I am watching the Netflix series “Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones” and was both intrigued, and hugely impressed, by the lifestyle in Okinawa, Japan. Not only do they still garden, work with their hands, and dance into their 100’s (yup!), but they apply a cultural practice called “Hara hachi bu” when they eat. Hara hachi bu means: stop eating when you are 80% full. In the US we might say after a meal, “I am full!”, and an Okinawan says, “I am no longer hungry”.
Of course in the states serving sizes are also much bigger; most of our meals don’t regularly consist of veggies, tofu, and sweet potatoes; and we often eat takeout food or in restaurants, instead of cooking at home everyday. But here are a few simple practices we can all incorporate:
- Sit on a backless chair at your meals — this engages your core, aids digestion, prevents slouching, and strengthens your back and shoulders while you eat. (Many Okinawans eat sitting on the floor when they eat to increase their flexibility and mobility).
- Slow down! This allows your body to register WHEN it is full — which usually takes about 20 minutes.
- Focus on your food. Turn off the TV and put away your phone when you eat. Savor your meal.
- Use smaller plates and glasses — we have all been to restaurants where they bring out a dish of pasta that is the size of a mixing bowl/foot bath/bucket and it is impossible to gauge how much you consume.
Why not embrace a few new habits from our centurion friends overseas. They seem to have a pretty good formula!