DAY # 15
HARA HACHI BU.
Today I will pause often during my meal, breathe and tune into my belly. I will stop eating when I feel 75-80% full and satisfied versus “full/stuffed”.
The Okinawans call this 80% full eating guideline “Hara Hachi Bu” because they know that when you are roughly 80% full, you are actually full since it takes 10-20 minutes for the stretch sensors of the stomach to signal to the brain “hey, we’re good down here!”
The key to cultivating Hara Hachi Bu is to chew your food well and slow down.
If you eat too fast, you are unable to stop when you feel 75-80% full. Remember, that text message from your stomach to the brain that says “Hey up there, I’m full”, takes time. In the beginning of my mindful journey I became acutely aware of my personal unmindful eating habits, especially related to a stressful day and unchecked hunger levels when I failed to plan my meals/snacks well or didn’t have enough food to fuel my day.
A helpful tip: stop midway through your meal and assess your hunger/fullness levels. Are you content or still physically hungry? Some people do not know what it feels like to experience the sensations of hunger or fullness. If this is you, continue to work on being able to recognize and gauge your hunger and satiety levels using the 1-10 hunger/fullness scale.
Implementing this can be challenging when the food is AMAZING. During the beginning of your mindful + intuitive eating journey it can be a bit of a struggle to STOP if the food tastes great or if you’re on vacation and you only get to eat that food (ie: authentic French macarons or other regional foods). Over time you can find your sweet spot with all foods, even the ones that taste so good you don’t want to stop. Remember, it’s a process and the non-judgment is key to using each situation with food as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your habits.
Recently I was on vacation and had my favorite Truffle Fries. They came to the table lukewarm. I prefer my fries hot out of the fryer and in the moment I considered sending them back. In hindsight I should have but I was sooo excited to land in Aspen and head over to Ajax Tavern that I ate them anyway.
Guess what… I overate them because a part of me was disappointed that they were not a bit more fresh. I don’t eat fries much because of my discerning taste buds and I really only want THESE fries. So the expectation factor is high which means there isn’t much room for error.
So I promised myself that in the future, if the fries are sub-par, I’ll request a fresh batch. It will only take an extra 5-10 minutes but I was feeling uncomfortable becauhahse I was really hungry and had they brought the Cauliflower Gratin first, I could have made a better decision on the fries.
Live and learn instead of beating yourself up.
Over time, when you pay attention to how food feels in your stomach, you can identify that FIRST sign of fullness, a little pang in the stomach. That is the signal you are looking for. You can then stop, take a 4-5 minute rest, engage in conversation or just stop and then see how you feel.
Observe any emotions that this may stimulate (like “this is a waste of time”, or “I am angry that I have to stop”, and “this reminds me of childhood”…. are just a few). This is one of the more mindful skills to cultivate because instead of gauging your satiety levels on how much food you’ve eaten, similar to the clean plate club, you gauge it on how you are feeling physically.
The goal: stopping when you feel that you are comfortable instead of stuffed. You can always eat more later, that is the beauty of mindful eating. Nothing is off limits and you can always eat whatever you want. So by stopping before your plate is clean to assess your satiety levels, you start to become more of an instinctive eater. If this exercise stimulates any emotions, just be observant of them and curious about where they may be coming from.
Clients who grew up in big families can typically become fast eaters because if they didn’t eat fast everything would be gobbled up from everyone else, causing feelings of deprivation. I witnessed this first hand when I dined at a tapas restaurant with a friend who grew up in a family of four girls. As the dietitian who picked the restaurant, she insisted that I order all of my favorite foods that were “Jennifer approved.”
Bottom line is this: it was a horribly stressful. I found myself eating at the same pace she was – at wolf-like speed! And not because I am a fast eater, quite the contrary. We were sharing all of my favorite tapas choices and it was so unnerving that I kept eating faster so I wouldn’t “miss out.”
It was a great mindful experience but moving forward, I decided to switch gears and only took yoga classes with her instead. Ultimately the practice is to learn how to sit in those uncomfortable feelings without letting the behavior of others influence your eating behaviors. So I decided that in the future, I would grab an appetizer plate and fill it with the food I wanted, then slow down instead of trying to get my food needs met from the communal plates.