Hara hachi bu: what we can learn from the Japanese when it comes to eating

In this blog we share a short excerpt from Dr Chatterjee’s new book, Feel Great Lose Weight. In this chapter, he looks at how we eat and what we can learn from other cultures when it comes to eating habits.

The Japanese are a bit like the French in that, for various cultural reasons, they suffer far less from obesity than many developed nations. For example, they have a cultural practice called hara hachi bu, which means that you eat until you’re 80 per cent full. Of course, nobody’s measuring when they’re exactly 80 per cent full. The idea is to be mindful of how full you’re getting and eat at a measured pace. You can judge for yourself when you’re 80 per cent full, then get into the habit of leaving what’s left.

We’re simply not used to thinking about our differing levels of fullness in the West. Often we’re only really aware of two states – starving and stuffed. We’ve got stretch receptors on our stomach so, when we start to eat, and the stomach begins to expand, it starts to send the fullness signal out. Feeling uncomfortably bloated is a sign that we’ve gone past full and our body is in distress. It’s a sign that something’s gone wrong, like a pain signal, but we often take it to be a good thing.

Some of us are even guilty of instilling this idea in our kids. We have a habit of telling them, ‘You’ve got to eat everything on your plate,’ or even ‘You can’t have dessert until you’ve finished your main.’ I suspect this comes from our parents and grandparents and is a hangover from a time when food was scarce. It was an appropriate response to that environment, but it’s not any more. In fact, today’s problem is the opposite. We’re surrounded by an abundance of cheap, energydense food. We’re rewarding children for going past full and their prize is often a fatty, sugary dessert. This eat-up mindset is no longer fit for purpose. I’d argue that it’s time we made our children feel good when they choose not to eat to bursting, rather than when they do.

Feel Great Lose Weight

Weight loss isn’t a race. It isn’t one size fits all. Drawing on twenty years of experience as a GP, Dr Rangan Chatterjee has created a conscious, long-lasting approach to weight loss that goes far beyond fad diets and helps to find the best solutions that work for you. RRP: £10 available from amazon.co.uk

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