Pareto’s Principle and Dieting

carrot-kale-walnuts-tomatoesThe Italian Economist Vilfredo Pareto observed in 1896 that approximately 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the population. What is fascinating is that this seems to hold true in many other regards.  Often 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts.Why is this important for those of us who are trying to make changes for our health? Namely it means that we can achieve the majority of the results from a very small number of changes.

Often when people try to change their lifestyle, it can seem overwhelming.  I know for me whenever I need to attempt something new it is very easy for me to get caught in the trap of spending all of my time trying to “research” the “correct” solution to my problem.  What I am actually doing is what I call active procrastination.  It is active procrastination because you are actively doing something.  However, what you are doing distracts from what actually needs to be done.

You want to lose weight?  Every single person reading this knows how to lose weight.  Eat less and move more.  If you do those two steps I can guarantee that you will lose weight.  It is easy however to spend all of your time trying to find the perfect solution for your health.  Gluten free? Paleo? Vegan? Flexitarian? If you give yourself that many choices it will very quickly become overwhelming.

The solution? Realize that making any positive change at the beginning is likely to have a huge positive effect.  If you want to be more aware of your weight then all you need to do is start weighing yourself.  If you want to eat more vegetables then just add more vegetables to your diet.  Deliberating is often an excuse to avoid dealing with the underlying problem.

And the truth is I am being a little too glib here.  The reason most people struggle to lose weight is because food is such an integral part of our lives.  Most of us do not want to start drinking Soylent for most of our meals because we derive pleasure from our food.  And that is the other important reason to understand this rule.  You do not need to be anywhere close to 100% perfect to see an improvement in your health.  You are allowed to be less than perfect.  You are allowed to eat the food you love.  You are allowed to enjoy your food.

For this rule to be most effective, identify your goal, and then figure out what steps need to be done to achieve it.  What small changes can have a large effect.


One thought on “Pareto’s Principle and Dieting

  1. Thank you sharing this article with me! It helps me feel more positive! I’m glad my “baby steps ” approach means something!


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