Not everybody is trying to lose (or gain) weight. There are quite a few people who are happy at the weight they are. They just want to maintain this status quo. I have a number of clients who, having achieved their target weights and fitness levels, just wish to stay there whilst still enjoying life.
I am also a member of this happy group. Over the decades, I have developed an 80:20 philosophy that gives me reasonable control over my body-weight. It’s not a new concept as such. The idea of the 80:20 ratio crops up in many aspects of life and work. There are theories about how 20% of one’s work yields 80% of one’s output, theories about how 20% of the people in your life produce 80% of the stress and so on.
If you follow my blog, you should know by now that I love to experiment, my background is scientific and I am my own favourite guinea-pig. (As I write this, I am conducting an experiment in ketogenesis, that starts my day with coconut-oil-laced-coffee and burns fats instead of carbs for energy. Interesting so far, to say the least. I will write about it when done)
My 64% experiment was more about observation than actual experimentation. I had been health-coaching for a while, my own weight had been stable for over 20 years but very often, usually at social events when I was tucking into a party plate or enjoying a suitable alcoholic beverage, people would question me; “this man, see as you just dey chop anyhowly but you no dey add weight” or “how you dey drink beer like so, but your belle no comot at all?” My standard answer was, “no be party I dey? I no dey jollof like this every day now!” It tickled my curiosity though and I started to pay a little more attention to the minutiae of my diet and lifestyle.
My lifestyle is pretty routine, I get my daily exercise from walking between 40 minutes and an hour every day (I have a dog) I intend and tend to eat whole organic foods or as close to them as I can get and I avoid empty calories. After a full year of observation, I came to the realisation that I am not that well-behaved at all, I will take a beautifully balanced dinner of steak, mushrooms and greens and unbalance it with a glass of Malbec, or when visiting one of those old-school aunties whose bitterleaf soup is an obstacle course of stock-fish, smoked fish, crayfish, iru, assorted meat and all other ‘gajacles’, I will demolish an entire mountain of eba without once considering the dietary implications.
I crunched the numbers and the result was that I am approximately 80% good, 80% of the time. That means that altogether, when it comes to my diet, I am 64% good. (for readers who don’t like maths, 80% of 80% is 64%) Not exactly a saint but not depraved either, I am more good than bad. Now, this works for ME, I’m not trying to lose or gain weight, my ratio of lean muscle-mass to body-fat is a healthy one, I get some gentle exercise every single day and at 64%, I don’t seem to shift either way. If I deviate one way or the other, there is an effect. Examples of this are, being less than 64% good; if I drink alcohol every day (not buckets, one or two glasses of red wine, say) as opposed to drinking on weekends and specialish occasions (old friend stops by on a Wednesday) I gain about 1kg/month. Being better than 64% good; my current experiment (low-carb, keto, coconut-oil) took 1.5 kg off my weight in a week and seems to be holding there.
So, if not about losing or gaining weight, what’s this article all about?
I suppose it’s a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ message for anybody who is working hard to lose weight. Having a healthy lifestyle gets easier as you go along. Once you are where you want to be in terms of weight, health and fitness, staying there is much easier and much more enjoyable than getting there was. Once you are fit and healthy, you can really enjoy life (sensibly) without going backwards. Whatever you are going through now to lose weight will pass and you will soon be enjoying a better quality of life.
Hang in there, the new healthy, ‘36%-jollofing you’ will thank the ‘old determined you’ for making the effort.
Wetin you dey chop?
Major Abs’ Takeaway
80-20? Sounds really technical but it can be simplified. It’s easier if you have a month’s eating diary to hand but if not, just make a list of the ‘bad’ things you eat. Any empty calories like sweet drinks, any processed, packaged non-whole foods, overly starchy foods like white bread, swallow, pasta, alcoholic drinks, added sugars, sweeteners, anything Granny wouldn’t recognise (read this article).
Now, splitting a month into 80-20 gives you 24 days-6 days. In other words, for three weekends in a month, you can eat what you like.
For the rest of the month, that means you can be 20% bad. In real terms, this means that 20% of your recommended daily calorie intake can be from less desirable sources. For men, that’s 500 calories per day, for women, 400. If you consider meat, fish and vegetables (apart from the hugely starchy ones like cassava and potato) to be good and everything else to be naughty, you have a plan.
What does 400-500 calories of ‘naughty’ typically look like?
A fist-sized portion of ‘swallow’
A moderate (Nigerian) serving of white/jollof/fried rice
Two slices of white bread/toast + 1 can of coke + 1 large glass of wine
1 large slice of cake
A moderately active, healthy adult, looking to neither lose nor gain weight would probably get away with anything on this list (one per day), mixed in with a healthy diet of whole foods. Where possible, it is always better to be naughty early in the day.