I learned a new principle last week. It’s a Japanese philosophy called Hara Hachi Bu. They have been following this principle for generations. They almost use it as a prayer and quietly recite it prior to their meals.

It means you only eat until you are 80% full. It’s also a form of self-restraint and self-discipline for them.

Some people have asked me, “How do you know when you’re 80% full?” Well, I can’t really say with any certainty, but I have a feeling it might be when you still might want more to eat.

What a novel idea. No really. We’ve always heard: Don’t fill your plate. Push yourself away from the table. Leave some food on your plate. But Hara Hachi Bu?

I love how it rolls off the tongue. Besides, it’s fun and sounds so much more romantic than all those other terms.

Anyway, the Japanese consciously control their portion sizes and in doing so, consume 1200 to 1900 calories a day. Okinawa in particular has some of the most healthy people in the world.

They are at very low risk for many cancers. Their arteries are impressively healthy. They certainly have the most octogenarians, those who are between the ages of 80 and 89 inclusively. They have low body fat and a high level of physical activity.

Their low caloric consumption, an abundance of fruits and vegetables in their diet along with a high fiber diet and Omega 3 fats may contribute to their excellent health well into old age.

Studies have also shown that their dementia rate, even well into their nineties, is very low compared to the population in the United States and elsewhere.

These people are active and healthy in their old age working, farming, walking, and such. That sounds like a beautiful life to me. Get old and die of old age rather than suffer from illness and sickness and debilitation and all the many diseases that abound.

I daresay most of us in the United States can hardly relate to this principle as we stuff ourselves to beyond the comfort level, and servings in restaurants are filled to overflowing.

Hara Hachi Bu

The Japanese principle of eating
until they are only 80% full, a self-discipline
and self-restraint of sorts.


The other day I mentioned this with our group of breakfast friends. At the end of the meal, we consciously had all left some food on our plates and actually recited the phrase.

The next day, our friend, Father Ronnie, said he had been to a buffet the night before and reminded himself of this principle and did quite well at the buffet.

Tonight I mentioned it at our family dinner table with two of our grandchildren. It seems this is my new mantra.

Hara Hachi Bu. Hara Hachi Bu. I not only say it because I like the sound of it but also to remind myself to do exactly as it means. Eat only until I am 80 percent full.

This phrase has also evoked conversation around it. People are interested in hearing more about it. We laugh when we say it, not to joke over it, but because we know we would all be better off if we applied this principle. We repeat it to remind each other.

It might be easier said than done. But, all we can do is try.

As our friend, Father Ronnie, said, “I am going to leave you with a new dictum: “You can’t have it all.” And, indeed, it’s really true.

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