Don’t use a lot where a little will do.
This is going to be a relatively short post, but none the less, I think it’s important as it deals with something we can do that can have a large impact on our health. That’s important to me as I feel we need to focus on more than just fitness when it comes to maintaining our overall health.
Less is more
Over the last 4 years I have been fortunate enough to travel to Okinawa, Japan twice. My trips to Okinawa are the result of being involved in karate. You may not be aware, but Okinawa is the birth place of karate. The trips to Okinawa were not to compete in tournaments but rather to better understand the culture of the art I so love came from. It was to be immersed in everything Okinawan for the time I was there. How better to understand the art of karate than to be with the people whose culture it is so ingrained.
If you know anything about Okinawa, you may know that Okinawan’s tend to live to a very old age. It is not uncommon for Okinawan’s to live past the age of 100. To the best of my knowledge this can be attributed to their care free view on life, Okinawan’s love to have a good time and are always smiling, and their smiles are genuine. It could also be because I think they refuse to let their age get in their way and are always active. During my last trip I had the privilege of training with two Okinawan’s who are in their seventies. They were doing everything we were doing, from a very active warm up, to kata, which is very physically demanding. They were not there training because we were visiting the dojo, they were training because that is what they do week to week, year to year.
Lastly, Okinawan’s longevity could also be attributed to their diet. Lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, seafood and legumes. But, importantly, the serving size of a meal is much smaller than what we are accustomed to as North Americans. Their dishes such as plates and bowls are smaller than what we are accustomed to. The same with glasses. I think their drinking glass would be categorized as an extra small here in North America.
Hara Hachi Bu
Hara Hachi Bu – eat until you are 80% full. That is the Okinawan saying and practice that some people attribute to their longevity. Eating to 80% and then stopping will still provide that feeling of being full as the stomach’s stretch receptors will still send the signal to the brain that it is full. This can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. From my experiences I found that eating with chopsticks also aids in providing that full feeling as it generally takes longer to eat a meal because you cannot load up the chopsticks like you can a fork. It’s not uncommon for it to take 20 – 30 minutes to consume a meal with chopsticks whereas eating with our hands (burgers, pizza, etc.) or a fork the meal can be over in as little as 5 to 10 minutes.
How different this is from how we live. The land of $25 all you can eat buffets (better get your money’s worth), super sizing meals, eating until you can’t eat anymore and then having to undo the button on your pants, followed by a nap. TV shows such as Man Vs. Food – ‘Tonight’s challenge will be to eat a 7lb hamburger’. Or the steakhouse that will let you eat free if you finish the 62oz steak with all the fixins.
It shouldn’t be surprising that obesity is becoming epidemic. In North America, we eat until 130% full. What does this do to our body? Firstly, the stomach is an organ that will stretch when it needs to due to consuming too much food in a sitting. If overeating happens somewhat frequently, your stomach will stretch and stretch gradually getting bigger and remaining bigger. So now to fill your stomach requires you to consume more food. Generally this results in weight gain as you are now having to eat more to feel full and satisfied. Also, you are putting greater stress on your body by it having to digest and process a larger amount of food. Since the North American diet generally speaking is unhealthy, high in sugars and bad fats, and low in vegetables, fiber and fruits our body is getting even more of a bad thing.
I have said it before, our body is an amazing thing. Just like how the stomach will expand over time, getting larger due to having accommodate larger meals, the stomach can shrink back to a smaller size. You can adopt the principle of eating until 80% full and your body will respond over time. It will be tough at the beginning because you are reducing the amount your normally consume, so take it easy and make it a gradual process. You will get there eventually.
I think we are too fast paced in life, always having to do something or be somewhere. We don’t always take time to enjoy the beautiful things in life. Slowly drinking fine dark roast coffee while reading a book over an hour or two. Looking up at the sky at night, taking in its spectacularness and wondering what might be on one of the planets orbiting one of those stars.
Eat less, take the time to enjoy the food you have prepared. Try that, and I think you may also notice the food will taste different, better.
Yours in health,