Hara hachi bu
One of the most common sayings in Japan is roughly translated to mean “Fill your belly to 80 percent.” In the book Ikigai, author Hector Garcia explains that the people of Okinawa (one of the world’s Blue Zones where people remain healthy and active into their 90’s) follow ancient wisdom that advises against eating until we are full. In fact, all Buddhist temples in the East practice “eating less than one might want.” Rather than overtaxing their digestive systems, Okinawans stop eating when their stomachs reach 80 percent of their capacity.
Of course, there is no real way to know when we are 80 percent full but the message is to stop eating when we start to feel full. Instead of eating that piece of cake after dinner or that extra portion at lunch, if we pay attention and listen to what our bodies are telling us we’ll take a pass on the instant gratification and be happier and feel better in the long run.
The idea is to leave the table a little bit hungry. When you notice you’re almost full but could possibly have a little bit more, just stop eating!
Some people wonder why they can’t seem to lose weight even though they eat healthy foods. Perhaps if more of us practiced Hara hachi bu we might have better results! It’s interesting to note that, on average, Okinawans consume 1,800 to 1,900 calories per day compared to people in the US who generally take in 2,200 to 3,300 daily calories.
The key to staying healthy while consuming fewer calories is to eat nutritionally dense whole foods. For example, the Okinawans’ diet is composed primarily of fish, sweet potatoes and vegetables. They also eat lots of nori (seaweed), kombu (sea kelp), miso and tofu. If we stick to smaller portions of lean proteins, greens, and other vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains and always leave the table before we feel stuffed, we too will be on our way to a longer, happier life!