Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
15 Sep

Remember the 80/20 Principle

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!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. 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.

    David Eckmann wrote on September 15th, 2010
  2. 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.

    Aaron wrote on September 15th, 2010
  3. 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.

    Tricia wrote on September 15th, 2010
  4. 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

    Karyn (Calvin's wife) wrote on September 15th, 2010
  5. 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.

    Jason wrote on September 15th, 2010
  6. 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 I have a hard time with “treats” and beat myself up – remembering 80/20 is good for me to live life a little and enjoy it within reason.

    kim wrote on September 15th, 2010
  7. 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.

    Jess wrote on September 15th, 2010
  8. 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 with. And didn’t feel like I missed anything.

    I do think the 80/20 principle helps — I don’t intend to stray too much, but like Aaron said above, knowing that it’s not forbidden takes away some of the desire.

    Mike wrote on September 15th, 2010
  9. 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.

    Debra wrote on September 15th, 2010
  10. 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 really do like the whole experience of wine.

    My energy is a constant 6-7 on a 10-point scale, my patience with my kids and my dog is much-improved, and insomnia is now a non-issue. Looking forward to more of this amazing journey.

    Chellie B wrote on September 15th, 2010
  11. 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 Grim - Get Fit Get Lean wrote on September 15th, 2010
  12. 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 then it becomes easy! And if one has a sandwich daily before diving in then simply eating an open faced sandwich is a HUGE and very simple step that one could implement.

    It is great to strive for perfection but when you simply don’t want to try to be perfect then don’t feel guilty – only when you start doing it all the time!

    Primal Toad wrote on September 15th, 2010
  13. 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 Grim - Get Fit Get Lean wrote on September 15th, 2010
  14. 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!

    Peggy wrote on September 15th, 2010
  15. 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 :)

    Rachel wrote on September 15th, 2010
  16. 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!

    Tara wrote on September 15th, 2010
  17. I always thought it was the 20/80 rule!

    Joe wrote on September 15th, 2010
  18. 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.

    Ken Lawler wrote on September 15th, 2010
  19. 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 make bad choices occasionally that we file under “20%”. I just do my best to minimize them. A slice of cake at a wedding or a snappy piece of dark chocolate won’t kill me. I just have to decide if the “now-satisfaction” is worth the potential “later-pain” from making a bad choice.

    lady_daraine wrote on September 15th, 2010
  20. 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.

    Magness wrote on September 15th, 2010
    • 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 wrote on September 15th, 2010
      • I forgot! Add a little bit of organic maple syrup to the above dressing…OOOoooOOOh My!

        Cj wrote on September 15th, 2010
        • 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!

          Nancy wrote on September 16th, 2010
      • 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!

        Cheryl S. wrote on September 16th, 2010
  21. 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.

    Dave from Hawaii wrote on September 15th, 2010
    • 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 .

      Nancy wrote on September 16th, 2010
  22. 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.

    BeeHollee wrote on September 15th, 2010
    • 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.

      Cheryl S. wrote on September 16th, 2010
  23. 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!

    Alex wrote on September 15th, 2010
  24. 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.

    Smash wrote on September 15th, 2010
  25. 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 I have a tradition of stopping at the local Mexican place for burritos as big as your head with margaritas to wash them down. It’s my 20 and it’s tradition. Afterwards we pull our drinks together and toast “To cheating death.”

    stephen sherman wrote on September 15th, 2010
  26. 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 reps. But, I feel stronger than ever, and I have stamina now that I never had before. (Imagine walking for a few blocks and then feeling too fatigued to cross the street to get home–and I was never morbidly obese or had heart problems; I just had fatigue, for most of my life–truly debilitating, and it severely restricted any type of activity I wanted to participate in.) The fatigue–physical and mental–is gone, and I am determined to keep it gone. I will indulge sensibly, occasionally, on something worthwhile, like dark chocolate or delicious wine (I’m partial to reds, but a good Asti or Ice Wine are a weakness), but I will always remember what it is like to have ill health and the detrimental effects of the SAD. I don’t want to revisit that stage in my life. I just love how I feel now! Being able to move how I want and to think clearly is the best kind of freedom. No amount of pressure from friends or family will convince me to give it up. I am so thankful for this website and others like it that encourages healthy living. Thanks so much, Mark!

    Kim wrote on September 15th, 2010
  27. 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 ever had.

    Thank you…

    Fletcher wrote on September 15th, 2010
  28. 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 both ordered our favorites. I got Mackinaw Island Fudge double dip on a cake cone. We toasted the end of her childhood and ate our treat with no regrets, with warmth in our hearts, and sweet in our bellies. It was the best 20 I have had yet.

    Carl wrote on September 15th, 2010
  29. I love Greek or homemade yogurt and Marietta’s Chipotle Ranch Dressing. OHH YUM.

    Earth Beauty wrote on September 15th, 2010
  30. 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!”

    Kev wrote on September 15th, 2010
    • I’ve had to learn the same lesson Kev!

      gilliebean wrote on September 15th, 2010
    • Me too…and thankfully its much easier to eat gluten free now than it was even a few years ago. wheat = evil!

      Cheryl S. wrote on September 16th, 2010
  31. 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” =)

    Mia wrote on September 15th, 2010
  32. 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 . Very best regards, Hans

    hans keer wrote on September 16th, 2010
  33. 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.

    slacker wrote on September 16th, 2010
  34. 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!

    Lisa Stanton wrote on September 16th, 2010
  35. 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. :)

    Kath (Eating for Living) wrote on September 16th, 2010
  36. 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!

    WalkLikeFox wrote on September 16th, 2010
  37. 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?)

    Shay wrote on September 16th, 2010
  38. 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….

    Chris wrote on September 16th, 2010

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