80/20 Principle

For anyone who’s ever adopted a new diet plan for weight loss or overall health, it’s a familiar nightmare. The backdrop varies (an all you can eat buffet, holiday party, dark and silent kitchen in the middle of the night), but the suspense is universal. The temptation, a mental struggle, the cautious scanning of the room. A subliminal background track climbs in crescendo. You give into the slightest slip, a minor indiscretion, really, and suddenly there you are, dropping through a trap door, plummeting down a dark, cavernous shoot, screaming in terror, only to fall into a sorry heap of shame at the fiery center of the earth (or other subconscious setting for doom or disgrace).

Though the vision itself is imaginary, the performance anxiety is often real. “Will I measure up?” “Can I hack it?” “How can I be that strict 100% of the time?” Questions (and doubts) abound for many as they contemplate a diet and lifestyle overhaul, including the Primal Blueprint. Perfectionism, the letter of the law, looms large in these moments.

We’ve tackled the angst-ridden questions, taken on the transition trials before, but there’s an overarching PB principle to be noted here. The Primal Blueprint, as we say, is all about Primal living. Living. Enjoying. Even chilling out. This is not a lab controlled experiment or a boot camp. No interns in white coats with clip boards will show up at your door or spy on you. No screaming sergeants will get in your face. As we’ve noted before – on a personal level, it’s your own process, your own journey. But even at the heart of its philosophy, the PB isn’t an austere all or nothing proposition. Enter the 80/20 principle….

We often say, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” And for good reason. The target of the PB is deep-seated: the long haul of a healthful life, not a brief stop off for cosmetic fixes. The necessary approach, then, is centered around sustainability. One hundred percent compliance with PB principles is ideal, sure, but consider it the ultimate representation – a consummate form rather than typical daily function. The PB is rooted in life, not just research, after all. A practical baseline is this: if you align your life with the PB principles 80% of the time, consider yourself on course.

However… Even though 100% compliance isn’t the exact everyday expectation, 100% commitment is the intention. While we concede that real life happens, the acknowledgement is a necessary reality check, not an easy excuse. PB living does require steady commitment, genuine effort and daily dedication. But the key here is personal commitment – a primal “lens” you develop and learn to view decisions through. Think of your PB transition and continuing evolution in terms of process-oriented goals rather than the rigid commandments of typical diet plans. Give your PB plan 100%, and understand it’s O.K. when daily life moderates the overall picture. An 80% end result will have you well on your way to success and sustainable health.

That said, some aspects of the Blueprint do call for consistent adherence in the interest of meaningful impact. Particular among these is avoidance of processed carbs. The fact is, the physiological effects of processed carbs simply are harsher and harder to recover from – especially when they’re a regular player in the body’s daily functioning. It’s not that your body can’t bounce back. It’s just an unnecessary detour in your progress – a diversion and interruption (albeit temporary) in the physiological homeostasis that maximizes hormonal balance, fat burning and energy consistency.

As you continue the Primal transition, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised. Taste buds have a strange way of adapting themselves. Once you’re off the physiological sugar roller coaster, the psychological habit has a way of falling by the wayside. You find recipes, workouts, stress management practices you genuinely enjoy. In fact, you miss them if you have to or choose to skip a day. You actually look forward to getting back to the routine. After learning/relearning how a good night’s sleep can make you feel, you’re now unwilling to go without it unnecessarily. Earnest perseverance facilitates compliance, which begins to come naturally. You see and feel the benefits. Going backward seems unrewarding.

Rest assured, in the course of the transition you’ll make the pieces fit comfortably into your own life. As a lifestyle and process-oriented plan, the PB inherently cultivates an internal compass.

PB living will become less about regimen and more about natural gravitation toward the lifestyle that offers vitality and balance. Eventually, the process will take on its own momentum and actually require less effort and thought over time.

The take home message is this. The PB is not a white knuckle ride. Loosen the grip, look for smart adjustments, absorb the overall vision and weave it into your life instead of nailing it over top your old habits.

And remember that the essence of the Blueprint (and its success) is found in the overall picture – your own encompassing and idiosyncratic embodiment – not the collection of minute details. (No checklists here.) It’s less about what you do at any one meal or single bout at the gym and more about what you do over the course of a given week or month. Think the spirit rather than letter of the law. Where full commitment and full life intersect – that’s the seat of the Primal success and the logic of its 80% principle.

How does the 80% principle play out in your Primal lifestyle? Share your thoughts and questions on the concept.

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