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Hara hachi bu is one of the secrets to the longevity trend on Okinawa.

Translated in several different ways, it means

  • Eat until you are 8 parts full, or
  • Belly 80 percent full


20 minutes!

Apparently it takes our brains approximately 20 minutes to acknowledge the state of our stomachs.  When we eat until we feel we’re full, I think that means we were full 20 minutes ago, and whatever we’ve eaten since then is over-eating.  That’s if we’re thinking about our stomachs when we eat. If we’re having a conversation or enjoying wine with dinner or coaxing a fussy eater to eat more, our stomachs may not be top of mind.

Perhaps you were raised like me: to clean your plate.  Whether you served yourself or were served by someone else, it was your plate, you ate everything on it.  That was one rule that I didn’t perpetuate with my own children!

Visitors, wine, conversation…

The concept has been on my mind recently as I have been hosting a number of out-of-town visitors.  I seem to be surrounded by people with a variety of tastes and preferences so I tend to serve what I call bit-dinners – a bit of this, a bit of that, a small-scale buffet so everyone can find something to eat.  The trouble with this of course is, that at any given time, you only have a small selection of foods on your plate.  Then you go back and try a few more things or take a bit more of the things you like.  We all enjoy our wine and each other’s company so conversation escalates and then you are nibbling because you can, because there are a few things that are really good, and suddenly you are over-full.  Given that 20-minute thing, maybe you were (or I was) overfull 20 minutes ago?  and most of us know how we feel 20 minutes later: retire to the sofa, loosen the belt, try not to bend in the middle, too too full!

I realize not all meals are social events but I also live alone. I have only food I like in the house, and sometimes I read while I eat.  Same outcome, if not quite as drastic.

This is part of the recipe for weight gain and overweight maintenance.

I did some research on which body condition leads to longevity and it’s all over the map so I won’t discuss that here.  But you can’t deny the proportion of centenarians on Okinawa, so I think we need to consider it.

Weight maintenance

Personally, I’ve tried a number of different methods of weight maintenance. When I was uber-fit in my 40s, I ate more than any other 2 people I knew, but I was also very careful about my choices and kept them healthy.  When I was in my 50s, my life slowed down considerably but my eating habits didn’t and weight gain ensued.  In my 60s I’ve tried several different methods of weight loss and had success until a recent move.

The easiest way to lose weight for me now, is to only buy healthy choices.  Then I prepare only a reasonable meal’s worth (although when you have a veggie stir fry, a huge panful is still a fraction of the calories of a burger!).  The last thing I try really hard to do is not prepare a meal until I’m actually hungry.  As soon as Summer winds down and my revolving door of company slows, I am going back to those habits.  10 lbs, that’s all I want to lose – it can’t be that hard.

Hara hachi bu makes sense

I’m not sure where I found the term hara hachi bu, but it sure made sense to me.  It does mean I will be paying attention to my meal, not my book, but that’s okay.

I’d love to know what your eating habits look like, and are you pleased with them and your current body shape?  Have you heard of hara hachi bu?  If you were to lose 10 lbs how would you go about it?