Lose weight, live longer with Hara Hachi Bu

You’ve just polished off a huge serving of nasi lemak and now you’re on to your favourite keropok lekor to round-off breakfast – not because you’re still hungry.

Duh… it’s only because those piping hot sticks of crispy goodness look just too good to resist.

Let’s face it, Malaysians eat more than we need to. We snack after a huge meal, think nothing of downing cans of sodas and eat all hours of the day – even close to midnight.

A balanced diet? Many don’t even know what that means. Could it be balancing a plate of fries on one hand with a basket of chicken wings on the other?

It’s no wonder that Malaysia is ranked sixth in the Asia-Pacific region for the most number of obese people, and tops the list in South-East Asia for both obesity and diabetes.

Even our children aren’t spared.

So, what can we do to put an end to our unhealthy eating habits yet still enjoy all our favourite dishes?

Well, you can look beyond the extreme diets celebrities are influencing you to take on and just follow how the people of Okinawa enjoy their food yet live a long and healthy life.

Okinawa in Japan is known as one of the world’s five “hot spots”. These are essentially places in the world where people tend to live to 90 or even 100 years old.

Not only do they lead long and productive lives, they are also healthy and don’t depend on medication or suffer from any disability.

Besides Okinawa, other hot spots are Sardinia, an island in Italy; Loma Linda in California; the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica; and Ikaria, an island in Greece.

Of these five hot spots, the Okinawans in Japan were found to be the only human population to live by a self-imposed habit of calorie restriction, which they call Hara Hachi Bu.

This is a far cry from how most populations in the world’s developed nations eat.

For almost a thousand years, the Japanese archipelago of Okinawa has maintained a reputation for nurturing extreme longevity.

Okinawans over the age of 65 enjoy the world’s highest life expectancy: Men usually live to about 84, while women, to almost age 90.

What is Hara Hachi Bu? A reminder to stop eating when your stomach is 80% full.

That’s why the average daily intake of an Okinawan is only about 1,900 calories.

Why Hara Hachi Bu works

The secret to eating in moderation in the long run, is emulating the environment and habits of the Okinawan people.

There is a significant calorie gap between when a person says, “I’m full” and when an Okinawan says, “I’m no longer hungry.”

How to put Hara Hachi Bu into practice

Eating habits can be easily changed when practising Hara Hachi Bu. There is no need to involve extreme diets and organic ingredients in the process.

Anyone can enjoy their favourite food by simply controlling their portion intake and learning how to eat until they are 80% full.

Here are some handy tips…

Eat more slowly

It’s rather off-putting seeing someone gobbling down their food like there’s no tomorrow. Instead of mindlessly eating everything on your plate because you’re ravenous or greedy, make the conscious effort to eat slowly.

Eating faster usually means you’re consuming more food than your body actually needs.

Research shows it takes your brain 20 minutes to register that you are full. So slow down to allow your body to respond to cues, which signal you should stop eating because you are full.

Focus on the food

Instead of shovelling food into your mouth as you watch your favourite sitcom, or have your eyes peeled on a novel you can’t put down, put everything aside and focus solely on your food.

Just eat. And do nothing else. You’ll find that you eat more slowly, consume less and savour the food more.

How else will you get to pick out that subtle hint of truffle oil in your pasta? Or the spicy undertones of belacan in the sambal?

Use smaller plates

Choose to eat on smaller plates and use tall, narrow glasses for water or soft drinks. You’re likely to eat significantly less without even realising it.

More importantly, you will leave the table with a sense of fullness and satisfaction, not to mention a smaller waistline and a lighter step.