The number of centenarians in proportion to the rest of the population in Okinawa is one of the highest in the world. It is believed that the Okinawans are the healthiest people and live the longest. One of the main reasons is due to their healthy way of eating. So what exactly do they do to have such long lives?
Hara hachi bu, or hara hachi bun me, is a Confucian philosophy that is also applied by the Japanese people, especially the communities in Okinawa. Hara hachi bun me can be roughly translated into “stomach 80% full” and it refers to the philosophy of eating until you are 80% full.
It is just a rough guide as there is no practical way to know that you have eaten until you are 80% full. But, there is a difference between when you stop eating when you are not hungry anymore and to eat until you are full. The hara hachi bu lies somewhere between those two instances.
If you are not confident enough to recognize the hara hachi bu limit by using your instincts, you may try consuming 1800 to 1900 calories a day which is the typical amount of calories consumed by Okinawans. This amount of calories is actually a few hundred calories lower than the amount of calories prescribed to healthy Americans.
This leads to the average Okinawan having lower Body Mass Index (BMI) scores which are not unhealthy for Asians. This is because in most part of the world, class 1 obesity begins at a BMI of 30. However, in Japan, class 1 obesity starts at 25 instead of 30. This is due to Asians’ tendency to have higher percentages of body fat and face more weight-related problems at lower BMIs than the rest of the world. For instance, at the same BMI as other races, Japanese people have higher risks of being inflicted with type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and early death. Thus, if you are non-Asian, you may increase the number of calories consumed.
What you eat holds more importance than the amount of calories you consume. Consuming 100 calories of apple is definitely not the same as consuming 100 calories of sugar. The Okinawan people are known to consume a high amount ：of vegetables, especially green and yellow ones. They also consume a healthy amount of fish, whole grains, legumes, and tofu. They also do not eat much meat, eggs, sugar, or dairy.
Knowing this, will you adopt the hara hachi bu practice in your lifestyle? People who are healthier tend to be happier. You only have one life, so live healthily!