ly/a9Gvjk . Very best regards, Hans

slacker
slacker
6 years 14 days ago

The challenge has gotten me off my plateau. And it has gotten me thinking of the 80/20 rule as it is considered in management and productivity studies, where it is said that 80 per cent of one’s results come from 20 per cent of one’s effort. So, I am thinking about the 20 per cent extra effort that improves my results by 80 percent. So, I can think about it as 20 slack when I’m at my weight goal. Not yet, but soon, I hope.

Lisa Stanton
Lisa Stanton
6 years 14 days ago
The past 9 days have been an eye opener! My diet wasn’t horrible before compared to the TAD, I always cooked from scratch. Been lurking about on this website for about a year, finally decided to take the challenge. My goal for the month is to simply not eat grains, I cannot believe the improvement in such a short time. Steady energy throught the day, hunger is no longer the crazy monster that used to rear it’s head every few hours, etc. Going to stick with this beyond the challenge and work on continuing to clean up my diet!
Kath (Eating for Living)
6 years 14 days ago

I love the 80/20 rule, because it helps to stay flexible! Anyway, I mostly don’t use the whole 20% anymore because by now I’ve found good substitutes for foods I’ve missed the most (especially almond milk instead of cow’s milk). I like to have a glass of white wine in the evening, though. 🙂

WalkLikeFox
6 years 14 days ago

Doing pretty well here to, but I am finding that curbing my ‘fruitbat’yness is a bit of a struggle. The fresh food has been yummy, but I miss my 3-4 fruit pieces a day. I’m currently at one piece and hoping once I can go into the maintenance plan of 100-150g carbs that I will be able to add a second piece of fresh fruit!

Shay
Shay
6 years 14 days ago

I’ve been following a mostly primal lifestyle for about six months, and I definitely feel better when I avoid the things I know I should avoid–grains, sweets, big portions, you all know the deal. One thing I crave is crunchiness, and there’s nothing like a couple of corn tortilla chips with a little squeeze of Sriracha chili sauce to satisfy my crunch and spice cravings. (I know the chili sauce has a few things in it that aren’t ideal, but I haven’t found a substitute for this magical stuff. Any suggestions?)

Chris
Chris
6 years 14 days ago

Dry roasted peanuts. They’ve been my go-to staple snack item for years and years. When I read that peanuts were on the Primal list of foods to avoid I almost balked at going Primal because I love ’em so much. But now I follow the 80/20 rule and have a handful now and then (mixed with almonds of course) or I sprinkle some on salads and enjoy guilt free. Oh, yeah…I also gotta have a good piece of fresh artisan bread with butter now and then too….

Melissa
Melissa
6 years 14 days ago

I must say this isn’t as hard as I imagined. My 20% is wine to relax after a day with over 500 kids, and a night with two very active ones.

I was losing like a demon the first week…and not so much now. My first real 20% will be on my daughter’s birthday. I’m so having a cupcake. Then, I’ll have steak!

Nancy
Nancy
6 years 14 days ago

Eat the steak before the birthday party. Then the cupcake won’t be as likely to give you a headache or stomachache. For me, some protein and fat before a sweet is the only way I can tolerate the sweet.

Harder Better Faster Stronger

I’ve totally got to try the miracle fruit thing. The website says… “Bologna sandwich tastes like cake!” That’s just really random.

Suvetar
Suvetar
6 years 14 days ago
I’ve been Primal for almost 6 months now and I do not miss the old way of eating at all. Ditching Grains, Sugar, Legumes, Nuts and anything else that is high in Phytates like Chocolate was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. My list of health benefits is very long. I’ve cured constipation, IBS, hard stools, frequent non-feverish ‘colds’ which I thought were allergies, brittle nails gone, lower back pain gone, teary eyes gone, headaches gone, joint pain in fingers gone, lost 30 lbs of pure body fat, gained 10 lbs of muscle, teeth are whiter, beige… Read more »
debbie_downer
debbie_downer
6 years 14 days ago

I thought I provided too much information!

xfitter
6 years 14 days ago

I enjoyed a glass of red wine last night. However, I did this while enjoying beef, chicken, scallops and assorted veggies roasted on a stick. That does make up for it right?

Jayadeep Purushothaman
6 years 14 days ago

Your use of 80/20 principle is a bit odd – it usually means that out of a 100, only 20% has some effect(sales, profit, happiness), rest of the 80% is pretty much useless. So you need to figure out the 20% and focus on it, not on the wasteful 80%. Now this could apply very well to food, only 20% is primal(and useful), rest of the 80% is junk(and harmful). So the focus should be to maximize the 20% of primal intake and cut down the wasteful 80%.

thelafemmenoire
thelafemmenoire
6 years 14 days ago

My achilles heel is basmatti rice and raw organic honey. I limit both to only one serving per week and so far, so good…

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[…] the Paleo or Primal Blueprint has an 80/20 principal: […]

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[…] willing to try. Although I am much more a fan of the Robb Wolf/Whole9 camp, sometimes i think the Mark Sisson method can be a better introduction for some people. He’s a little looser with the […]

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