Hara Hachi Bu

19 08 2011

Christiaan Abildso

In the book Blue Zones, author Dan Buettner and colleagues identify four pockets of people in the world that live longer, better. In a Blue Zone in Okinawa, where life expectancy is 78 years for men and 86 for women and number of disability-free years is over 70 for both men and women, they commonly use a Confuscian-inspired expression: hara hachi bu. This expression, meaning “eat until you are 80 percent full,” is critical to their eating habits and longevity. For ages they have known that there is a delay (about 20 minutes) in the brain receiving the message of fullness from the stomach.

Consider this for a moment…eat until you are 80 percent full…to do this, Okinawans must be very mindful of what and how much they eat, enjoying a meal and leaving the dinner table without the bloated, exhausted feeling of overeating. Now think about Thanksgiving or dinner buffets in America – what is the goal? To eat as much as possible. And how do we feel afterward? So exhausted and overwhelmed by the onslaught of food that our bodies shut down – the Thanksgiving afternoon nap. Does that feel good? No. Is it worth it? No.

Does this mean these people that live so long so well are depriving themselves? No. Are they disciplined? Yes. Are they happy? Absolutely. Thus, from discipline with your daily eating routine can come great joy from meeting your health and life goals. At your next meal, try this – eat until you are 80 percent full. Or, put another way, eat until you are no longer hungry not until you are full (caveat: those of you with diabetes reading this should consider your blood sugar levels when deciding what, when, and how much to eat). In the few hours afterward, make note of how your body feels and your energy level. Then, compare that to how sluggish your body feels a few hours after overeating. Then, be proud of yourself and enjoy how great you feel!

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