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When Losing Weight Isn’t 80/20 Diet to Exercise…


September 2012

There are few things in life that drive me nuts more than someone misstating the obvious.  For instance, when the media says that the current economy is good and sites some obscure part of it that isn’t edging along at a snail’s pace as evidence…  In short, who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?  Right.  Next would be faulty science that’s meant to touch every aspect of human existence.  Global Cooling (and it’s red-headed step-child) would be a good example.  If we comb the internet for anything relating to diet and exercise, one of the first things you’ll find is the claim that it’s an 80/20 ratio, Diet to Exercise.  Meaning 80% of losing weight has to do with diet and 20% has to do with exercise.

Call me the black sheep, but I’ve never been anywhere near that ratio.  In fact, in my case it’s more like 30/70 – the other way.  As far as my diet goes, I really don’t follow one with a few exceptions.  I quit drinking pop on a daily basis years ago and for good reason.  I was swallowing over 4,000 calories a week in soda alone.  That’s more than a pound a week that either has to be worked off, or ends up as a spare tire.  This doesn’t mean I won’t have a Coke from time to time, because I still do – it’s just a rare thing.  As far as food goes though, I eat whatever I want (or whatever is available).  The only trick that I can boast is portion control.  When most of my running buddies are heading back for their second helping of chili, I’m wrapping up my first and I’m done.  This depends greatly on the length of my workout for the day of course – if I’m just running seven miles, then one bowl is the cutoff.  If I’m riding 30-40 and running six or seven then I might hit the crock pot for seconds, if I’m still hungry.

I also turn down deserts as often as I eat them.  If I’ve been lazy – or more to the point, if I haven’t been pushing as hard as I should, there’s an 95% chance I’m turning down desert.  As well, when I do succumb to the occasional piece of cake, you can bet it’s a small one…  A size that most people would turn their nose up at and quip, “why bother”.

I’m that guy.  I’m the one you look at and wonder, “why is he so lucky”.  I’m the guy that people look at and say, “that’s just not fair, how come he gets to look like that.  I haven’t looked like that since I was in high school for crying out loud”.  I’m that guy.

I don’t apologize for it, and it’s no skin off my back that people think it’s unfair.  I know better and that’s all that really matters to me; my ass is bought and paid for with lots and lots of blood, sweat and miles.  Now maybe it’s not fair that I get out of work early enough that I can go for an hour-long ride in the evening before dinner.  Of course, whoever would think that would shudder at the mere idea of waking up with me.  Getting into the office between 5&6 am (after a 45 minute commute) takes a little bit of discipline.  At least for the first two or three years, after that it’s fairly easy.

The truth is, luck and fairness have little to nothing to do with anything.  My gene pool is decent, but it’s not as good as you’d think either.  The reality is that I burn calories like they’re going out of style.  Since March, my easiest month, I’ve burned between 26,000 and 35,000 calories each and every month.  That’s 7-1/2 to 10 pounds worth of calories.  Many complain that they don’t have the time for that (I would argue that they’re not willing to make the time, but let’s not split hairs, eh?).  Well folks, that’s the discipline.  I don’t want to eat like a rabbit so I have to burn a bunch of calories so that I don’t have to.  It is what it is.  You don’t have to like the rules, but one way or another, we’re all playing by them and weight is one of those that you can’t really cheat.  So I say go ahead and have that hamburger.  Hell, have two.  Have some macaroni and cheese (Kraft of course) while you’re at it…  But if you want to keep that butt lean and mean, you’d better do something to knock that off your gut or you’ll be wondering what your shoes look like before long.

Either that, or we can do what my buddy Jim suggests…  We can all head down to the donut shop and tell each other lies about why we’re fat and have a grand old time.

***  For the sticklers:  My diet/exercise plan is not for everyone.  It does work for me though.


  1. Sandra says:

    Oh, I’m totally with you on that one. The only times I’ve really lost weight is about a 40/60 ratio–food/exercise. . .


  2. Sandra says:

    Hmmm. Maybe I should take my own advice?

  3. martha84 says:

    There’s a lot of truth to this – if you train hard enough, you can definitely eat like a boss. Good for you for finding your magic ratio. People spend their whole lives splitting hairs about where they need to draw the line with their diet.

  4. IowaTriBob says:

    I’ve had this discussion with many here in the office as well as on the homefront. Calories in = calories out. It really is just that simple. One can argue that some calories are better than others and as I continue to train for endurance rides and events I tend to agree. But from a weight loss perspective, a calorie is a calorie.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Can’t agree more, especially with the value of one calorie to another – as I run and ride farther and faster I find myself allowing some of the junk to stay on the shelf because it won’t help my unquenchable thirst for speed on a bike… Well written.

  5. CultFit says:

    I’m that dude as well and my wife hates it. I ask new trainees what are they training for? If your goal is to sit on the couch and munch all day long … Have at it. Counting calories won’t help you much. For peeps who are bit more serious, I tend to recommend my 80/20. Focus on diet 80% of the time and eat whatever you want the other 20%. The earlier you find out what works for you the better. Anyways, I thought you might get a kick out of these links:


    Tap into your inner geek mate and play with the formulas a bit. 😉

  6. Good post! And I appreciate your honesty. I cannot tell you how many times I would LOVE to say something like this to people in the hospital….not patients, but health care professionals. I see people buying donuts, chocolate, coke,etc and then complaining about not being able to lose weight. Really, really??! You would think they’d know better……

    • bgddyjim says:

      I have had two donuts in the last two years. In the last 15 months I’ve ridden enough miles to make it from my front door in Michigan to FLORIDA AND BACK three times… And I still had to quit drinking Coke, but for on occasion. It’s not rocket science, but you’d think so by the way some people think. Good luck, I can only imagine.

  7. […] a Comment As a clarification to my post about my experience being quite a bit different from the 80/20 Diet to Exercise ratio that is so pervasive throughout the internet.  I suggested that my experience tends to be 30/70 […]

  8. […] with the diet part documented and out of the way, let’s get to what really makes everything work like a […]

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