Hara Hachi Bu
Have you ever heard the Japanese phrase “hara hachi bu”?
I first came across this phrase a few weeks ago when I was reading about a hot topic in medicine right now, human longevity. That’s the science of how we can live much longer and healthier lives.
Dan Buettner, a NY Times best-selling author and researcher, noticed five places in the world – he dubbed them “blue zones” – where people live the longest and are healthiest in their old age.
The 5 “blue zones” he studies are:
- Okinawa, Japan
- Sardinia, Italy
- Nicoya, Costa Rica
- Ikaria, Greece
- Loma Linda, California
In Okinawa, Japan, Dan Buettner reports that many elders have the practice of saying “hara hachi bu” before each meal.
"Hara hachi bu" translates to “eat until you are 80% full.”
Wow! What an amazingly helpful phrase to say at the beginning of a meal!
By saying ‘hara hachi bu”, a person is
- Setting a true intention for the meal.
- Avoiding mindless eating (For example, just eating until the plate is completely clean. Mindless eating often results in eating more food than the body needs resulting in weight gain.)
- Actively reminding themselves to pay attention to their body’s physical feelings of fullness.
- Keeping their health and wellness top of mind at the beginning of a meal.
For our best health, we want to learn to follow our body’s hunger signals and eat only when we are truly physically hungry and stop eating when our hunger has receded and we can feel that our body has had enough fuel for now.
Why is this so important for our health?
By getting to know how our individual body experiences true physical hunger, we can avoid emotional eating (eating for any other reason besides true physical hunger). When we stop emotional eating and eat only according to true physical hunger, our body will settle at its natural weight.
By learning to recognize how our body feels at “enough” or at “80% stomach fullness”, we naturally limit the calories we take in because we are no longer overeating (eating more than our body needs). “Hara hachi bu” helps Japanese elders consume hundreds of fewer calories per day than the average American and this is believed to be one of the most important factors contributing to the Okinawans health and longevity.
Personally, I have noticed that there is a huge difference between the amount of food I eat when I am paying attention and eating just until I am physically satisfied (I’m at “enough”) versus the amount of food I consume when I’ve been less mindful and I’ve eaten until I’m at the “I feel full” feeling.
I think "hara hachi bu" is a wonderful phrase and an amazingly healthy concept to share with our kids.
I hope you have fun sharing it with yours!
If you are interested in working with me to change the trajectory of your child's life,
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