I used to think about hara hachi bu a lot.
I thought about it that time I nearly puked at the Brazillian “all you can eat on skewers” steakhouse.
I thought about it after I blacked out at the beer festival in 2011.
I even thought about it last week at the company party, when I was full already but a lot of cupcakes somehow showed up in my mouth.
Hara hachi bu is a Japanese custom that basically means, “eat until you’re 80% full.”
It means if you can feel the food piling up in your stomach, time to hit the brakes. I don’t know if the story about the brain not reporting fullness to your consciousness is true or not, but I do know that consciously being aware of how much you’re eating is a worthy practice.
For me, the practice means two things:
- When food is placed in front of me, I tell my brain that it’ll be sufficient, and I’ll be full when I finish it
- I eat slow, chew slow, pause between bites, talk to the family, think about how great food is, and so on.
I’m tricking my brain, in other words. It’s helped tremendously when I’ve been in loss mode.
This is the path to weight loss if you’re not much of an exerciser. Instead of sprinting to 100% fullness, you’re instead cutting out 20% of your intake. That’s 600 calories off a 3,000 calorie day, a pace that would lead to consistent, slow loss for just about anyone. Toss in light exercise, get the intake under 2,000/day and now you’re dropping a half pound per week or even more.
Hara hachi bu without the boo hoo! Hoo boy that might be racist.
The dangerous part, and a struggle for me at the moment, is train/gain mode. I’m not signed up for a race (my first marathon) until November, but I want to be in triathlon shape for when one of my support team talks me into it on short notice. Those jerks do bully things like that more often than you’d think.
That means I’m doing more intense workouts and freeing up a lot more calories. I don’t think it’s good to go to bed with 1500 calories in my pocket, so I’m having seconds of dinner, and larger snacks at night. And it’s doing kung fu to my hara hachi bu.
So I’m not the best eating role model at the moment. But, I can vouch for the concept of “This is enough food for me.”