Very often, the guidelines about living a long healthy life and eating right centre around what to eat and what not to eat. But what we ignore are aspects like “How to eat”. You would be interested to know that there are certain geographical areas in the world marked as the “Blue zones”. People in these areas live the longest, as compared to other races. In all, 5 areas are identified as Blue zones and one of them is Okinawa in Japan. The Okinawians in Japan as a race are known worldwide for their longevity & good health. The average life expectancy there is 100 years. And it won’t come as a surprise that their average BMI is between the perfect range of 18-22.
While counseling my clients to eat right and be healthy, I tell them one of the basic principles to follow is “Portion control”. And the next moment the question I am faced with is – “But, how does one follow Portion control?” How about a TOOL that helps YOU decide “HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH” for you. So, you won’t need me or anyone else to tell you how much you should eat! You can watch and mind your portions more effectively when you bring this tool into practice.
The tool I am talking about is called HARA HACHI BU which means “Eat till you are 80% full” ! And yes…..you guessed it right, the Okinawians practice hara hachi bu. This way of eating is known to promote health into the golden years. This isn’t a folklore but actually has a scientific reason behind it.
It takes your brain 20 minutes to recognize that the stomach is full. As a result, if you keep eating until your mind registers you are full; you will have already over eaten by about 20%. If we push away the plate and stop eating when we feel we are at 80%, it is likely that your body will get exactly what it needs. The feeling of complete satiation arrives in about 20 minutes and the risk of overeating is greatly diminished.
Eat mindfully - Slowing your pace can also help your brain catch up with your stomach. In one interesting study on women , those who took 20 minutes to eat a pasta lunch consumed almost 70 fewer calories than those who gobbled it down in 9 minutes. Paying attention to the taste, texture, and smell of food will help your body register satiety and help you improve your relation with food.
Sometimes, it takes 15-20 meals to reset the muscle memory of the stomach to get used to less food and one needs to trust that will happen. When we eat to full capacity our stomachs are slightly overstretched which means that the next meal will require just a bit more to achieve fullness. Most of us are so used to eating until full, which is past satiation and which makes us put on more & more weight. Overeating or eating till 100% full capacity stimulates cellular oxidation which implies faster ageing.
Most of us have no idea what 80 % full feels like. How do you tell when you are "80% full"?
A good way to start is by opting for smaller plates or eating just half of what you normally eat and then checking in to see how you feel. Once we begin to feel any stomach pressure we are at the "80% full" stage. The challenge now is to listen to it and honor it. Eat slowly and ensure more wholesome meals that include all important food groups.
One little wisdom pill I give my clients is – Try and eat until you are no longer hungry, instead of eating until you are full. And that happens when meal times become quality family times, instead of eating while watching tv/ daily soaps, disturbing news channels , or catching up over Whatsapp chats & groups. Start your meal with a short gratitude prayer and make Hara Hachi Bu a regular part of mealtimes.
So, to put it in a nutshell, “To live till 100, hale and hearty, stop at 80%”