In the last few years, a new diet has emerged that’s flexible and easy to maintain. It’s even received high-profile endorsements from Jessica Alba and Tom Brady. We’re talking, of course, about the 80/20 diet. At first, this popular diet may seem like another fad, like the Grapefruit Diet or Atkins, but this isn’t a trend.

It’s a healthy approach to dieting that gives you a bit of leeway and no strict rules. Sounds great, right?

What Exactly is the 80/20 Diet?

The best way to think of the 80/20 diet is to see it as less of a diet, but more like dieting guidelines. The principle behind the “rule” is that you eat healthy 80 percent of the time, leaving you 20 percent to indulge a bit.

Eighty percent of the time, make the better food choice. And 20 percent of the time, have the fries, have the pizza.Jillian Michaels, Fitness and Health Guru

Sounds simple to remember, right? So, if each month has roughly 90 meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 30 days), 72 of your meals will be healthy. This allows you 18 meals a month (or about four meals a week) where you can cheat a little.

Think of the 80/20 diet as less of a diet, and more like dieting guidelines.

It’s important to remember that your 20 percent meals are not for binging. The goal isn’t to eat a full pizza, but to allow yourself to have a slice or two. Instead of a double bacon cheeseburger, a single cheeseburger will work. Overeating is overeating and can undo the good work you’ve put in the 80 percent of the time.

What’s Great About the Diet?

The defining benefits of that sets this diet apart from most others is its simplicity. The concept behind the 80/20 plan is easy to remember and plan around. The simplicity also allows a great deal of flexibility. This isn’t a complex diet where you must follow the cycle of the moon. Instead, you plan out your own meals that fit your taste preferences.

One of the biggest reasons diets fail is they’re too restrictive, making them tough to stick to. That isn’t the case with the 80/20 diet. There are occasional indulgences built into the structure of the diet. This makes it a vastly more realistic plan for most people. We all face cravings and giving in once in a while is okay. When a diet gives you zero wiggle room, it’s more likely to fail.

Finally, the 80/20 rule works for some because it’s not specifically a diet, but a lifestyle change. Diets tend to fail because they often don’t last, with only 20 percent keeping off the weight they lost. With its simplicity and flexibility, you can maintain this diet for a much longer time, allowing you to lose weight and keep it off.

The 80/20 diet works for some because it’s not specifically a diet, but a lifestyle change.

If you ever need help following the plan, there is plenty of literature to fall back on. The most famous of these is The 80/20 Diet by celebrity chef Teresa Cutter. The book includes recipes, supportive tips, and nutrition facts that help you succeed.

What’s Not So Great?

As with any diet, there are downsides to the 80/20 plan. Namely, the flexibility of the plan may be a little too vague at times. While some have more defined ideas of what healthy is, others do not.

Because of this, the plan may not be as effective if you’re having a salad, but drowning it in ranch and bacon. It has also led some celebrities to be more restrictive than they need to be.

To get around this, do a little research and develop a meal plan to keep you organized. There are many dieting resources that can point you in the direction of healthy eating. You can also turn to the dieting books written on the subject.

Please note that this diet won’t have you losing 20 pounds in a month. Like the best diets, you should expect to lose weight at a sustainable, healthy pace.

It’s not a get slim quick plan, especially if you are sometimes closer to the 70/30 diet! It’s important to not get discouraged if you’re not at your goal weight in a few weeks. Stick with it.

Does it Work?

Ultimately, whether a diet is for you comes down to if it works. So, does it? Truthfully, the success of the 80/20 diet all depends on you. If you’re able to stick to the 80/20 equation, without overdoing it on the 20 percent meals, you should see results. After all, you’ll find yourself with a healthier, sustainable lifestyle.