If we compare the United States with other developed countries in the world, we fall very low in the rankings on average life span and expectation. We have extremely high cases of heart disease, stroke, cancer and other deadly diseases, and the numbers don’t seem to be improving.
This is why many researchers have focused on the daily nutrition and lifestyle practices of healthier cultures around the world. For example, the Blue Zones are five regions of the world with the highest concentration of people living to 100 years or more and have become a focal point in the study of longevity and the secrets to living a healthier life.
One of the regions of the Blue Zone is Okinawa, Japan. If you were to speak to someone in the Okinawa community, they would most likely tell you that their secrets to longevity have to do with a combination of purpose, community, and healthy eating.
More specifically, one of the daily eating practices that swear by the central pillar of their health is following the 80/20 rule.
According to research published in American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, this means Okinawans only eat until they are 80% full at each meal. In fact, you might hear someone say the phrase, Hara hachi bu, before their meal, which is an ancient Confucius saying that essentially means “eat until you are 80% full”.
This way of eating is contrary to the way most Americans eat. With huge portions at restaurants, extra-large options at every fast-food restaurant, and even 30-ounce sugary drinks offered at coffee chains, people in America are constantly bombarded with the feeling of having to be full.
But Okinawans have a very different relationship with their food. According to the official website of The Blue Zones, traditional Japanese cuisine involves a desire to prevent disease and disease, rather than trying to cure them when they arise. In other words, they see food as preventative medicine.
When it comes to their 80/20 rule, Okinawans eat slowly to give their stomach time to tell their brain it’s full. This helps prevent overeating and second The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicinethe 20% gap in hunger can make a significant difference in weight loss or weight gain.
The size of their meals also varies throughout the day. According to Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner, the Okinawan community (and most other areas of the Blue Zone as well) eat their smallest meal for lunch or an early dinner and then stop eating afterwards.
There is much more to learn from Okinawans about health and longevity than the 80/20 rule. Not only do they believe in healthy eating, but they appreciate the importance of things like community, finding and fulfilling one’s purpose, reducing stress as much as possible, and caring for others whenever possible. Hopefully, we can learn from the longest living people in the world and achieve more fulfillment and longevity in our lives.