Hara hachi bu

An interesting story from BBC on three locations where people live unusually long and healthy lives.

The Okinawan’s most significant cultural tradition is known as hara hachi bu, which translated means eat until you’re only 80% full.

In a typical day they only consume around 1,200 calories, about 20% less than most people in the UK. Culturally it is a million miles from attitudes in a lot of Western societies, where all-you-can-eat meal deals are offered in restaurants on most high streets.

Hara hachi bu is not specific to Okinawa, so there are other factors at play. And whether it has an impact on longevity or not, it certainly has an impact on immediate well being, as I notice very clearly for myself.

If I eat until I am full, I feel heavy, sluggish, dull and constipated, with all of me. But if I eat until it is just enough, hara hachi bu, I feel alert, nourished, ready to go on with my day.

So whatever long term benefits it may or may not have, it certainly have immediate benefits that makes it well worth it.

It feels better all around, and when I notice that, it becomes easy to eat just enough. Eating more is not pleasant anymore.

How to invite in the shift from one to another is another matter.

As so many in the western culture, I came from a pattern of eating as much as I could, especially if the food was unusually good. I tasted with my tongue only, ate as much as my belly could take, and took the consequences later.

But as I started becoming more aware of the effects of foods, it gradually shifted. I began to taste food with the whole of me, not just the tongue, and this shifted my food preferences and also how much I eat.

This happened originally through body-centered practice such as tai chi. Partly through practices aimed at finding ourselves as the whole embracing our body-mind, such as yoga, zen (it has that component too) and shadow/projection work.

And it also happened through a practice of consciously invite in a felt sense connection between foods and their effects on me. While noticing the effects of certain foods, I would bring to mind what I had eaten, and invite in a felt-sense connection between the two.

Each of those helped bring in a more whole body-mind relationship to food. Whenever I think about eating certain foods, or over eating, my felt sense memory of the effects now is very present, which makes a decision easy.

(Which doesn’t mean I never eat things that has an unpleasant effect on me, but when I do, I do it consciously, and with a willingness to take the effects.)

More recently, I see that inquiries such as The Work also helps here.

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