Hara hachi bu is a Japanese term meaning “Eat until you’re 80% full.” It originated in the city of Okinawa. People use this advice to control their eating habits. Interestingly, Okinawans have one of the lowest rates of illness from heart disease, cancer and stroke, and a fairly long life expectancy.
Why Hara Hachi Bu is a Healthy Way of Eating
Are you a member of the clean plate club?
When you read about people who live long disease-free lives, do you wonder how they do it?
For instance, Okinawa, Japan is known for its healthy people. It’s common for Okinawans to live long, disease-free lives often until they reach age 100. Many even live beyond 100.
Many things might contribute to this longevity and living a healthy lifestyle.
However, one of the most unique behaviors Okinawans practice that contributes to their healthy lifestyle is the practice of called “Hara Hachi Bu”.
The great teacher and ancient philosopher Confucius instructed people to eat only until they are 80% full.
But what is the original reason and idea behind this? Why did Confucius think to recommend hara hachi bu?
Benefits of Hara Hachi Bu
Eating until 80% full allows you to eat more slowly. It also allows you to focus on the food. It reduces the number of calories consumed and prevents you from experiencing that often uncomfortable full feeling.
Food takes about 20 minutes to get to your gut. Because of this delay, it’s easy to overeat and then feel over full.
In fact, Americans grossly overeat. Adult men only need about 2,000 to 2,800 calories and women only need 1,600 to 2,200 calories each day to maintain a healthy weight. This of course depends on your level of activity, but it’s a good general rule of calories consumed.
Do you know how many calories the average American typically consumes? A whopping 3,600 calories per day! That’s 50% more calories than needed. All of those extra calories convert into fat that doesn’t get burned off and builds up day after day.
Practicing Hara Hachi Bu will still leave you satisfied after eating. It will also help you live a longer and healthier life.
Tips for Practicing Hara Hachi Bu
Here are five tips on how practice hara hachi bu:
1. Eat more slowly.
Chewing each bite at least 20 times helps aid in digestion. Chewing is the first step in the digestive process. It’s here that food gets broken into small pieces. In the mouth, the nutrients in your food begin to be extracted and absorbed by your body. Chewing effectively helps this process along.
Give yourself the time to really break down your food! Savor all the richness of flavor, and maximize the nutrient potential in every bite.
Experts also say that chewing your food quickly will cause you to eat more. Further research shows that slow, proper chewing helps with weight control and reduces post-meal snacking.
It also reduces the possibility of you choking or aspirating (choking on liquid) while eating.
Put your fork down after each bite. Check in with yourself throughout the meal. Ask yourself “Am I 80% full? Am I feeling satisfied yet?”.
2. Focus on your food and have fun.
Taking time to focus on what you’re eating leads to eating mindfully. When you eat mindfully, you’ll begin to notice the point at which you become satisfied. This helps you avoid overeating.
Try and pinpoint all the ingredient flavors that went into making your dish. Can you taste that lemon or the ginger that you added to your fish?
If someone else cooked for you, ask them to verify your observations. If nothing else this leads to interesting dinner conversation!
3. Use small plates and utensils.
Eating on smaller plates and using smaller utensils will trick your brain into thinking that you’re still enjoying a large portion. Your eyes are often far bigger than your stomach. Filling up a smaller plate will help you keep those extra calories in check.
Your stomach is only about the size of your fist. When empty, it reduces to the capacity for just 2.5 ounces of liquid or food. However, it expands to fit about 1 quart of food prepped for breakdown and digestion.
4. Start by leaving just one bite behind on your plate.
Then eventually, leave two bites behind. This will help you get into the habit of filling yourself to just 80%.
If you’re eating things in easy numbers (like one egg or three pieces of bacon), consider “one” of that thing to represent a serving size. Then try and keep your servings modest. Make it a habit to leave a little empty space on your plate.
When eating out, control your portions by taking half of your meal and putting it right in a to-go container. This can even help you save money by making two or three meals out of one! If you’re still feeling hungry 20 minutes after you finish eating, then have a few more bites.
5. Like the Okinawans who live to 100, fill up on fresh local foods.
Okinawans eat fresh local ingredients and avoid highly processed foods. Many of them even grow their own fruits and vegetables.
Easy Way to Grow Your Own Food
If you want an easy way to start growing your own herbs, fruits, and veggie you might try purchasing an AeroGarden. No green thumb is required, and this fun system will have you enjoying the fruits of your labor in no time.
The AeroGarden is a hydroponic system that uses LED lights on a timer, so there’s no way to fail. It even connects to an app on your phone that tells you when to add more water and plant food.
If you feel stuck and need additional support to adopt a new healthy habit or routine, consider working with me. We can partner up in setting goals, drawing on your skills and strengths, and implementing strategies to help you find your way to lasting healthy success.
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For over 15 years, Shelli has been a freelance writer and wellness coach on Joyinmovement. She writes about brain fitness, creating a healthy lifestyle, traveling the world, and making positive habits stick. Stop procrastinating! Take action, join her free newsletter.