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Weight loss: why the 80/20 rule is rubbish

Take control back over your eating and exercise habits.

Take control back over your eating and exercise habits.

I hear or read it so often you'd think it was carved into stone tablets as the 11th commandment: “Weight loss shalt be 80 per cent diet and 20 per cent fitness”.

I disagree, because losing weight has at least as much to do with what's north of your mouth – your strength of mind, mental wellbeing, and ability to change.

Forget yoga and yoghurt; forget push-ups and protein shakes, because weight loss begins with your mind. It's about you becoming the boss of your body.

Who doesn't fantasise about being the boss? From bankers to housewives with million-dollar ideas, everybody envisages becoming the CEO and calling the shots. Well, guess what? You can. With the percentage of people classified as overweight heading to the wrong side of 70 per cent, you need to take a business approach to weight loss. You are the CEO of your own body.

I recently delivered this harsh-with-a-hug message at a seminar, and saw attendees nodding. They got it. The message is simple: good or bad, you've got to own what you are. Your life. Your musculo-skeletal system. Your senses. Your organs. And the 100 trillion living cells that comprise you. If you were the CEO of an underperforming company entrenched in poor business practices, wouldn't you want to turn it around? Think of your body as a corporation in need of firm leadership.

It's a relatively simple psychological shift to go from “What new Hollywood diet or AbDominator is going to help me?” to “I own my body and I'm going to change my lifestyle to become a healthier and happier individual.” It makes you a better partner, parent, employee, lover and friend. What other motivation do you need? A healthier you is a better you.

Here's how becoming the CEO of your body can be the mental spark required to get your health and wellness in control:

Invest wisely

Andrew Forrest wouldn't fund a mining project using junk Zimbabwean dollars. So why are we funding our bodies with energy drinks, processed food, and sugary sweets? Food should be fresh, healthy and tasty. Invest in food ... as fuel.

Keep it simple

The camera industry is a complicated one – from iPhones to Canons with cannon-sized lenses, yet Nick Woodman kept it simple with his GoPro cameras and has become an industry leader and billionaire. In the kitchen, do the same … fish/steak/chicken and salad/vegetables still works. A morning jog for 20 minutes, followed by 12 minutes of as many rounds as possible of five push-ups, 10 sit-ups, and 15 body weight squats, still works. Simple worked in 1930, it worked in 1970, and it still works today.

Be patient

For business or for your body, making a change is about developing a strategy, then executing that strategy. Lifestyle change won't come overnight, and you can't download it like music or order it like a pizza delivery. For the medium and long-term, say no to the naughty, and say yes to healthy food and fitness. Weight loss will follow.

Don't be a Dick (Fuld)

CEO Dick Fuld took on debt and risk and left Lehman Brothers with $613 billion in debts and did plenty more financial damage around the globe. Your waistline is your debt, and doing nothing about it is negligent in the face of a GWC (global wellbeing crisis). A healthy CEO makes a change before the obesity snowball picks up speed, doing ever more damage.

Cut the BS

You probably know what's holding you back. Video games? Throw them out the window. Boyfriend/girlfriend? Dump them. Partying? Stay in. Chips and cakes? Bin it all. Cut out what's holding you back and get it done. This is your life, your responsibility. No one else can do it for you, no matter what those infomercials and fad diet gurus say.

The most important question I have for anybody about weight loss has little to do with food or fitness. It's a simple question that 70-plus per cent of Australians need to look in the mirror and ask: Can you change?

You can always count calories and count steps, then decipher the statistics to your heart's content, but don't talk to me about 80/20. It's about lifestyle change. And lifestyle change is 50 per cent about becoming the CEO of your body, and the other 50 per cent about fresh, healthy foods and efficient exercise.

What do you think is the most important component of weight loss? Is it the food, the fitness, or the mental approach?

You can email me here or follow me on Twitter here.


  • The whole 80/20 is nonsense of course, because everyone is different. If you eat fairly well but spend the whole day at a PC and the whole evening on the lounge, then you need more exercise. If you are pretty active but eat fast food every day, that's what has to change. Your problems=your solutions. Which is why nobody else can solve it for you!

    Date and time
    February 19, 2014, 10:40AM
    • Fitness has absolutely nothing to do with weightloss.
      Ask a 140kg person how fit they are, then when they lose 20kg ask them again.
      Weightloss is all about eating properly, regularly, and the right combination of foods.
      Fruit is really good for you, but it also contains heaps of natural sugars, so eating / drinking lots of fruit has the potential to make you fat because your body stores the sugar rather than burn fat.

      Date and time
      February 19, 2014, 12:43PM
    • Exactly. Hunger is a state of mind. Every time you feel hungry, just wait 5 minutes. Or drink a glass of water. It will pass.

      Biggest Loser
      Date and time
      February 19, 2014, 12:58PM
    • Diet's don't work
      Fitness fads don't work
      Weight loss is 100% lifestyle

      Date and time
      February 19, 2014, 1:05PM
    • Good point, SeanC. Also people are bombarded with temptation for easy high calorie 'rewards'. Cheap, fast food is easy when you are busy. Being organised and focused on what you know is good creates lasting habits that maintain a healthy body and lifestyle. Trying to look like a celebrity is not a good plan.

      Date and time
      February 19, 2014, 1:18PM
    • @biggest Loser.
      To be honest I don't think many people these days even know what the real feeling of hunger is.
      Eating has become a habit, set to the clock or just continual grazing/munching.
      I went to a meeting last night and only 25 % were of normal size (self included) the rest were obese and morbidly obese. Consequently the air con was on overdrive, I had to put a jumper on.
      Welcome to the new fatty Oz , where being fat and constantly eating (just for the sake of it) is the new norm.
      Young people have never seen a normal sized population, many never experienced a hunger twang. Obesity is normalised and that is the major problem. How dare anyone fat shame, the new crime.

      Date and time
      February 19, 2014, 1:42PM
    • Its 90% genetics people.
      One person can exercise and eat the same as another for years, one can be fat, the other thin.
      If you are genetically prone to putting on weight, you will need to work really hard excercising and eat really healthy, then you will be fit and thin, but slip a little and its back on.
      So in a way i agree, it is a combination of exercise and diet, but for some its a bit of effort and for others its a massive effort to lose and retain.

      Date and time
      February 19, 2014, 1:43PM
    • Your body weight is 80% genetic and 20% environmental.

      Lost a leg in treadmill
      Lost 20kg instantly
      Date and time
      February 19, 2014, 2:15PM
    • 80% genetics? 90% genetics?

      Love the excuses guys.

      If you have more than 15% body fat as a male or 20% as a female you are eating more energy than you need to survive. The fat doesn't come from nowhere or get passed down from generation to generation. Stop making excuses and consume less calories, go hungry once in a while, give your body a break from constantly digesting.

      The majority of overweight people cant distinguish between hunger, boredom, habit and cravings. In a relatively inactive lifestyle, varying from person to person hunger will not occur within 12 hours of not eating, and when it does come it comes in waves and so dont worry, they pass before you reach for the cupcakes.

      Date and time
      February 19, 2014, 2:51PM
    • 80% genetics argument is so ridiculous i just choked on my lettuce celery and quinoa salad. every person i meet who says they are genetically fat eats cake. all day. and only moves from the fridge to the couch or work desk. and back. period.

      Date and time
      February 19, 2014, 2:53PM

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