Think Yourself Thinner

Try the Okinawa approach of Haru Hachi Bu.

think yourself thinner

In Okinawa, where some of the world’s longest-lived people reside and where overweight is not an issue, it is a common practice to say hara hachi bu at every meal. Loosely translated it means “eat until you’re 80 percent full,” says Bradley J. Willcox, M.D., a Hawaii-based expert in geriatric medicine who studied and wrote a book about Okinawan longevity. The islanders aren’t walking around hungry, explains Dr. Willcox, they just know to stop before they have to loosen their belt. It’s cultural wisdom that’s right on target.

To help make the practice of eating for satiety a habit, consciously put your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10 at every meal, with 1 being famished and 10 letting your belt out to make room for what you just ate. Try beginning each meal the way the Okinawans do—or make up your own mantra to remind yourself to eat mindfully. Notice the clock, and try to make your meal last at least 20 minutes. When you are halfway through your meal, put your fork down, rest a few minutes, and rate your fullness level. Eat another few bites and stop again. When you get to a 7, see if you can push your plate away. If so, yay, good for you! When you get to 8, stop, no matter what. If you’re still hungry after your first helping, get up and do something for five or ten minutes: pay some bills or fold laundry or read a section of the paper. This little exercise helps you identify the difference between actual hunger and eating out of habit. If after ten minutes you’re still feeling hungry, then it’s okay to come back for more; in most instances, though, your hunger will likely have subsided.

One final Okinawan approach: A meal is a time to sit down, take your time, and talk.

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