Portion Size Key to Japanese Health and Longevity

In North America, serving sizes in many popular restaurants and fast food outlets have dramatically increased since the 1970s and combined with a more sedentary lifestyle, have contributed to making obesity-related health conditions the leading cause of premature death according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   But in contrast, people in Japan are able to maintain a healthier lifestyle, even with the presence of American fast-food chains, due in part to a physiological tool that helps people feel satisfied without overeating and achieving a balance in meal sizes.

According to a recent Heated post, in Japan meals are portioned in smaller sizes, designed to be finished in one sitting leaving diners feeling about 80 percent full, neither hungry nor overfull.  The same approach is taken at home where portions are controlled by using small dishes to hold a single serving of rice, soup, vegetables and a protein.  With an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and proteins cooked in a healthy manner, a Japanese diet allows people to enjoy their food without overeating.  

By being more mindful about how much we eat or how we will feel after consuming an entire meal that might have been able to feed two people, it becomes easier to achieve a balance.  In restaurants, try asking for a carry-out container with your order and immediately divide large meals in half, reserving one portion for later.   At home, use a smaller plate or invest in portion-sized dishes to control the amount of grains or protein at each meal.  Slowing down to enjoy meals at the table, rather than in front of the computer or television can also help prevent overeating.   Don’t forget to drink plenty of water with meals and throughout the day; we can sometimes mistake thirst for hunger. 

Many diets popular today either remove entire food groups like carbohydrates or encourage intermittent fasting but for many people, strict limitations are not sustainable and can even cause physical and mental side effects such as fatigue or obsessing over food.  The Japanese principal of Harahachi-bunme takes a more sensible approach to preventing weight gain by using moderation to guide eating habits.   By eating nutritious, whole foods, when you are hungry to the point you are about 80 percent full, the body will feel satisfied and less deprived. 

Rather than tracking every calorie ingested, the Japanese approach also frees up mental space for other life experiences and creates a more healthy relationship with food. 

Learn more about Harahachi-bunme by following this link to a recent post in Medium by wellness author Kaki Okumura.