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Have you heard of Hara Hachi Bu?
It is a Japanese phrase that means “eat until you are 80% full.”
If you are familiar with the concept of Blue Zones at all, you know that Okinawa, Japan is one of the original locations to receive that designation.
Blue Zones are places where people are known to live healthier lives and live longer than other populations. Women in Okinawa are known to live longer than women anywhere elsewhere in the world.
The other Blue Zones in the world are Sardinia (Italy), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Icaria (Greece), and Loma Linda (California).
The interesting thing about the Loma Linda community is that the designation doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone who lives there, but specifically those who are part of the Seventh-day Adventist religious community.
The Seventh-day Adventist community places great emphasis on health and dietary rules that include following kosher food laws and encouraging its members to follow vegetarian diets.
Long before I knew about Blue Zones, I met a member of the Seventh-day Advent community when we sold one of our previous homes to a pastor of this denomination. He was delightful and very fit and shared a lot about their approach to eating and health. I was fascinated by it, as I had not heard anything about it before.
Many of the people in Blue Zones share several aspects in common with regard to diet.
- They eat large quantities of fresh vegetables when they are in season.
- They don’t consume large quantities of meat.
- They prefer plant-based oils in cooking, such as olive oil.
- They limit dairy consumption.
- They consume beans regularly.
- They do not consume large quantities of sugar.
- They eat whole foods over processed foods.
- They drink water, coffee, and tea. And wine in moderation 🙂
- They do not overeat.
This brings me to the 80% full rule. Hara Hachi Bu.
Research has shown that Okinawans, for instance, consume on average less than 2,000 calories per day. According to a study by National Geographic, the average American consumes more than 3,600 calories per day! This information should not surprise us, since more than 40% of Americans are considered obese.
I have shared with you that we have been following a low-carb eating plan for the last year in our house and I can tell you that we have discovered that the extra calories and carbs are coming from SUGAR.
It is EVERYWHERE. Just start paying attention to nutrition labels and take a look at the carbohydrates in food, how many of them come from fiber, and how many may be coming from sugar. It is shocking.
So it is easy to consume too many calories each day when we are not mindful of what we are consuming. Americans in particular are guilty of quick and mindless eating. Grabbing meals on the run. We don’t always make our meals an OCCASION.
Most studies suggest that it takes our brains 20 minutes to register fullness from eating and to send those signals to the body. So if we eat too quickly, it becomes very possible to overeat without even realizing it until it’s too late.
We need to slow down and savor our meals whenever possible. Not only does it make eating more enjoyable, but it also gives our bodies time to catch up to what we are eating and lets us know when we are full so that we don’t overeat.
In addition to eating more slowly, we can also experiment with how much of anything we eat. How much do you really need to feel full? If you normally eat two of something, try eating one and see if you are comfortably full. This in combination with slowing down when we eat can help us limit our caloric intake.
I really encourage you to track what you eat each day. You may be amazed at what and how much you are eating. I use a couple of apps that help me keep track of my caloric intake, as well as how those calories break down into carbs, protein, and fat.
Eating mindfully and stopping before we are stuffed is much healthier for our bodies. Try paying attention as you eat and then stop when you are 80% full. Comfortable, satiated, but not stuffed.
Hara Hachi Bu. Not only is it fun to say, 🙂 but it’s a great rule to remember when eating. 80% full, then stop.
Obesity is a serious issue for many people, and it doesn’t have to be that way. There are so many health complications that accompany obesity, and it only gets harder to maintain our weight as we age.
So it’s important to get a handle on our weight sooner than later and commit to a lifetime of healthier and mindful eating. Hara Hachi Bu is a great tool to remember when approaching our eating habits.
Eat mindfully, slowly, healthily, and stop when we are 80% full. I’ve made a printable for you to print out and display where you prepare and eat your meals. Hopefully, this can help you stop and think about eating habits and develop the Hara Hachi Bu approach.
Hara Hachi Bu!
What are your thoughts on this practice? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section!
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