In March of 2015, Tony Buettner of the Blue Zones came to speak to our community about holistic living and longevity. The Blue Zones is an organization that claims it can provide greater longevity through a diet and lifestyle regiment. Focusing on the Power 9® (the organization’s lifestyle formula) concepts, Buettner discussed the healthy habits of people who live the longest, healthiest lives.
One of the nine concepts discussed, while difficult to pronounce, is really quite simple. Hara Hachi Bu is a Japenese phrase that means, simply, to eat until you are 8/10 (or 80 percent) full. The people of Okinawa, Japan, a centurion community, practice this concept. Before each meal, they repeat the 2,500-year old Confucian mantra to remain mindful of only eating until 80 percent full. While there are undoubtedly other factors at play, doing this seems to go a long way toward health and longevity.
Because it takes time for our stomachs to communicate with our brains (about 20 minutes), if we eat until we feel full, in 20 minutes we’re likely to feel not just full but uncomfortably full. Where, on the other hand, if we stop before we feel full, once our stomachs have had time to relay their message to our brain, we now feel pleasantly satisfied. Plainly put, stopping before you’re full is a guaranteed way to keep yourself from over-eating.
Now the trick is figuring out what in the world it means to have a stomach that’s only 80 percent full. You can’t very well pull out a graduated cylinder and measure how full your stomach is. And it would be absurd and annoying to divvy your plate’s contents up into tenths, being careful to only consume eight of them. Not to mention, many of us have probably over-ridden our body’s natural inclination to feel full so many times, that its ability to recognize when it’s approaching that point has all but gone to sleep. If we’ve always eaten a whole bag of microwave popcorn during a movie, slowly, over time, we’ll require a bag plus some to feel full, creating a cycle that can seem almost unbreakable.
Thankfully, all hope is not lost. Research has shown a person can retrain their stomach to feel full on less food after about 15-20 meals. To accomplish this, it is recommended that, after eating half the food normally eaten in a meal, a person “checks in” with their body. If they feel stomach pressure, or a feeling of food in the stomach, the eater has probably approached the 80 percent mark and should stop eating. In other words, try to eat until you’re no longer hungry instead of eating until you’re full. Eventually, pleasantly satisfied will become the new normal.
The bottom line is this: overeating is bad for the body in many ways, weight gain being only one of them. If we can reteach ourselves to enjoy the food in front of us, yet stop before we eat too much, we’ll find ourselves a little bit healthier.
*Rubaum-Keller, I. (2011, September 21). Hara Hachi Bu: Eat Until You Are 80% Full. Retrieved October 15, 2015.