Hara Hachi Bu: The Secret of Lean, Green Living

Hara Hachi BuIn Okinawa, Japan, elders have a simple statement for their eating philosophy; “Hara Hachi Bu” which translates into “ Eat until you are eight parts full”. It’s part of their secret to living longer, leaner and healthier, and it can be yours as well. What does this mean? Don’t stuff yourself. Leave a little space at the end of your meal, which will allow your brain to catch up to your stomach (it takes about 20 minutes for the stretch receptors in your stomach to signal your brain that you are full). Practice moderation in your portions (In Okinawa, portion sizes are about half of what you find in the US). Hara Hachi Bu still leaves you feeling satisfied instead of like a force fed fois gras- which is all too common in America, especially when eating out. As a result, the calorie intake of Okinawans is 10-40% lower than Americans.

Americans would be wise to take note. Okinawans have the longest life expectancy on the planet (Japanese live an impressive six years longer than the average American), as well as the highest concentration of centenarians (those who live to the ripe old age of 100). Most importantly, these are vibrant, healthy, high functioning extra years-the exact kind you would probably like to add.

There is a growing number of animal studies which have found that caloric restriction improves mental acuity, animal fur sheen, calcium loss from bone, and extended life expectancy by up to 50% (that would be the equivalent of a human living to about 150 years) . And research from the National Institute on Aging found that primates fed a calorie restricted diet had higher levels of DHEA (a steroid hormone associated with youth), lower fasting glucose levels, and lower diabetes risk . There’s a fantastic book called The Okinawa Program which outlines this entire topic in detail. If you read it you’ll find that their overall eating pattern has many similarities to a Lean and Green Diet: primarily plant based, limited red meat and dairy, rich in phytochemicals from foods like tea, soy and vegetables, and healthy oils like canola.

While regular calorie restriction may be the best way to stay young, lean and sharp in mind as you age, the immediate savings to your carbon footprint are an added bonus. Hara Hachi Bu fits perfectly with the “Take Less, Want Less” approach that is the hallmark of a Lean and Green Lifestyle. So take home that extra heaping of food from the restaurant rather than forcing it in. Heap a bit less food onto your family plates at dinnertime (this also helps kids learn to self regulate their intake better). Skip the mall snack and remind yourself that you’re about to eat when you get home in 20 minutes. Don’t take that donut at the office meeting “just because it’s there”, and then when you do choose to splurge on your own green treat, slow down and savor it like it deserves to be savored.

Lean in the immediate, greener in the immediate and vibrant in the long term. What’s not to love about that?