Eating less .....

Japanese style.  I just had two quotes/sayings to share today.  The first is one you may be familiar with:
Hara hachi bu:  (腹八分), or hara hachi bunme (and sometimes misspelled hari hachi bu), is a Confucian teaching that instructs people to eat until they are 80 percent full.  Roughly, in English the Japanese phrase translates to, "Eat until you are eight parts (out of ten) full", or "belly 80 percent full".
Here is an interesting article, hat tip Sanjeev.  It's mostly about the amount and type of fat in the diet, but has a whole lot of information.  Perhaps some day I can revisit this or it might find its way to being referenced in various posts.  In any case, it concludes with: 
In this context, the Japanese way of eating, “eat more kinds of foods, but in smaller amounts,” appears to be the most important instruction for our health. 
I think part of the problem in countries like the US is that we are far more conditioned to "clean our plate" than we are to hara hachi bu.   My parents' generation grew up through the Great Depression.  Mine was raised in a culture of thrift -- getting the most for your $$ -- and finishing what you were given on a plate.  But my generation was more affluent than the one before and we were ripe for the supersizing and all-you-can-eat marketing, etc.  I'd dare say we "invented" food fads -- how else to explain Starbucks?  Energy drinks?  Even fancy bottled waters.  I don't blame any one factor, rather each factors in more or less for some portion of our population.

The second stuck out at me because the current trends in nutrition be it down the vegan trail or the paleo trail or low fat or low carb ... all involve restricting the types of foods we eat.  Harry Mavros has left a smattering of (excellent!) comments here of late, most recently here, that seem to speak to this.  We humans are omnivores and extremely adaptable ones at that who seem to be able to thrive on all manner of diets.  If we strive for diversity in our diets we minimize the potential exposure to "toxins" (hormetic effect even?) and maximize our potential for meeting our nutrient requirements (e.g. avoid deficiencies and thus avoid the need to supplement) ... probably with less food.  


garymar said…
The proverb goes, "eat to eight parts and you won't need a doctor".

Also, there's an Japanese expression that loosely translates as "the piece of restraint." This is last piece of sushi / cookie / slice of pie that gets left untouched on the plate, because no one in the group wants to look greedy and unrestrained by grabbing for it.
Sanjeev Sharma said…
Wonder how Taubes might spin this:

Oh, wait, he already did: special pleadings made it disappear.
Myron Schwarzennecker said…
I think that not only are we able to eat a wide variety, but we are best off by deliberately choosing to eat a wide variety. You never know what valuable molecule is in any food, and as far as phytochemicals go, many are as yet undiscovered. Plus, you never know what particular molecule you as an individual might need, as opposed to the averages which are the focus of studies.

That goes double for spices.
Myron Schwarzennecker said…
There is a certain food show where some guy doesn't cook, he just travels around the world to eat their local food. One episode had him standing in line in a Tokyo subway, waiting 45 minutes to get a seat at a Ramen lunch counter. He and his host had one bowl each, raving about it the whole time. They they left, they didn't pig out. The same as everybody else there.

An episode of David Chang's show had him going to Japan and waiting 45 minutes in line for a popular sushi place. They also raved, and then got a second piece but that's still not pigging out. According to anti-insulin weirdos, they all should have been driven insane with food lust because their fat is locked in their cells from eating white rice.

If I'm not mistaken, typical Japanese rice is on the high end of GI, too.
Sanjeev Sharma said…
Now that I typed that out it occurs to me the Japanese also argue against food reward

As far as I can tell the ideas that DO comport with the Japanese experience

1. social contagion theories

2. will power (conscious control)

3. habit

4. behaviourism (the ideas of Wansink's cohort)

All of the above intermingle with each other - social contagion reinforces habits that were established in childhood, habit can help in situations where will power flags, will power (when it's available) reinforces/strengthens habits so the habits (and the small size utensils/plates (#4 above) can carry the person when will power is low, and so on in a virtuous cycle.

Another thing: smoking (also still high in France I believe)
carbsane said…
It amazes me that anyone even believes Gary Taubes schtick anymore for just the reason of the Japanese. I've said this all before, but in my area we have large Asian populations and thus have several Asian markets. I'm not even sure they sell the box of rice there, and to a one either the wall opposite the registers is lined with 10-20 or more pound bags of rice, or they like the corridor to the registers. It is pretty difficult to even find brown rice. So when Gary claimed on his blog and in interviews that the Japanese ate brown rice, this should have set off EVERYONE's BS meters. Then to claim that they eat virtually no sugar? It's ridiculous, and there's no evidence that eating normal amounts of sugar causes insulin resistance (or that this is what finally pushes the fat interminably into the fat cells).
hmavros said…
Excellent analysis Sanjeev. As you have rightly identified, 'it's not always just about the food'.

With respect to the explanatory potency of the food reward hypothesis, I think it waxes and wanes depending on the food and cultural environment in which it's situated.

In the Japanese context, where the pressures to consume modest portions are still relatively strong, food reward is diminished as a causal factor. This is because the magnitude and rate of calorie intake reinforces the brain-reward that attends hyper-palatable foods (i.e. a massive triple-choc sundae scoffed down in 5 minutes sends the brain into a spin, while a small bite or two consumed in an mannerly way is far less stimulatory).

In America (and Australia, where I live), there are no such cultural pressures that reinforce orderly eating, and many people habitually consume very large portions of hyper-palatable foods with great rapidity (and often, without mindfulness, a la Wansink's 'mindless' eating); in short, many people exhibit eating patterns that would appear to the Japanese as being 'binge' type eating by comparison. As such, the reward value of these foods escalates, and plays a much larger role in influencing future eating behaviours than it may do in the Japanese context.

hmavros said…
Yes, and on the flip-side, selecting from a relatively wide variety of foods also lessens the likelihood that you are accumulating toxicity from unknown compounds contained within regularly consumed foods.

Some people like Paul Jaminet recommend the elimination of certain foods that they believe are toxic, and the regulation of other foods that have toxic potential if consumed in significant quantity. This is all well and good, but it relies on the veracity of our current beliefs about foods, and on the contingency that there are no as-yet-undiscovered toxic compounds in foods that we currently deem to be 'safe'.

Perhaps a safer bet is simply to ensure adequate rotation and variety in the diet, so as to honour the reality of our own epistemic limitations.

Sanjeev Sharma said…
> explanatory potency of the food reward hypothesis

you put it better, with more nuance than I did. I myself am trying to keep hyper palatable food out of my apartment and don't eat at restaurants much anymore.

"argues against food reward" should have been something like

food reward is probably important, and if one insists on having hyper palatable foods one is fighting their body and not "working with the system", but food reward isn't the final word: when the entire society is some form of support group and one has developed the habits it takes to deal with these it may be OK to have some hyper palatable food.

I wonder how much shame is involved in the Japanese experience - I suspect there's less shame and more unconscious, habit-type invisible control. In the North American context shame is not straightforward - most people think it reduces "bad" behaviour but actually it's associated with worse outcomes for these behaviours: criminal recidivism, alcoholism, binge eating.
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