There’s so much advice nowadays about being healthy that it can feel overwhelming, and you often don’t even want to think about making any change. So can you be a bit unhealthy rather than trying to manage healthy eating, exercise, sleep etc. all the time?
Does it always have to be all or nothing? Can you, perhaps, be “healthy in the middle”?
We’ve all heard about those people who live to 100 although they drink, smoke, live on crisps and chips, and the only body part they move is their finger on the remote. Whilst others seem to be doing everything right – perfect diet, exercise, fresh air, flossing, no stress – and still they are struck down by a heart attack at 54. Luck does have something to do with this (or you might say genetics) but do you want to roll the dice with your health that much? For most people the truth is the more effort you invest in your health, the better the result.
We have a reasonable idea about what is and isn’t good for us – having a healthy, real food diet, cooking from scratch, putting in some regular exercise, getting out into fresh air, taking time for meditation or other relaxation and scheduling me-time.
But what happens if you can’t do this all the time?
You can benefit from – even small – diet and lifestyle changes if you are not able to stick to all of the above at all times. And here’s why:
The Pareto Principle – aka the 80/20 Rule
The Pareto principle states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes. It was named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who observed in 1896 that 80% of Italy’s wealth belonged to only 20% of the population. Surprisingly, it turned out that this principle can be applied in many other areas, too. Most things in life are not distributed evenly. For example:
- 20% of the workers produce 80% of the goods
- 20% of the customers create 80% of the revenue
- 20% of computer bugs cause 80% of the crashes
- 20% of the clothes in people’s wardrobes are worn 80% of the time
Applied to health, this could mean: 20% of your lifestyle choices are responsible for 80% of your health outcomes.
So small changes, or even a single one, could have a significant impact.
- If you smoke, just giving up smoking would greatly impact your health, your sense of smell, and your physical stamina, not to mention your finances.
- If you drink alcohol most days or sometimes too much on a few days, cutting back or – ideally – going sober would make a difference in how well you sleep, how much you weigh, how likely you are to suffer from heart disease, cancer, dementia or liver disease later in life.
- If your life revolves around sugar, reducing or removing just this one substance from your diet could reduce pain and inflammation, put an end to cravings and binges, improve your mood and protect you from type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, dementia and depression.
I’m not saying that any of those changes would be easy, but you could make one small shift today and be healthier in the future. If you believe the Pareto principle, chances are (and it is not a law) that you may become a lot healthier with a lot less effort.
So, pick the one thing that bothers you the most, the one thing that you suspect has the strongest impact on your wellbeing and focus on that for now. It’s a place to start. Once you have truly conquered that, you can, if you want, move on and tackle the next thing – one step at a time.
What happens if I go off track?
One of the first things I tell my clients about when they start working with me is the 80/20 rule: “If you eat healthily 80 per cent of the time, you can afford to go off track 20 per cent of the time.” (See above for what “healthily” means).
A little junk food now and then, a slice of cake or a couple of scoops of ice cream are not going to kill you. If you don’t want to offend someone who’s cooked a meal, but it includes carbs, sugar etc., and you fancy it by all means, have it.
This does NOT mean that you have fallen off the wagon and might as well not bother anymore. It means that you ate what was on offer. It’s not the end of the world. Move on and eat according to your healthy way of living again tomorrow.
Once you have followed your new way of eating for some time, once you have seen and felt the benefits, once your taste buds have adapted, you may find that you no longer like the foods you couldn’t resist in the past. Cravings subside and processed, sweet or junk foods become a lot less appealing. When you get there, you may not even need the 80/20 rule anymore. If you’re ready to make some small changes in your life, why not take the next step and speak to me today