last updated August 11, 2021

The Benefits of Eating Slowly and Hara Hachi Bu

by Rob Arthur

Eating slowly and stopping when 80% full are two powerful tools you can use to look and feel awesome.

This article will teach you why and how to do them.

If you have any questions after reading, let me know in the comments 🙂

The importance of not only what, but how, you eat

When it comes to getting lean, strong, and healthy, you may already know the importance of what you eat.

What you might not know, however, is that how you eat can be just as important.

Specifically, there are four strategies you might want to consider:

  1. Eat slowly
  2. Chew your food
  3. Pay attention while you eat
  4. Hara hachi bu (stop when 80% full)

You might think these steps sound too simple, but there’s plenty of evidence backing them up.

What are the benefits of eating slowly?

A 2015 systematic review and meta-analysis of 23 studies found that folks who ate quickly were twice as likely as slow eaters to be overweight (1).

One explanation for this could be that eating slowly helps you eat less without feeling more hungry (2).

Now, you might be curious just how to make this happen.

One strategy you might employ is putting your fork down between bites.

That seems insignificant, but you might find those few seconds to really add up.

You might also set a target eating time.

That is, you might see if you can extend your meal to take at least 20 minutes.

Speaking of which, you might feel like you don’t have enough time to do nothing but eat.

A quick word about making time

One factor keeping many of us from eating slower is that we don’t make time for it.

We overextend ourselves to the point at which we haven’t allocated time to eat.

Thus, we eat on the run, grabbing whatever we can and scarfing it down.

Like many things in life, eating slowly won’t happen unless you plan for it.

If you want more time to eat, make it a priority.

That might even mean literally putting it on your schedule.

Furthermore, you might consider planning what you eat in addition to when you eat.

Planning your meals might help you stay consistent with your eating habits in the long run (3).

Once you’re nailing when and what to eat, another strategy to consider is chewing thoroughly.

What are the benefits of chewing your food?

Many of us are used to scarfing down our food as quickly as we can.

We give little thought to actually chewing our food, often even washing it down with a drink.

Yet, when we skip the process of chewing, we’re shortchanging ourselves.

Chewing has been shown to not only help reduce food intake, but also promote the release of hormones that aid in digestion and satiety (4).

To make this easier, you could consider counting your “chews”.

For example, you could commit to chewing each bite a minimum number of times.

Chewing each bite 15 to 20 times is a popular target.

Of course, this will depend on what you’re eating.

For example, raw broccoli will likely require more chewing than, say, mashed potatoes.

You can leverage this in your favor, too.

Thus, focusing on minimally processed foods might help you eat slower out of necessity.

While you’re doing all that chewing, pay attention while you eat.

What are the benefits of eating attentively?

Eating attentively might help you eat less both in the immediate moment and later in the day (5).

This includes paying attention to what you’re eating in the moment and what you’ve eaten previously.

That said, be cautious not to beat yourself up over meals that don’t align with your goals.

Rumination won’t serve you or your efforts to establish healthy eating habits (6).

Rather, focus on appreciating the opportunity to eat and to nourish your body.

Work to establish a sense of intentionality and connection with your food.

Explore each bite, observing how it tastes, how it smells, and its texture.

Turn off the TV, close the laptop, and put away the phone if that helps.

Take a minute to breathe, be aware, and eat with intentionality.

Reflect on all the people and processes involved in your meal.

Consider the life that’s been given to support your own.

Every bite is a gift worthy of the deepest gratitude.

As you eat, pay attention to appetite.

You might find the concept of “hara hachi bu” helpful.

What is hara hachi bu?

The Okinawans have a practice known as, “hara hachi bu,” which means, “eat until you are 80% full.”

Some consider this practice to play a role in their high concentration of centenarians (7).

Of course, there are likely other factors at play in the Okinawans’ longevity.

For example, they generally have low stress and a strong sense of social support (8).

However, you still might want to implement hara hachi bu in your own life.

After all, doing so could help you with some of the steps we’ve already covered.

For example, paying attention to your hunger levels might easily go hand-in-hand with paying attention to what you’re eating.

Similarly, recall from earlier that eating slowly helps facilitate the release of satiety hormones.

As you’re eating, notice how your appetite responds over the course of the meal.

Find that “sweet spot” where you’re not stuffed, but satisfied.

This might not be easy at first, but with some practice, you can start nailing it consistently.

Consider also where else in life you might benefit from learning to identify “enough.”

That is, where else might you learn to appreciate satisfaction, rather than always chasing more?

What to do now

As you can see, there are many options for you to explore to start eating slowly.

If you feel overwhelmed or don’t know where to start, that’s totally cool.

Change is hard, even something as seemingly simple as eating slower.

First, take a look at the strategies above and identify any that you think might be the easiest.

That would be a great place to start.

If none stand out, you might pick one at random.

Of course, you’ll want to pick one that you’re not already doing.

Get started and keep track of what you’re doing.

If you need to, keep a record or journal of your progress to keep yourself accountable.

Remember also that you’re not perfect and you never will be.

There will be days when you revert back to old patterns.

That doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you human.

Pick yourself, dust yourself off, and get right back at it.

Aim for consistency over perfection.

This will take time, patience, and effort.

You’re worth it.

You’ve got this.


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