The Japanese practice something that makes such sense that I can’t believe we don’t start teaching this to our kids. It’s called “hara hachi bu”. It means, eat until you are 80 percent full. You have probably heard about the Okinawan people and how they often live to 100. They are the longest lived, healthiest people on the planet and they practice hara hachi bu. Of course it helps to eat healthy food as well, but simply learning to eat until you are 80 percent full would do wonders for us Americans.

Most of us have no idea what 80 percent full feels like. We do know that if we eat until we are full, in 20 minutes we are likely to feel too full, as it takes about that long for the stomach to communicate with the brain just how full it is. But how do you tell when you are “80 percent full”? Here is what registered dietician, Susan Dopart, has to say on the subject:

It takes sometimes 15-20 meals to reset the muscle memory of the stomach to get used to less food and people need to trust that will happen. Most are used to eating until full, which is past satiation and which keeps weight on.

Susan suggests eating just half of what you normally eat and then checking in to see how you feel. According to Ms. Dopart, once we begin to feel any stomach pressure we are at the “80 percent full” stage. She also tells her clients to eat until they are no longer hungry, instead of eating until they are full.

Many of my clients say their hunger/satiety mechanism is broken. I understand this, as mine was as well. If you override your body’s natural inclination to stop eating when it has had enough, over and over again, I think that natural signal can go into a coma. According to Susan, however, it can wake back up after about 20 meals. I can tell you that after years of maintaining a fifty pound weight loss, mine is working again. However, the challenge now is to listen to it and honor it.