The Confucian-inspired adage is a reminder to stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full.
What’s hara hachi bu, you ask?
No, it’s not a new food or a trendy spice. It’s a way of eating and enjoying food that originated in Japan.
And it seems to be working, because people live longer and healthier lives in Japan than any other place in the world. Roughly translated “hara hachi bu” is a Confucian-inspired adage to stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full.
That’s right — don’t wait until you’re stuffed or uncomfortable — stop when you’re pleasantly satisfied. Why should you embrace this health-promoting habit in the new year? Here are four reasons.
You’ll feel fuller sooner. If we slow down our eating, we can actually train our minds to think differently and our stomachs to feel differently so we can be satisfied with less food. Eating slower means eating less, which means eating faster means eating more. Much more than our bodies need. If we eat slower, we are able to control portions better and eat consistently less calories, which helps us manage our weight more effectively and sustainably. That translates into less weight gain and staying at a certain weight more achievable in the long term.
You’ll tune in to your hunger cues. When we eat fast, we ignore what our brains are telling us and how we are feeling. We can miss the signs that our hunger has gone away. It takes time to get used to eating less. Eating until we are no longer hungry is different than eating until we are full. If we are feeling full, we have already eaten beyond the disappearance of hunger. Many people have never experienced what it is like to eat until 80 percent full. Focusing on how we are feeling as we are eating helps us to stop eating before we are full.
You’ll enjoy your food more. Practicing hara hachi bu allows us to enjoy our food more — it’s taste, texture, flavors. Eating food should be pleasurable and satisfying. When we focus on eating and how our food looks, tastes and feels in our mouths, as well as how we feel when we are done eating it, we experience more satisfaction from it. It makes overeating and binging less likely. It also gives us control over how much we eat and how we feel after!
You’ll have better digestion. Lastly, when we eat in the hara hachi bu style, we can prevent a host of digestive issues from occurring. Chewing more with each bite (until there is only a paste in your mouth) helps the digestive process get started on the right path. This necessary churning and pulverizing, mixed with saliva and digestive juices, helps prevent swallowing air and chunks of food that can cause bloating, reflux, burping, gas and stomach upset.
Mastering hara hachi bu may just be the trick you need to improve your health in the new year. Start this good habit now, and it could stick with you for the rest of your life — bringing more lasting health and enjoyment than any diet or resolution.
First published in The Daily Herald
Disclaimer: This is for information only and not intended as personal medical advice.
I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and a Nationally Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach. But I’m also a woman in the mid-stages of life who knows what it is like to struggle with health and wellness. I’ve worked with many women over the years and learned that we each have our own unique journey to optimal health. Learn more >>