The world’s “Blue Zones” have enthralled scientists ever since National Geographic first introduced the term in 2005. For the record, they’re defined as small, outlier regions across the global population where a greater number of inhabitants live much longer-than-usual lifespans. And while a lot of the attention heaped on Blue Zones has focused on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, in Italy—where its centenarian inhabitants preach the merits of eating oily fish and drinking red wine—a new report has shed light on at least one great healthy eating habit out of another Blue Zone, in Okinawa, Japan.
According to a recent article by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow, longevity researcher, and author of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, Okinawans specialize in a hugely effective weight loss trick that’s so simple and easy that anyone can try it: When you feel as though your belly is 80 percent full, stop eating.
The brilliance of this weight loss tip is that you’re not actually leaving your belly 20 percent empty and walking away from the table hungry. Instead, you’re putting the fork down at exactly the right time. As Buettner notes, research from Harvard University shows that “it takes roughly 15 minutes for your brain to register” that it’s actually full. “In other words, if you stop eating when you think you’re 80 percent full, you’re likely actually 100 percent full (you just don’t know it yet),” he writes.
Okinawans refer to this practice as “hara hachi bu,” a phrase they’ll say aloud before a meal as a reminder to stop eating at the moment when they’re feeling 80 percent full. It roughly translates to “everything in moderation.”
The practice could be especially useful to Americans because studies have routinely shown that we, as a population, simply eat too much. After all, according to a recent analysis by HealthDay, the typical daily diet for Americans has risen by 304 calories over the course of the last 25 years. So if you find that you’re simply consuming too many calories and you’d like to better understand your own body, consider giving it a go. Additionally, read on for a few more mindful eating tips that you can use in your quest to lose weight. And for more great advice to help you reach your goals, make sure you’re fully up to speed on these 200 Greatest Ever Weight Loss Tips!
Standing up may burn more calories than sitting down, but you’re better off doing the latter while eating. Available evidence suggests that staying seated while you chew means you’re likely to eat your food more deliberately—and if you’re eating more slowly, your chances of overeating will go down. “Eating slowly contributes to a lower risk of obesity, probably because it could aid appetite control,” write researchers in a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For more handy tips you can use, see these Sneaky Weight Loss Tricks That Totally Work!
If you’re distracted while eating, you’re all but guaranteed to consume more, and a recent study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that people who bring their phones to the dinner table use them for about 11 percent of the meal. Keeping your phone in your pocket while you eat will ensure that you’re more present with your meal.
One fascinating study published in the journal Appetite found that when study subjects ate food off a ceramic plate instead of a paper plate, they were far more likely to perceive that meal as a meal rather than a snack. So treat your meals with respect and put them on a proper plate, as you’re far more likely to overeat if you’re snacking.
Moving your fork to your non-dominant hand is the mother of all life hacks to ensure that you eat more slowly and healthfully. Is it easy or comfortable? No! (But, after all, that’s the point!)
“Whenever you feel like eating, pause to ask, ‘Am I hungry?’ and choose how you’ll respond,” says Michelle May, MD, Founder of Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Programs. “Then, eat mindfully with intention and attention: Eat with the intention of feeling better when you’re finished eating than you did when you started, and eat with your full attention on the food and your body for optimal enjoyment and satisfaction.” And consider stopping when you’re 80 percent full. And for more amazing weight loss tips, don’t miss these 20 Secrets to Permanent Weight Loss.