Whilst studying the distribution of land wealth in various countries across Europe, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto stumbled upon an interesting pattern. Everywhere he looked approximately 80% of land wealth was owned by 20% of the population. Furthermore, the pattern kept repeating itself. This discovery has since been called many names including; The Pareto Principle, The 80/20 Rule, The Principle Of Least Effort and The Law Of The Vital Few.
The basic tenet of Pareto’s discovery is that the universe tends to follow unbalanced relationships which in certain situations can be harnessed to greatly enhance effectiveness, productivity and efficiency. The classic example used in business texts and personal development books is 20% of efforts leading to 80% of results
I have read nothing to convince me Vilfredo Pareto was a fitness buff, but lets play along with the idea that he wanted to lose some body fat. How would he go about the task using the 80/20 rule? Or put another way, what 20% of things would he focus on to derive 80% of the results?
The first thing Pareto would focus on is swinging his energy equation into negative balance. Put another way he would need to expend more energy than he consumed.
The best way to do this? Focus on nutrition. It would not be very 80/20 to try and out-exercise a junk-food lifestyle.
Whole Food Diet - An obvious first move. Whole foods provide more nutrition for less calories whilst helping restore the body’s natural mechanisms of satiety and fullness - an extremely useful quality when trying to avoid overeating. Within the context of a whole foods diet, Pareto would opt for a high proportion of nutritionally dense / calorie light foods. Vegetables and fruits would fit the bill nicely. In addition, Pareto would probably make sure some high quality protein found its way onto his plate at each meal to help keep him fuller for longer. This would empower him with the ability to resist the cakes, cookies and chocolate his fellow economists proffered between meals.
Batch Meal Preparation - A whole foods diet is undeniably more time intensive than a processed, ready-made alternative. Not very 80/20. To get around this predicament Pareto would prepare his meals in big batches, then store for easy access at a later date thus greatly reducing his time commitment in the kitchen and tendency to succumb to fast food.
No Liquid Calories - An extremely simple way to lower his energy intake would be to substitute all soft drinks, fruit juice and energy drinks for water. An 80/20 no-brainer.
Whilst cutting back on calories, Pareto would realise it was important to perform regular resistance workouts to preserve lean muscle tissue and prioritise fat loss over weight loss. Multi-joint compound exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups and pull ups would be his preferred choice. By targeting multiple muscle groups per exercise, Pareto could perform fewer exercises, in less time and still achieve the desired muscle-conditioning results.
To tie his 80/20 fat loss protocol together Pareto would strive to get to bed on time and get 7-9 hours quality sleep per night. This powerful habit would help his fat loss efforts in many interconnected ways. Reduced cortisol levels, increased insulin sensitivity, reduced hunger cravings, better energy and enhanced workout recovery to name but a few.
As I hope this tongue-in-cheek example demonstrates you don’t need to complicate your fat loss goals. Focus on doing the basic things really well;
- Eating nutritious foods in appropriate quantities
- Performing regular resistance workouts to preserve muscle
- Getting good sleep to glue the whole process together
By focusing on the fundamentals, you eliminate the need to worry about the minutiae.