Do You Hari Hachi Bu?

I loved the sound of this phrase—hari hachi bu—even before I knew what it meant.

“Hari hachi bu” comes from the Japanese islands of Okinawa.  It refers to eating a meal until you’re only 80% full, then stop eating.  It’s a method to control weight. 

Okinawa, remember, is one of the longevity hot spots in Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones

But would it really work for many in Western culture?  Probably not.  We don’t have the discipline to stick with it long-term.  Maybe for a day.

One of the currently popular dieting gimmicks is to eat every 3-4 hours while awake.  The rationale is, “you need the energy.”  If you eat 5–6 meals a day, you’re not cutting back on total calories even if you eat only until 80% full.

As long as you’re eating a fair amount of carbohydrates, you can store plenty of energy as glucose in glycogen—in your liver and muscles—to easily live without eating for at least 8–12 hours.  So, there’s no “need” to eat every 3–4 hours.  If there were, we would have gone extinct years ago.  At rest, you’re getting about 60% of your energy supplied by metabolism of fats, not carbohydrates.  Most people can live without all food, but not water, for about two months.

Plenty of people have said, “I’m going to lose weight by just cutting back on food consumption.”  I don’t have scientific data to back it up, but I’d bet that a food diary works better.

A simple weight-loss or management plan that would work better than “just cutting back” would be:

Don’t eat anything man-made

So off limits are bread, rolls, soft drinks, table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, pancakes, pizza, potato chips, Pringles, pies, cookies, cake, casseroles, cannolis, Doritos, Ding-Dongs, Snickers, etc.  I’d complicate it just a bit by avoiding naturally starchy foods like potatoes and corn.

For those who don’t like the negativity of “don’t eat that,” here’s the positive spin:

Eat only natural, minimally processed food

In other words, eat fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, meat, chicken, fish, olive oil, nuts, etc.  These are God-made foods, not man-made.

Steve Parker, M.D.


Filed under Weight Loss

2 responses to “Do You Hari Hachi Bu?

  1. Vivian

    I can attest to this. This approach has kept 75lbs of weight off my body for 4 years, without hunger or willpower. And to top it off – it restored my health.

  2. Fantastic, Vivian! Keep up the good work.

    [I feel a little guilty about eating two Girl Scout cream-filled sugar cookies this morning.]