Japanese Miniatures: Hara Hachi Bu

In the west we start a meal by saying  “Have a nice dinner” or “Bon appetite”. We refer to the quality of the eating experience but never to the quantity. In contrast, on the Japansese island of Okinawa, they say “Hara Hachi Bu” which means “Eat until you’re only 80% full”. It wishes us to eat until we’re no longer hungry rather then eating until you can eat no more.

Hara Hachi Bu can be viewed as a culturally embedded manifestation of calorie restriction and the only known wishful advice around the dinner table for structurally eating less within an affluent situation. Its effects among elderly Okinawans are well known. They are healthier and get older then any other specific population. They’re also amongst the shortest populations, another reason why The Incredible shrinking Man is interested. Hara hachi bu, while related to the intake of food specifically, could well be translated into a universal principle of embracing scarcity. What if we’d stop wanting to fill up on everything, all the time? What benefits can be expected from doing with just 80% in general? Will it represent a first step towards shrinking?

 

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