If you have been following The Flexible Chef, then you know I’m all about filling your plate with fresh, wholesome food the majority of the time, and splurging on delicious treats on occasion.
Allowing ourselves a piece of chocolate here and a scoop of ice cream there is what ultimately helps keep us on track … and sane.
What is the 90/10 rule?
The 90/10 food rule isn’t so much a diet, and it’s not even a rule. It’s more of a mindset. It basically means that you eat clean, whole foods 90 per cent of the time and splurge on the remaining 10 per cent.
It’s an eating plan that many celebrities, nutritionists and weight-loss experts rave about because, when done right, it can help you feel and look amazing without ever being denied the good stuff. Because if you exhaust your willpower too much by consistently denying yourself the things you crave, you’re likely to cave and binge. And if you eat too many treats, well, we’ve all been there and know how that turns out.
The truth is, everyone’s body and lifestyle is different. Rather than making your life fit around a strict diet plan that wasn’t designed with you in mind, the 90/10 allows for food flexibility and freedom. But if you want to achieve success with this increasingly popular way of eating, there are some things you need to know.
1. Understand what 10 per cent really means
How sharp are your maths skills? While you don’t need to be a statistician to succeed at the 90/10 way of eating, it’s important to have a general idea what it really means. For example, if you’re eating three meals and one snack per day for seven days then you eat a total of 28 times a week. If you splurge 10 per cent of the time then that means you can treat yourself about three times a week.
2. Figure out your own statistic
I always say life is like a laboratory and you must conduct your own experiments. Some people may be able to splurge on indulgent food 20 per cent of the time without falling into pizza and ice cream forever-land. Others may only be able to veer off their healthy eating path 10 per cent of the time. I personally fall into that 10 per cent category because if I splurge too much then I’ll immediately notice my jeans are too tight (thanks, Mom, for my genes). Figure out what works best for you and do that.
3. Don’t spontaneously binge
Creating a schedule when you first start to adopt new habits can sometimes be beneficial. If you’re a planner, set aside time to map our your eating week ahead and make your food fit your lifestyle. So if you know your friend’s birthday is next Thursday, for example, you can reserve one of your allotted indulges to dig into a piece of cake without the guilt.
If you actually enjoy the healthy foods you eat then you will start to crave them
4. Enjoy your indulgences in moderation
Just because you’ve marked Friday night for pizza, doesn’t mean you should stuff the whole pie in your mouth in one sitting. Rather, just enjoy one or two pieces and move on. Stop slightly before you’re full.
5. ‘Healthify’ your indulgences
When you do splurge on cakes, cookies and pasta, make it worthwhile. These days, we have an abundance of options when it comes to natural flours and sweeteners. Incorporating better-for-you ingredients into your occasional treat could mean you actually feel good after splurging.
6. Stick to your limits
I eat a naturally gluten-free diet because my body doesn’t do so well digesting gluten or grains. Since I know my limits, I avoid gluten-laden foods 100 per cent of the time. Sure, I indulge in a gluten-free brownie from time-to-time, but you’ll never find gluten foods on my plate. Remember: part of being flexible is having a strong foundation. So, understand what your body can and can’t handle and stay strong.
7. Fill your 90 per cent with foods you enjoy
Last year, I was interviewed by the host of AfterBuzz TV and asked about my tricks for making veggies more delicious. She specifically wanted to know what I do with Brussels sprouts because she couldn’t figure out a way to make them taste amazing. My advice? While roasting them will bring out the sweetness and you can jazz them up with various spices, if you don’t like a certain healthy food then you shouldn’t force yourself to eat it. There are plenty of other healthy options out there. If you actually enjoy the healthy foods you eat then you will start to crave them.
When you do splurge on cakes, cookies, and pasta, make it worthwhile
8. Learn to crave the foods you eat 90 per cent of the time
I would much prefer to eat a well-dressed chicken salad than a burger and fries for lunch. Why? Because I know how each option will make me feel afterward. I don’t crave the same sweet treats like I used to. For me, it all started more than a decade ago when I first transitioned to a gluten-free lifestyle. That was before you could get bread, pasta, and practically all junk foods sans gluten. Back then, I had to fill my plate with fresh vegetables, some fruits, and lean proteins. It had a huge impact on my taste buds and the way my body felt. Trust me, give it some time and you’ll start to appreciate fresh foods too. You may even enjoy them so much that you don’t even want to splurge on junk 10 per cent of the time.
9. Keep moving
Eating well is only part of the health puzzle. Make sure to set aside some time each day to move your body. Yoga, barre, spin, Zumba, or CrossFit – whatever type of workout you enjoy, the key is consistency.
Nealy Fischer is the founder of The Flexible Chef , a global lifestyle brand that offers creative solutions to become more confident in your life. Fischer splits her time between Montana, Hong Kong and Israel.
This article originally appeared on The Flexible Chef.