The Blue Zones Way

Blue Zones advocates a plant based lifestyle.  Hara hachi bu is a 2,500-year-old Confucian mantra said before meals in Okinawa. It is a reminder to stop eating when you feel about 80% full. Eating to the point of satiation and not fullness translates to easier maintenance of a healthy weight and reduced risk of obesity, as well as reduced risk of gastrointestinal problems and acid reflux. It is essentially a practice of mindful calorie restriction.

Here are four things Blue Zones recommends that you can do to stop yourself from eating too much if you typically find it difficult to stop yourself.

Pre-plate your food. As you get used to eating to 80% full, you’ll develop a good sense of how much food you need. Before sitting down to your meal, put the amount of food you want to eat on your plate; you stop eating when you’re full or the plate is empty, whichever comes first. Be realistic in both directions: certainly, don’t underserve yourself, but at the same time, don’t pile on more food than you know you need “just in case” you want it later in the meal.

Put extra food away, out of sight, and/or out of reach. If you typically serve food family-style, then do what you can to put food out of reach. If you make food slightly harder to access, it’ll be easier for you to stop yourself once you’re past the 80% full point.

Eat slowly. Be mindful of the food you’re eating, and take time to fully chew and enjoy the flavors of what you’re eating. Eating slowly makes it easier to tune into your body’s signals of satiation. Your stomach can take up to 20 minutes to feel satisfied, so slowing down your meals helps your stomach catch up to your brain.

Use smaller plates. In 1960, the size of the average dinner plate was 9 inches. By 1980, it went up to about 10 inches, and it increased to 11 inches in the early 2000s. Now, in the 2020s, it’s not uncommon to find plates that are 12 inches (a whole foot) across! Empty space on a plate can trick your mind into thinking you’re not eating enough. Fortunately, there’s a counter-trick: just shrink the plate and get rid of the empty space. You might be surprised by the psychological difference this can make!