We all know the feeling: Sitting back in a chair, wishing there was a subtle way to emancipate our stomach from the top button of our jeans to allow room for the massive meal we’ve just consumed.
It’d be nice if this was a rare feeling, but for most of us, it’s not. Be it cake or clothing, we consume copiously and we’re bombarded with messages that suggest we just have a little more. Our stomachs (and corresponding health issues) are expanding to keep up with what’s on offer.
Residents of Japan’s Okinawa Island move to the beat of a different drum. They practice mindful eating, or hara hachi bu, which translates to “eat only until you’re eight parts (out of ten) full” – that is, until you’re 80 per cent full.
Okinawans have been studied extensively and are regarded as among the healthiest in the world. They have a simple, nutritious diet, and many live for more than 100 years while experiencing lower rates of stroke, dementia, hip fractures and heart disease. In fact, Okinawa’s cancer rates are 50 to 80 per cent lower than that of most developed countries (the difference is due to fewer breast, colon, ovarian and prostate cancers).
Mindful eating is not just a Japanese practice. The French leave us gob-smacked at how they remain slim and fabulous on a diet of brie, beef bourguignon and baguettes.
The secret is in their small serving sizes. Meals are enjoyed slowly, and snacking on the run is virtually unknown. There’s a greater respect for the food they eat and the bodies they live in; good luck finding an all-you-can-eat buffet in France!
Watch this too:
The Benefits of Mindful Eating
Aiming to eat until you’re 80 per cent full enables you to appreciate your food and tune in to how full your stomach really is. This is, in fact, mindfulness. ‘Listen’ to your stomach 20 minutes after eating. Does it feel full?
Hara hachi bu has so much to teach us. Of course, the solution doesn’t lie in skimping on your nutritional needs, skipping the special treats that make life worth living, or walking around feeling slightly hungry all the time. To be healthy, we need to fuel our bodies and minds.
Logically, we know we’re at our strongest and healthiest when we’re neither overweight nor underweight, and hara hachi bu is simply an approach that may lead to a better quality of life via listening to your body’s needs.
Here’s how you too can adopt the hara hachi bu mindset: