Pareto and what it means for you


Let’s start this article off with a quote:

Life isn’t fair...
— Everyone

if you think that’s bad, wait till I tell you mathematics isn’t fair either. (Gasp!!!!) Which brings me to today’s topic. Pareto. 

So then just what the heck is Pareto? Or more accurately, who the heck? The Pareto Principle is the original, underlying work of the more modern 80/20 Principle. Perhaps you have heard of it? It figures greatly in your (and my) pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.

The principal asserts that a minority of effort, causes or inputs accounts for a majority of results, outputs or rewards. This phenomena was initially discovered by Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, in 1897. He was studying the distribution of wealth in 19th Century England and he noticed that 80% of the wealth went to only 20% of the people. (I don't really think this is a surprise and is still true today). What intrigued him was that if he looked at other data sets, he could see the same pattern. Although he never really brought this work to light it was "rediscovered" in 1949 by a Harvard professor named George K. Zipf, who called it the Principle of Least Effort. He studied many different data sets and consistently found that there an imbalance between effort and results. And better still it was predictable!. The distribution is not always 80/20, it could be 70/30 or 60/40, but the principle holds true: there is an uneven distribution when comparing inputs and outputs.

So how does this work for you and your health? Simply put it is the realisation that it will be a minority of the things you do that will have a maximum impact on your health. The trick is to identify these needle moving activities and see how this principle can help us achieve our goals.

1. Active Exercise

Already defined as a conscious choice to engage in a physical activity, whether going for a jog or hitting the gym or the like. Now let's assume you go to the gym 3 times per week at a median time of 2 hours per session. That adds up to only 6 hours. Taken as a percentage of your weekly time, (7 x 24 = 168) would give you only 3.5% of your time is spent at the gym. Don't you think its plausible that this may account for a majority of your results? Expressed mathematically it look:

[(3 workouts per week x 2 hours per workout) ÷ (24 hours per day x 7 days) = 3.5% of your total time] = at least 80% of your results due to exercise

2. Diet and food choices

As already espoused as The Good Carb Diet, by cutting out evil carbs (refined and sugar) and replacing with complex carbs will have the same mathematical imbalance as above. Let's say you followed my advice and reduced your over all carb consumption. Now on any given day you may consume about 25% of your calories from carbs. if you consume 2000 calories per day that is equal to 500. In those 500 calories 80% of carbs you consume come from complex sources, then only 100 calories per day will come from evil carbs. I think this may have a significant result in fat loss, as low, healthy carb diets are scientifically proven to reduce fat in the body. Therefore 25% of your food choice is going to count for 75% of your results. Although admittedly it is more complex than that,


These are only two examples, but I think it illustrates the point that the Pareto Principle is very powerful when applied to your decisions and actions in the pursuit of health. This can be applied to many aspects of your life, as you compare your effort to your results. The real trick is to identify what specific actions are responsible. 

Do you have some thoughts about this? Anything to add? I welcome your comments and feedback. Let's get a lifestyle!