Practice Hara Hachi Bu

Okinawan lady

You are probably asking, “Hara hachi what?” The phrase Hara Hachi Bu is an Okinawan term which is a reminder to stop eating when your stomach is 80% full. Okinawans have one of the highest populations in the world of centenarians, people living to and beyond the age of 100.  Not only do they live long, but they also live healthy, having some of the lowest rates of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, dementia, and cancer, in the world .  So needless to say we should follow their lead when it comes to lifestyle habits and Hara Hachi Bu is one of those habits.

A few months ago we went to a popular (and tasty) pizza joint known for their pizza “slices as big as your head.” After we were done several of our friends were talking about how uncomfortably stuffed they felt. It reminded me of this term.

So often we eat until we are not just satisfied, but past full into the uncomfortable zone. We can especially be influenced by our environment and what is around us. Everything has an impact on how much we eat – without us even knowing it. The people we eat with, package size, plate size, cup size, labels, distractions – like the TV or computer. All of these environmental cues affect us and how many calories we take in.

Okinawans, on the other hand, eat until they no longer feel hungry. There is a fine line between being no longer hungry, or just satisfied, and overly full, but the difference in calories really can mean the difference between being at a healthy weight or being overweight.

Weight gain happens a little bit at a time by mindlessly eating a little too much here and there.  Just 100-200 extra calories each day can really add up. If we eat just slightly more than our body can use each day that’s when the pounds creep up on us.

Think about it, when was the last time you ate past the point of being satisfied into the too full zone? Do you pay attention to your body’s cues and what you feel like as you are eating? Many people don’t. In our busy world of constant multitasking on computers, phones, iPads, televisions etc. it can be so easy to mindlessly take in more than we realize.

One way to start to practice Hara Hachi Bu and avoid those extra calories is to check in with your feelings of hunger and fullness throughout your meals. Ask yourself before you eat how hungry you are and make a plan ahead of time for how you want to feel when you are done. Then check in again midway through your meal to see how close you are to feeling satisfied. You might pick just one meal per day to try this out and then gradually work in other meals.

Becoming aware of how hungry or full you are throughout your day and during meals can be different and a bit challenging in the beginning, but can have a huge impact on your weight and health in the long run.