Eating to 80% full

I noticed I have put on a bit of weight over the last few weeks, and I wondered why.

My whole adult life, starting from my mid-teens or so, I have eaten to about 80 percent full. I don’t stuff myself but leave a bit of room at the end. It helps me avoid feeling full and heavy after a meal, and, in general, it just feels better. I also naturally seem to eat slowly, which helps me enjoy the food more and for longer, and it also helps me notice when I get to 70-80 percent full. (I am usually the one who finishes the meal last.)

This started at some point in my teens when I noticed others stuffing themselves on special occasions and at special meals like Christmas, New Year’s, a birthday, and so on. To me, it made no sense. Yes, the food may be delicious, but it’s not more delicious if I stuff myself. On the contrary, it’s just uncomfortable.

At the Zen Center some years later, I was happy to see that they have a similar philosophy. The meal in the Zendo during retreats is called oryoki – which means “just enough”, and the instruction was to not eat until full but to leave room at the end of the meal.

I later learned about the term hara hachi bu, a Confucian guideline to eat to 80 percent full. People have noticed its beneficial effects for millennia.

So what happened over the last few weeks? I have noticed that when I cook my main meal of the day – usually at midday – I think to myself: fill up so you don’t need to make so many meals later. Since I need to save as much energy as possible for clearing out the house, and I am alone in that project, and making meals takes a good amount of energy even if they are simple, I decided to fill up to reduce the need to make further meals and save energy.

It doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. It only makes me feel too full and heavy, and it has very likely caused me to put on 2-3 (?) extra kilos. But it has been an attempt to save energy for the main task at hand.

As I woke up this morning, this insight came to me and I will – from now on – return to my habit of eating to 80 percent full. It feels far better, avoids the heavy feeling, and will likely bring me back to my normal weight which also feels much better.

I should also mention that I generally eat low on the food chain, eat only or mostly when I am hungry, and don’t eat so I feel very full. I also drink a lot of water, mostly in the form of herbal and spice teas. I am also not too strict and take the opportunity to, now and then, enjoy just about any kind of food.

The image is of my breakfast one year ago today: oatmeal porridge with fruits and berries. Looks like I used some kind of chocolate sauce on it, which is very unusual to me. I likely used it since I found it in my parents’ house where we were staying then. It showed up on my Facebook feed just now, so I thought I would use it here.

Update: It’s now about ten days later, and it feels very good to be back to the familiar 70-80 percent full way of eating. I don’t feel tired after meals as I did for the short period when I ate more, I feel generally lighter in body & mind, I am losing the little extra weight I put on, and it feels better all around.

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