Hi, friend! This week I’ve been working on the back end of Veggie Quest—freshening up my About page, setting up a new organization system (to go live soon), and taking care of a hundred other not-so-sexy blogging tasks that I’ve let slide over the past few months.
However, I wanted to take a moment to share a tip with you that I’ve mentioned before, but that I’ve been needing more than ever lately.
It’s Hara Hachi Bu: The 80% Rule.
Hara Hachi What?
Hara Hachi Bu is an ancient teaching by none other than Confucius. Yet it’s still every bit as relevant today as it was 2,500 years ago. Loosely translated from Japanese (thank you, Wikipedia), it means “eat until you’re 80% full.” I learned about it from The Blue Zones Solution, a fascinating book by Dan Buettner, about how the oldest, healthiest people around the world eat and live. As he reports, centenarians in Okinawa, Japan—many of whom are still enjoying abundantly good health—tend to follow this 80% teaching.
Specifically, before each meal, they say it quietly to themselves: “Hara hachi bu.” A grace of sorts. Which I suppose it is. A gift to the body, and—in a way—an expression of gratitude for abundant food.
Lately, I’ve been in desperate need of this “grace,” because between family vacation, getting over a nasty summer cold, and stressing about my future, I’ve fallen into some really unhelpful eating habits. Not just giving in to junky food a lot (despite the fact that I’m supposed to be avoiding refined sugar to help clear up my yeast issues), but most of all simply eating too much.
Whether for comfort, stress relief, or the pure pleasure of eating, lately I’ve been overdoing it. And let me tell you, my body isn’t happy with this new normal: I feel bloated, my muffin top is making an encore, my boobs hurt, and I basically feel icky. (Scientific term.)
So it’s time to get back to sane, nourishing eating. The 80% rule is helping me do just that.
Why the 80% rule works
It’s well known that it takes 15-20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full. This nifty feature of human physiology was super handy when food was scarce. After all, being able to overeat in times of plenty could keep you from keeling over during a famine! But in today’s world, where food is plentiful, it no es bueno.
I mean, if you keep eating during those 15-20 minutes, by the time your brain “gets” that you’re full, you may have actually eaten too much. Hara hachi bu helps short-circuit this: If you stop when you think you’re 80% full, you’re probably actually 100% full but just don’t know it yet.
What’s more, for me at least, if I can create the mental space to stop overeating, I feel so much better. My insides are just plain happier when I leave them a little extra room to work: to mix food around, to get all those digestive enzymes where they need to go, and to soak up all those great nutrients at a leisurely pace.
How I’m using the 80% rule
Although I’ve been phasing it in, starting today—right now, in fact—I’m going to begin each meal not just with a quick grace, but with a quiet (or silent) “hara hachi bu.” I like the way the phrase rolls off my tongue, but if it feels strange, you could always say “80%,” or “just full enough.” Then I’m going to pay attention, and I mean really pay attention, to how my stomach feels as I’m eating. (Something I haven’t been doing lately!) When I feel like I’m 80% full, I’m going to stop and make some herbal tea, or whatever else I need to do to feel comforted without continuing to eat.
If I’m still truly hungry in half an hour, I can always eat more. However, I think this 80% practice will help me recover my senses, so to speak, when it comes to eating. And that will make all the difference.
So how about you? Have you tried the 80% rule or something similar? What do you do to get back on track when you feel like you’re in a cycle of overeating?
Please leave a comment; I’d love to hear what works for you.