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The 80-20 food rule, a cure for Orthorexia nervosa

Apparently there aren’t enough eating disorders, I discovered a new one, Orthorexia nervosa,   a term which literally means  fixation on righteous eating.  I totally get it,I understand how easy it would be to slip into this sort of behavior. Which is why I firmly believe in the 80-20  food rule.

The 80-20 food rule in it’s simplest form is  eat according to plan 80% of the time but don’t worry if you deviate the other 20% . This doesn’t mean eat peanuts if they are going to put you into anaphylactic shock, even if you always carry an epipen. It does mean, if you’re at Abuela’s  house and she offers you her specialty, croquetas de pollo ;don’t start lecturing her about how she should substitute  pork rinds for the bread crumbs instead eat one or two. It’s okay.

You don’t want to be that person.  You know who I mean. It’s one thing is to ask for extra vegetables instead of rice at a restaurant, another is to spend fifteen minutes quizzing your hostess on what she’s serving you. We were at a dinner party once where every course contained wheat, one of them was covered in a white sauce. I admit that while I took a small helping of noodles, I’d raise my fork to my mouth and put it down again, food untouched. I channeled my inner child, artistically arranging them on my plate to look like I’d eaten most of them. I did eat a small slice of cake.  With my sensitivity to sugar, I would have been better off eating the noodles and playing with my cake.

Changing your eating habits won’t stick if you are constantly denying yourself.  My tastes have changed, treats that I used enjoy are too sweet for me now. If I eat too much sugar, I feel awful the next day, I feel like I have the flu or as if I’m really hung over, so it’s getting easier to avoid sweets. Husband is allergic to the protein in dairy. Even though he knows that eating a slice of brie will cause his nose to completely stop up,  he doesn’t turn it down when it’s offered. I find that small amounts of dairy don’t affect me, but I can’t consume it all the time with impunity. Too many cafes con leche and strawberries with cream catch up with me causing me difficulties.

I’ll happily talk about diet and nutrition all day long, but I know to stop when I start to see that glazed eye look come over my audience.  My life isn’t about what I can’t have, it’s about what I can have. The 80-20 rule is a big part of making that possible.

About Theresa Diaz Gray

Born in New York City, I grew up in California, and have lived in 3 countries and 6 states. I'm a first generation Cuban-American who lives in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. I'm committed to living an abundant and creative life and helping others do so too through DIY!


  1. What a wonderful post! I’m kind of surprised I’ve got the only comment here.

    I hope you’re feeling better!


    Kim G
    Vallejo, CA
    Where we are hanging out with our oldest and dearest friend, someone we’ve known since Jr. High.

    • Hi Kim,

      Glad you like it. Maybe I should repost it? I wrote this two years ago.

      Seeing that you are in Vallejo reminded me of my dad. He used to call it, “Valley Joe” because he said, that it either should be “Va yeh hoe” or “Valley Joe” but not “Vah lay hoe”. He considers that Spanglish of the worst kind. I have no idea why that one bothers him so much since California is rife with those sorts of weird half Spanish/half English names.


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