Holiday Eating–When Less is More

Andrea Fabry

Andrea Fabry › Andrea is a former journalist, a radio host, and the mother of nine children. She is ...


Are your sights set on the New Year for taking control of your eating?

Do you feel powerless when it comes to the holidays and all of the sugary indulgences that come with the season?

You’re not alone. Many of us hope to “make it through” all the holiday eating until we can start fresh in January.

But why wait? One of the best things you can do now is to embrace the Hara Hachi Bu principle.

The habit of Hara Hachi Bu is based on the traditional Okinowan practice of eating only until you are 80% full. Hara Hachi Bu is translated “eat until you are eight parts full (out of ten)”, or “belly 80 percent full.”

Okinowa, Japan consistently boasts the highest percentage of centenarians–those who live to be a hundred or more. In addition, the Okinowan population has one of the lowest rates of BMI (Body Mass Index.)

What happens if we don’t stop eating before our brain tells us we’re full?

Of course the nutrient-rich food, and other lifestyle factors no doubt play a role in these statistics, but equally true is the science behind this age-old practice of restriction.

What happens if we don’t stop eating before our brain tells us we’re full? We continually stretch the stomach, which has all sorts of implications.

Our appetite system involves nerve stretch receptors that signal the brain to stop eating. The hormone ghrelin is involved as it is designed to signal us when the stomach is empty. Ghrelin levels increase before meals and decrease after meals.

Research suggests that it takes roughly 20 minutes for the brain to respond to reduced ghrelin levels, which means it behooves us to heed the Japanese proverb:

“Eight parts of a full stomach sustain the man; the other two sustain the doctor.”

This holiday season chew your food slowly, take small bites, and stop before you are full. Who knows, you may start the New Year healthier than ever!

For more suggestions on eating healthy during the holidays see The Holidays and Your Health.

Have you thought about how holiday eating affects your health?

Photo credit: Andrea Fabry