Cheat to Win – The 85/15–>95/5 Rule

Perfection is the enemy. This is true with whatever that is that you do… but I’m not here to tell you how to live your life. Just here to tell you how to eat (and how not to).

I go on and on about eating clean, giving up sugar, eating only the good fats, cutting out grains, increasing vegetable intake… but… let me ask you this… assuming you make a dietary change, are you going to do this all your life? Hell, am I going to do this all my life?? What about the donuts? The cakes? The pizza? The burger? The Indian food? The unlimited sushi? The Chinese food? My oh my! Truth is… life is more than just eating clean and staying active. Make no mistake… life is mostly about eating clean and staying active… but there is a little more to life. Read on.

Q. What is a diet?

Ans. A diet is what you eat and drink any day, everyday. But the diet we’re talking about is ‘going on a diet’. Going on a diet is either reducing the sheer quantity of the food that goes into that pie hole i.e. calorie restriction or banning certain foods (which results in restriction of calories).

Q. Why would you go on a diet?

Ans. Possibly one or more of the following reasons.

1. You’re fat and you would want to lean out to look better.

2. High risk of CVD (cardiovascular diseases) or diabetes could force you to eat clean and not eat junk.

3. You might be an athlete and losing some body fat (or even body weight in some cases) might benefit you in your sport.

4. Other reasons which aren’t critical for this post.

Q. What is the best diet?

And. The Ultimate Diet 2.0 by Lyle McDonald? Or The Paleo Diet by Dr. Loren Cordian? Or The Thrive Diet by Brendan Brazier? Or The Cookie Diet by Dr. Siegal? Or The Fruit Diet? Or one of the other hundred diets available?

To be honest with you all these diets work and produce the results they promise… IF you stick to the prescribed diet for the prescribed period of time. Let’s say I give you a diet which is so miraculous that it would reduce your body fat, make your lipid profile shine, improve athletic performance and extend life. But what good will come from that diet if you can’t stick to it?

The best diet is the diet you can stick to for the prescribed period of time.

Q. How do I stick to a diet?

Ans. 85/15 –> 95/5 rule

In short…

Don’t eat clean all the time. Have a reasonable planned cheat meal every once in a while.

In other words…

Dieting is psychological as much as it is physiological. I’ll spare you the crap and get directly to the point because neither you nor I have time for crap. Dieting is hard. Period. Whatever diet you are on… you are allowed certain foods and you are banned from eating certain other foods. The way your brain works is that it eventually craves the stuff you can’t have! And the worst thing you can do at that point is to force your brain to suppress the craving and tell it that you can never eat that chocolate cake again.

Never… deprive yourself of the little pleasures. I don’t care what the ‘purists’ say.  From a general health and fitness stand point you need to ‘give in’ every once in a while.

This is where the 85/15 –> 95/5 rule comes into play. Let’s assume you are a first time dieter and that you eat ~ 20 meals per week.

– During your first month of dieting, plan on having 3 cheat meals per week. This will result in eating clean 85% of the time.

– From the start of your second month reduce the number of cheat meals to 2 meals per week. This will result in eating clean 90% of the time.

– From the start of your third month reduce that number to 1 cheat meal per week. This will result in eating clean 95% of the time.

Once you are in your third month of dieting successfully it is assumed that you have reached a stage where you have the capability to practice portion control or ingredient control without insurmountable cravings.

So your goal should be to get to a 95/5 diet plan (which is 1 cheat meal per week). Plan for it. Choose a day… choose a meal… choose your favorite food item/entree/dessert… enjoy it! And please … do not feel guilty about it! You are merely rewarding yourself for having eaten clean throughout the week (and hopefully for having exercised the required number of days that week). Even better… for most folks a cheat meal can bridge the gap between plateauing and success.

Cheat Meal Rules:

1. Do not regret a cheat meal. Do not fear it.

2. Plan for it during the week. Look forward to it. Enjoy every bite of it. Love it…!


3. Make sure the cheat meal doesn’t derail the rest of the week’s clean eating. E.g. Don’t walk into a dessert shop/burger joint and roll out on a wheel chair.

4. Remember… it is a cheat meal… not a cheat day! One meal… reasonably sized.

5. Reasonably sized = 30-40% of your allotted number of calories for the day.

Probably not such a great idea.

6. For some people a cheat meal is a step in the wrong direction. It makes them go completely out of control and they never return to their regular diet. If you are one of those people…. be extra careful and don’t fall prey.

7. The higher the number of cheat meals… the more careful you need to be to ensure you don’t go overboard.

To Sum Up…

What is better… a 85-95% clean diet or a  100% clean diet? The 100% clean diet.

What is better… a 85-95% clean diet lasting 6 months or a 100% clean diet lasting 1 month? The 85-95% clean diet.

– Peace.

6 responses to “Cheat to Win – The 85/15–>95/5 Rule

  1. Pingback: Let’s talk numbers « Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.

  2. Pingback: Keepin it real… « Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.

  3. Pingback: How To Look Awesome Naked: A Step-By-Step Guide « Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.

  4. Madhuram March 5, 2011 at 7:40 am

    This makes perfect sense. Thanks.

  5. Pingback: The Great Starvation Experiment – Part 2 « Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.

  6. Akhila September 12, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Hola- once I reach my optimal weight (hahaha! Assuming I do!) Do I need to follow such a rigorous diet? Can I try out and follow a diet that helps me maintain my weight but might be a little higher on cals than the ‘weight loss period’ one?

%d bloggers like this: