Healthy diet: I am not a biohacker, but I do have a deep interest in nutrition, diet, and how we can optimize our health and wellness. So of course I always read and watch a lot of videos about new research on diets like the ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, paleo, and anything else that claims to be the key to optimizing our health.
More recently, I tried intermittent fasting for 7 days. To be fair, I am not a licensed nutritionist and my diet was developed by my own online research. Here are some details on how I went after this:
When I Ate:
There are various forms of intermittent fasting and different levels of rigor and control, but I basically skipped breakfast and dessert for a week, dined early, and focused on eating whole foods.
What I Ate:
While I focused primarily on the amount of time I was eating rather than what I was eating, I was still careful to incorporate plenty of vegetables and protein to maximize “satiety” without overeating.
Typical food: Broccoli (boiled), 3 eggs, roasted edamame with pepper, garlic, and cumin, bread, hummus, and an apple, with plenty of water.
First 24 hours: I feel great! A little hungry before bed, but it’s probably because I don’t have dessert in my stomach (I used to treat myself to half a bar of dark chocolate, 250g, or recently, a piece of pineapple cake sent to me by my little sister from Taiwan )
72 hours: I realize that I eat all my meals because I am very hungry. I felt incredibly full after lunch or dinner but was very hungry again after an hour. I feel that I am not eating enough caloric foods. It will add more bread and butter to my meals. Overall, I feel pretty good about what I’m doing and can see myself continuing for the long haul with a few tweaks.
5 days: I am still hungry all the time, even after adding more high-calorie foods to my meals. I have a constant headache, I feel groggy and emotionally I don’t feel so good. I’m going to go from feeling good to feeling really down, and I’m looking forward to the end of the week. I also find myself constantly thinking about food, even while I am eating.
7 days: Let it go.
The verdict? It doesn’t work and I absolutely hate it.
I’m not an expert or scientist and I’m just a hobbyist when it comes to food nutrition, so maybe I didn’t do this diet exactly as prescribed. But if you are experiencing these symptoms, I think this diet is not sustainable in the long term.
- negative emotions
- Thinking about food all the time.
In addition to intermittent fasting, I’ve also tried other popular diet recipes with mixed results, none of which are long-lasting or sustainable.
So what is the correct way to eat?
How do we take control of our diet and optimize our long-term health and wellness? For years, I have followed a single rule that has been a core value in my home and have found that it is the only one that works for me.
It’s not intermittent fasting, it’s not keto, and it’s not paleo. My one rule not only helped me lose weight, but also improved my mood, energy, and overall well-being. It’s something my mother taught me, and all of Japan knows it too. His name is: Harahachi-bunme
What is Harahachi-bunme?
Basically, if you tell any Japanese that this is a type of diet, they will look at you in a very confusing way and correct that it really isn’t. It’s an old Japanese saying that translates directly to “8/10 of your stomach”; that is, you should only eat until you are 80% full.
It follows very simple principles that we should not overeat and should be modest about how much we eat. Without starving or gorging, it follows the principle that extreme lifestyles are neither good for us nor sustainable, and the key is to find balance and a middle ground to meet our needs.
How to practice Harahachi-bunme
Basic guidelines behind the principle
Eat when you are hungry.
For a few days, that means eating two meals. On other days, it means eating four. The days after a hard day of exercise can mean you eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, and snacks in between. For a day of travel and a lot of sitting, it could mean a big meal and lots of snacks throughout the day.
Eat whole, nutrient-rich foods.
Although not strictly stated, harahachi-bunme only works when you eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods. Your body can’t accurately gauge nutrition and hunger when you’re consuming mostly empty calories from highly processed foods.
These empty calories lead to overeating because you can never get to the “80% full” point. Focus on fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains, and your stomach and brain will respond to your needs.
By focusing on these types of foods, you will not only stop hunger pangs, but you will also lose the desire to eat without thinking. Avoiding overindulgence will not be a test of willpower, but will become a natural response.