How The 80/20 Rule Can Help Stop Stress Eating

Updated: Jun 14

Hello, wholesome seekers, today I am sharing a little insight into how the "80/20 rule" can help you begin to overcome emotional eating.

Finding comfort in food is nothing new, and sadly, is all too common. Yes, I've been there too, and this is why it's one of my primary focuses in my health clinic. For many binge or emotional eating can become a serious and complex health issue, one that drags you down a rabbit hole and leaves you suffering from shame.

But the good news, I am proud to say, is that you do not need to suffer any longer. A helping hand is just a quick scroll down this page...shall we?

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What Is The 80/20 Rule?

This may a totally new concept for you, or perhaps you've heard of this principle before. For the benefit of those new to this, the Pareto Principle or "80/20 rule", was suggested by management thinker, Joseph M. Juran, but was named after the Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto. Vilfredo had observed that 80% of income in Italy was received by 20% of the Italian population (1) and he theorized that 80% of all effects come from around 20% of the causes.

Following Pareto's theory, if you prioritise 20% of your attention and efforts on the most effective actions that will produce the results you want (such as weight loss), you'll acheive your goal more quickly and effectively. The idea behind this rule is that it can be applied to basically any field.

By now, you can probably guess how the 80/20 rule could apply to your fitness. Roughly 80% of your weight loss, or 80% of your muscle gain, can be attributed to approximately 20% of the specific exercises you do. Because of this, many fitness experts actually recommend against using varied routines, instead, they advocate for focusing on simple routines that contain a few of the most effective fat burning exercises.

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Putting The 80/20 Rule In Action

The 80/20 rule, once you grasp it, can be used to help make various aspects of your life more efficient. For example, when trying to balance your budget, you can save yourself time by identifying the 20% of expenses that make up 80% of your monthly bills instead of going through every single expense. You can save time by focusing on the 20% of exercises that actually cause the most fat burn and weight loss. And as an emotional eater, you can focus most of your attention a few of the proven things that will have the biggest impact.

You can start by giving these 3 strategies that I use in my clinic a go; they are super simple and absolutely work!

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1. Distract Yourself With Exercise

As a certified personal trainer, I know how to melt unwanted body fat (and quick), and nothing beats short burst exercise for this. However, a sudden burst of exercise is also highly effective at helping you shift your mood and combat emotional stress, anxiety and depression.

The next time you feel the urge to snack unnecessarily, do this: leap up from your desk, sofa or wherever you are and jump around. Sounds crazy I know but this strategy is steeped in psychology.

When you exercise, even if it's only a few minutes of jumping jacks, running on the spot or skipping, it has a profound effect on your mood, mentality and physicality. Just 1-2 minutes of brisk and sudden exercise will help lift you out of an emotional slump. It will distract you from your food cravings and help you do something else other than grabbing that Krispy Kreme donut the office was just passing around, or that packet of chips your kids didn't finish.

Pop up and jump around for a minute or two, have a glass of water and tell me I am wrong. This truly works!

2. Have Something To Drink

Sorry, lovely, I am not giving you permission to pour a martini or chardonnay, but by drink I mean old fashioned tap or filtered water.

All too often we mistake hunger and thirst, and reach for a snack to satisfy the sensation when in fact, it is a drink our body desperately needs. So, the next time you are feeling food cravings and having trouble fighting them, pick up a glass of water instead. It can be tap or infused with fruits and herbs, or even a herbal tea.

Sip slowly and rate your mood, and the food craving. Once you have finished your drink, rate your mood and craving again. Did it shift? Wait 10 minutes and rate it again.

Keeping hydrated is a powerful tool in overcoming emotional eating and a strategy that is definitely to be considered as part of that top 20%. Hydrating often gives you a chance to put space in between your food cravings and check in with yourself.

Try this: Assess your emotional state, write it down, and then honestly assess your hunger. If it has not been 2-3 hours between meals, chances are you are not truly hungry and are operating from an emotional trigger. Have a glass of water instead.

3. Stop! What Just Happened?

This is an incredible self-help tool to use when food cravings hit, or anytime you want to derail negative thinking.

Shhh...if you are an emotional eater, all too often food has become an ingrained source of comfort. We need to untrain your automatic response, and one highly effective way you can start is by shouting, STOP!

That's right, just yell out, "S.T.O.P." and take a big breath. It takes very little effort, can be done anywhere, and immediately short circuits your automatic response. This gives you a second or two to redirect your attention, break your mood or derail an automatic response.

Let's break it down further...

S - Stop!

Shouting this sharply (even if under your breath) can jolt you out of a negative response and help to you pause for a moment before you react. This will force you to reconsider your next move before you emotionally eat.

T - Take A Breathe

Breathe deep, in through your nose, be aware of the sensation of the air going in. Breathe out through the mouth, aware of the air exiting. This immediately calms the mind and entire nervous system. Do this immediately right after saying, stop.

O - Observations

Ask yourself real quick what thoughts are going through your mind right now? What are you reacting to? What sensations do you notice in your body? Are you feeling emotional, upset, angry, anxious, conflicted or bored? Do this while you breathe in and out for a full minute.

P - Perspective

The mind is a very naughty monkey at times. Don't believe everything you think as true. Play devil's advocate and ask yourself:

  • What is another way of looking at this moment or the situation? 

  • Are you reacting on fact or opinion? Has somebody just said something upsetting to you? Are you letting their opinion matter more than your own? Be honest.

  • Ask yourself how important is this?  Will it matter tomorrow, in a week or 6 weeks from now? Or in 12 months time? 

Be curious. Then be determined to undermine how you have always reacted and embrace a new, fresh perspective. This moment will pass, and with it you have the opportunity to grow, shift and change negative patterns. Try this step while still breathing deep.

I'd like to summarise the STOP technique with a final piece that dovetails with the 20%, practice what works. Which parts of these strategies worked for you? Was it the water or burst of physical activity (no matter how silly)? How'd you go with the STOP technique?

In order for the 80/20 rule to help you, you need to experiment with what is most effective for you, and do more of that. Do what will be the most effective and appropriate.

Put it into action. ...what are you going to try from this post?

Wishing you health + happiness,



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I understand how frustrating finding health can be. That is why I have dedicated my clinic to helping people overcome emotional eating and tap into the healing power of plantbased foods.

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