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“Hara Hachi Bu”

The cultural practice of mindful eating is one of the many reasons why Okinawa, Japan has a higher percentage of centenarians than anywhere else in the world.  This 2500-year-old Confucian mantra and simple Japanese phrase, “Hara Hachi Bu”, is said like a prayer before each meal—it’s translation means—stop eating at 80 percent full.  I read a great book written by Dan Buettner called “The Blue Zones Solution.”  The book is about eating and living like the world’s healthiest people and Okinawans are included.

Most Americans eat till they are beyond full. We are taught not to leave any food on our plates or grew up with this sentence—”Clean your plate or else you won’t get dessert!”  So many people stuff themselves to the max eating more than they need daily and then wonder why they gain weight or can’t take the weight off?  Is it too much food and the wrong type of food intake that is creating all our health issues?  I believe so.

We eat mindlessly, we eat while watching TV, we eat standing up or driving, we eat on the run because we are stressed, overworked and too busy to sit down to a home cooked meal.  All extremely bad unhealthy habits that create disharmony within ourselves and bodies.  Take control of your eating habits and make a few simple changes, and you will most likely improve your health and control your weight.

First, we need to use smaller plates.  A typical American dinner plate was 10” round but try finding them.  Now, most retailers and restaurants are using 11”-12” plates. These are more the size of a small platter than a dinner plate.  My Italian made dinner plates measure 9” with a two-inch rim, so the food area is 7” round.  There is plenty of room for food, but not large enough to pile on too much food. Just think about how much more food fits onto huge dinner plates?  We are supersizing our meals and not realizing it!

I am half Japanese and was brought up by a mother who always made sure the plate or bowl the food was served in was as beautiful as the food prepared and arranged within it. In Japanese cooking, the ingredients used are of the best quality and freshness and the presentation is impeccable. Small portions of food are put into small dishes, and though there can be a variety of foods prepared and many dishes to your meal, it is not a large amount of food, just a delicious assortment of flavors.

My mother always said that your eyes eat first and so the visual presentation is most important. I now agree 100%, though when younger I just moaned at having to wash all the dishes she used in cooking a meal for all of us.

We need to focus on the beauty of the food we make and its presentation. Yes, this takes preparation and time, but I feel it is so important for well-being and health.  When your meal is set onto your table, take a moment to sit and savor it with your eyes. At this point, murmur, “Hara Hachi Bu,” and be thankful for the food, eat slowly, chew and enjoy dinner with family and friends.

To your Health and Long Life,

Alis

PS – The photo above is a dinner salad I recently made with arugula, green peppers, cucumber, yellow squash, avocado and strawberries served on my 9″ dinner plate.  I also included a vegetable miso soup shown below.  All ingredients came from my weekly food box delivered to my door by Sunny Florida Organics—I just love them!

Vegetable Miso Soup

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