Why Hara Hachi Bu Can Save You This Festive Season
Another month, another diet trend came and went. This year we’ve seen everything from carb cycling, the 30-Day Diet, the paleo diet, the alkaline diet and finally the ever-popular keto diet. Whether or not these trends will last in 2019 is to be discovered, but when it comes to eating in a manner that will see you through all seasons of life, it’s best not to look at a specific diet, but rather at your habits when it comes to eating. And who better to indicate the best eating habits than those who live the longest, healthiest lives on the planet?
Enter the Okinawan practice of hara hachi bu – which means to eat until you are 80% full.
According to Blue Zones, Okinawans remind themselves of this before every meal, and this practice of mindful eating and calorie restriction greatly contributes to the fact that the Japanese archipelago of Okinawa boasts with the highest percentage of centenarians on earth. Because this forces you to listen to your body and what it really needs, this practice also ensures that you get the amount of calories you actually require – no more. And it’s extremely effective. As we are soon to be faced with large, long-during family meals and family members urging us to please ‘have some more, there’s plenty’, we can all use a reminder that you can – and should – stop when you are no longer hungry.
Mind the difference
The mindset surrounding this is a vital element in hara hachi bu. Instead of eating until you feel full – or until there’s no longer any food on your plate – you need to stay mindful of your hunger levels. If you are no longer hungry, that means you are nearing your 80% full finishing line, and this is when you can put down your knife and fork. Also keep in mind that it takes about 20 minutes for our bodies to register that we have eaten enough, so mindfulness is very important here. So what are the principles related to hara hachi bu?
1. Avoid getting too hungry
We have already discussed eating slowly and savoring the meal, listening to your body and practicing mindfulness. Another important element that needs to be mentioned when it comes to time and eating is the period between meals and snacks – don’t keep it too long. When you haven’t eaten for several hours, you’re bound to want to eat until you feel properly full, because your body will be sending signals that you need more food than you would have had. Therefore it’s best to enjoy regular meals and healthy snacks in between, to avoid your body getting over hungry – this also tends to lead to less healthy choices, because you will then crave salty, sugary or oily foods instead of the fresh, wholesome ingredients you actually need.
2. Drink water & herbal tea
This is a commonly-known fact, but it’s easy to confuse hunger with thirst. If you have eaten well during the day and you’re still feeling hungry, chances are good that you’re actually thirsty, because these signals feel quite similar. Moreover, in order for your body to function properly and for digestion to happen as it should, it is vitally important to drink water and healthy fluids throughout the day. According to The Mayo Clinic and research done by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in the US, an adequate daily fluid intake is as follows:
- Approximately 15 and a half cups (3.7 litres) of fluids for men
- Approximately 11 and a half cups (2.7 litres) of fluids for women
These recommendations cover fluids from water, healthy beverages and food. When it comes to the best fluids to stay hydrated, water is, of course, first and foremost on the list. However, you can add some flavour to your hydration and meet your hydration goal by sipping on herbal teas or kombucha, pure coconut or aloe water, plant-based milks such as almond, rice, soya or oat milk, or just infuse your water with fruits and mint leaves. Water also lessens your hunger, so you won’t constantly be tempted to snack.
3. Fill up on the green stuff
While the Okinawans are known to feast on fresh fish, eggs, and lean meats, the majority of their plates consist of fruits and vegetables – a lot of which they grow themselves. By focusing on fresh, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables to fill you up, you will ensure your meals provide you with the required nutrients. The benefits of enjoying mostly plant-based meals are legendary – from being good for the skin, brain, bones and cardiovascular health to maintaining a slim waistline – and every meal can be made delicious by incorporating more fresh plant produce.
What does a plant-based diet look like?
In essence, it entails avoiding processed meats and junk food as well as refined sugars and packaged foods, while sticking to legumes – which studies have shown help to lower mortality – whole grains, nuts, quality olive oil, herbs, fermented foods such as kefir and miso, grass-fed goat milk, homemade cheeses and fish like cod and sardines. These foods provide a number of vital nutrients and minerals that can help prevent inflammation, heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes and even stroke.
4. Eat from smaller plates and bowls
Recent research into food habits looked at variables unrelated to whether or not eaters were full. This research indicated that when people make use of smaller plates, bowls, glasses, and food packages in general, they tended to eat less than when using bigger items. According to the research by Dr Brian Wansink, author or Mindless Eating, when people eat from a 34-ounce bowl, they eat 31% more than when they use a 17-ounce one.
Final thought on hara hachi bu
The holidays is a wonderful time, and you should absolutely enjoy every second that you can spend with your loved ones. Just keep in mind that you can do this in a smarter manner than most of us are used to. Avoid having to come home from the holidays and starting the new year with yet another damage control plan by staying mindful of what you’re eating, truly enjoying what is on your plate and putting your fork down to enjoy the conversation. Hara hachi bu for all!