Let’s start with these examples of questions I receive daily on Quora:

quora question on weight loss

quora question on weight loss

quora question on weight loss

All of these can be answered with two numbers: 80/20. Also known as the Pareto efficiency. It covers how 80% of results can be attributed to only 20% of factors.

You can use the infamous Pareto efficiency in order to get leaner and stay that way all year round. I’ll show you exactly how.


Understanding yourself

Every Action and the habits manifest from one source – your mind.

Some thinkers and even neuroscientists such as Sam Harris would debate that we have no free will to make a decision. That every single action of ours is driven by processes way beyond our control. They say is that there is absolutely no control.

I agree partially.

The other part is lingering between the fact that even if we have no free will, we may still direct those automated processes by building better habits.

One of the examples could be thinking twice, then thinking slow (theories discussed by Daniel Kahneman in his book ‘thinking, fast and slow’). These are the skills anyone could attain, thus grounding and judging one’s decisions should be possible too.

The point I’m trying to make here is that we are fickle, yet can use focus and judgement to step aside and think what is truly best in that case: applying the knowledge about possible side effects, benefits and impact on health and wellbeing.

The Pareto efficiency is just one way to shortcut into a more analytical approach in making a choice. It allows to divide anything in data sets of the 80/20 format. This might just make you think slow, think twice before diving for that sweet bagel.

I’ve been applying the Pareto efficiency to everything: from productivity, career development, writing, coaching my clients and things I need to do versus could do: actions that drive most value against those that keep draining the energy away. This includes my nutrition choices as well.


80/20 and the nutritional choices you make

The two basic ways to apply Vilfredo Pareto principles to your nutrition are:

  1. 20% of your food choices are responsible for 80% of your weight gain – identify them.
  2. Eat healthy 80% of the time, eat crap guilt-free 20% of the time = headache-free, lean body.


Every time I make a choice of what to eat, I ask myself:

  1. That chocolate looks really good, but… Is it really worth it?”.
  2. Is this the 20% of my ‘crap’ allowance?
  3. Is this the 20% of food that is responsible for 80% of my weight gain?


If it fits the 80/20 approach – I’ll simply enjoy it, guilt free.

I also know that after that meal, I’m going to be eating healthy to make sure the rest of my calories will be healthy.

Ok, this might sound over simplistic, but let’s look at the following division:

pareto efficiency applied to meals

Knowing this will enable and ease the stress of fearing to eat. You will know exactly when to push the brakes when it comes to eating that tempting piece of ice cream.

To hell with it. I eat ice cream, sometimes a greasy burger (minus the bread) maybe once or twice every few months and on special occasions. I know that it’s a kryptonite food, but it doesn’t overwhelm the 80% of good choices I will make next.


Sticking to 80/20

Discipline equals freedom.

– Jocko Willink, former SEAL, author, leadership coach

Discipline is a byproduct of what we call habits. The latter are built by making a series of unbreakable chains of events, which are driven by right or wrong actions. If you lean towards the good side, you will build good habits, while going bad will result in breaking the chain of good habits.

The key to making 80/20 approach work is to:

  1. Stop yourself before making any food choice and ask yourself: “Is this the 20% of my food choices which are responsible for me gaining weight?”.
  2. Review your grocery list. Then decide what food items you’re going to eat 80% of the time as your healthy choices, and which are going to be the naughty 20%.
  3. Repeat until you don’t have to consciously ask yourself these questions.


Based on a study from University of College London, habits take a hefty 66 days to become routine. However it takes just one bad action to derail it.

So from today build momentum with every good decision you make. Ask yourself if it’s worth it and what ballpark the choice resides at (80 or 20).

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