Hara Hachi Bu

“Eating until 80% Full”

In Japan, the practice of hara hachi bu is common. It is intuitive portion control. It is a way of life. But not only in Japan are there ways of gauging food intake. Across the world there are cultures that share similar traits.

Germany: “Tie the sack before it gets completely full.”
France: “I have no more hunger,” rather than saying, “I am full.”
India: “Drink your food and chew your drink.” A proverb meaning to eat so slowly that your food becomes liquid and to enjoy your drink and taste it thoroughly as if you were chewing food.

Know thyself
The premise behind eating until 80% full is that we build appetite awareness. Once learned, this is vastly more powerful than calorie counting. The reason being is that now you have internal control measures (satisfaction, appetite, mood) vs external control measures (calorie counting).

The body is a great communicator, once you know how to listen.
A critical thing to remember is that focus must be put on your body cues, not so much your mind cues. As an example, your brain may tell you that you need to eat breakfast, but your body may disagree. Maybe it wants a chance to wake up a bit and all you need is to wait 20 minutes after waking up to eat. Your body will thank you, and your mind will too because waiting 20 minutes saved you a headache and indigestion.

Like anything, this practice takes time.
This habit takes a lot of time simply because the amount of mindfulness needed to understand what 80% feels like. But the beauty is that this is part of the journey to learning your body. You get to realize when you are satisfied – not when a meal template tells you you should be.

The power of learning, interpreting and trusting these cues cannot be overstated: Your body will function in a much more efficient and healthy manner.

You are the driver.
If you feel resistant to doing this daily practice, remember that you are the boss of it and are in the driver’s seat. You are in complete control. After all, I am not you, and nobody knows your body better than you.

There will be discomfort, and that’s okay.
I want you to expect a little anxiety and discomfort in the beginning. This is completely okay and everyone feels it. This is a learning stage, and making it through this only makes you stronger. We should not expect perfect “80% full” in the beginning. It’s a process, so the effort and mind you bring to the table – pun intended – are the most important factors.

Being hungry is not life or death.
Hunger should not be viewed as an emergency either. Just sit with the discomfort for a while and listen to your body before reacting.

Some Actionable Advice on Hara Hachi Bu

-Get a feeling for becoming just little bit hungrier between each meal and listening to how your body feels.
-Don’t get technical and serious with what 80% feels like. Experiment and play with this.
-Experiment with different foods. Figure out what foods leave you feeling fuller or hungrier.
-The goal is to learn about your body. Take your time, and don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to use every one of these strategies. Pick one that fits your needs best.
-What you eat is important, but it is the overall experience of eating where I want your attention to be.

Focus on tracking these 4 things:
a) how hungry or full were you before you started eating (on a scale of 1-10)
Stay aware of physical hunger cues, start eating when you feel yourself at a 7 or higher
b) how hungry or full you were after you finished eating (on a scale of 1-10)
Stop eating when you are around a 2 or 3 (~80% full)
c) what you ate (generally — doesn’t need to be precise)
d) any other physical feelings
Notice your thoughts, emotions and physical sensations around eating times.

How You Should Feel Timeline

Just before eating – Are you physically hungry? Pause and check in. Look for signals like a rumbling stomach, lightheadedness, irritability, etc. You want to be around a 7 out of 10 on the hunger scale

Immediately after eating – To be 80% full, shoot for about a 2 or 3 out of 10 on the hunger scale. Pause for 15-20 minutes before you eat more. This will give your brain time to catch up. You want to feel satisfied, not stuffed.

One hour after finishing – You should still feel physically satisfied with no desire to eat another meal.

Two hours after finishing – You may start to feel a little hungry, like you could eat something, but the feeling isn’t overwhelming.

Three to four hours after finishing – Check in. You may be getting a bit hungry, perhaps a 4 to 6 out of 10. If you’re around a 7, eat. Not really hungry yet? That’s OK. Follow your body cues.

Four or more hours after finishing – You’re probably quite hungry, like nothing is getting between you and the kitchen. If you’re around a 7 or higher, eat. Not really hungry yet? That’s OK. Keep checking in with your body. You may find you need to act fast once your body decides to be hungry — so be prepared with a healthy and quick option, just in case.

Try this for 3 days as a journal and look for patterns. See what you can discover. Keep me updated as you go through this process.

The goal of a meal is to finish feeling:
-Better than when  you started
-Satisfied
-Able to move on and not think about food until you are hungry again
-Energy to exercise and stay active
-Mental focus

Note: I learned this technique through my studies with Precision Nutrition. Some of these notes such as the “How You Should Feel Timeline,” comes from them.

Resolution

With the new year on it’s way, a few of us have stepped up with resolutions to get our health and bodies in check once and for all.

The definition of living healthy comes in many forms and the holistic approach is one we at Strive take. We can look lean, strong and healthy but if we aren’t sleeping properly, spending time with our families and work more than we rest, our stress levels are higher, and our bodies can suffer. On the surface we may look great, but the life worth living is one where we look to improve qualities across all areas. Let’s take the life we have, and fill it with as much vibrant width as we can.

Paul – Create one home cooked meal every week. Cooking is meditation. It teaches you a lot by exposing your senses to many experiences. Compared to how most of us eat now, it is slow motion. Each task should require your undivided attention. When it comes time to eat the meal, it becomes easier to savor the meal. You enjoy the textures, aromas and flavors all the more. You eat slower. Here are 52 opportunities to create something of value for our bodies, to connect with someone, to share a story, to slow down, to breath and to appreciate the finer things.

James – Value alone time. Find small times where you can stay in touch with yourself and recollect your thoughts. We can become consumed by so many emotions whether it be our own or from the people we see each day. We can lose focus on what we truly believe. Just be with yourself for 5 minutes before bed or after waking up. Whenever you get the chance. Let your thoughts come and go, do not judge them. Just enjoy the moment.

Brendan – Visiting family not just on the holidays. Taking time out of your schedule to meet with the people that are closest to you, and who will always be there for you. Our parents can ask us question after question until it gets bothersome. Realize that they do this because we may never fill them in on anything we do. Stay connected, even if its just a phone call, text or email. Check in, tell them how much you love them.

Mike – Word of the year. Pick one word and think about it everyday for the rest of the year. It needs to meaningful to you in some way. If you aren’t sleeping much, it may be “sleep.” Try these: Love, dance, laugh, create, smile . The idea is to take a part of living healthy, and live that quality to it’s fullest. Improve one area so much where you witness your entire life change before your eyes.

Role Models, Presence and Blank Pages

“Choose someone whose way of life as well as words, and whose very face as mirroring the character that lies behind it, have won your approval. Be always pointing him out to yourself either as your guardian or as your model. There is a need, in my view, for someone as a standard against which our characters can measure themselves. Without a ruler to do it against you won’t make crooked straight. ” – Seneca

It’s easy to get caught up in what we should have done or the actions we should have avoided.

The missed work out(s).

The holiday junk food.

The late nights.

The lack of balance between work and play.

A simple strategy is to view each moment as a canvas that you have the ability to create whatever you like on it. Understand what you are trying to accomplish and that anything worth while and meaningful takes time. Have someone in which you can measure yourself against. Don’t lose yourself to vague or promising visions of the future. Focus on the task now. Do the work. Give, give and give. Relax and enjoy the process.  If we spend too much time dreaming, that is less time for doing. Less time doing yields us fewer opportunities to create lasting memories.

Paint the pictures you want to see.

Write the books you want to read.

If they’re good enough, and they will be – maybe share a thing or two along your journey.

New Gen Athletes

This post comes from a newsletter I wrote for the training facility I work at here in the flat, cold prairies of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Great things are happening here as we move forward as a team, and our knowledge increases. We have been exposed to (and blessed) with seeing many walks of life. Youth to middle age. Basketball players to rowers.

As a matter of fact, I am sitting upstairs drinking a coffee watching a trainer take our rower through a serious of dynamic warm up movements to get him ready for a retest of heart rate recovery and his anaerobic threshold. Side shuffles, bear crawls, inch worms, and back pedals get his body and mind prepared for the task at hand There is a method to our madness. 

In theme of my blog – which I have been neglecting for too long, I wanted to share what I wrote for this Wednesdays newsletter at Strive. It has “experience” written all over it, and I hope it can open up a valuable discussion for not only you as the reader, but for our generation of athletes, coaches and mentors. 

Enjoy, and in (stereo)typical Canadian fashion, I offer you an apology for not producing anything the last few months. 

While sports and game have been around for ages, it wasn’t until the advent of broadcasting mediums that the demand for specific athletes took off. There was once a period of time where the best athlete was the one who could perform multiple tasks fairly well. They had an athletic physique that was fairly common and general across all sports. You would see more similarities between a swimmer and a 100 meter track sprinter than you do now.

When the demand for viewing favorite athletes and sport teams took off, so did the demand for the perfect athlete fit for their task. Things began to get a little more specific. Gymnasts got shorter, offensive linemen got bigger. Then it became a lot more specific – if you find six people at least 7 feet tall, one is most likely in the NBA.  Now specificity is finding it’s way into the early stages of an athletes developmental period – childhood. And with this, it may yield some serious consequences. The specialization here is not genetic however. It is purely environmental and can change with the mindset from the athlete themselves to the parents and coaches.

This is the early specialization into a sport – purposely holding an athlete back from participating in other sports for the sole reason of exposing them to more practice in one environment. Intentions are well, and the influencers in the athletes life only want what is best for them. It makes sense to practice more of one thing and do it well. But the latest scientific research is beginning to show that this mindset is actually ending careers faster due  to overuse injuries and burnout all the while decreasing happiness of the athletes.

Less motor control, coordination, explosive strength, speed, agility and the development of the athletes full potential are all documented results of early specialization.There is also less of an exposure to physical, cognitive, affective and psycho-social environments. The brain of an athlete who has only played one sport perceives the world and their environment a lot differently than one who participated in more activities. And their bodies will perform differently as well.

A diverse body typically means broader physical, mental and personal skills. When it comes time for the athlete to specialize in their adolescent years, they have received  much more stimulus to their senses, experienced more patterns and have an ability to recognize them with more ease. They were saved from fatigue and burnout. They can potentially recover from training faster because of their athletic baseline, and can then train again sooner. More chances to train, means more opportunities to improve and restore athletic qualities.

The athlete can then hit the targeted sport with the intensity and focus unmatched by early specialized athletes. They may have a larger window of trainability and development and with the right coach the quality of those hours under specialized practice will be much better.

Appreciating Food

As a nutritionist I have confession to make.

I can’t look at a plate of food without seeing it in terms of nutrients.

Dinner isn’t a plate of roasted garlic and onion sauteed up with some spinach and tomatoes. Vermicelli noodles piled high with slow roasted chicken bought from a farmers market. Top it off with a slice of fresh lemon.

Nope. Instead it’s:

40 grams of protein. Check

60-80 grams of carbohydrates. Check.

10-20 grams of healthy fats from olive oil and meat. Check. 

Lycopene in the tomatoes, iron in the spinach, and all these other micro nutrients, vitamins and fiber.

In his great book, In Defense of Food, Michael Pollen summarized this perfectly.

We eat food. Not nutrients.

This is where the true enjoyment comes. Turning food into math and back into food sucks the very life out of what it means to gather ingredients, prepare it by hand, cook it with precision and share with your family or friends over a nice bottle of wine.

People wonder why they fall off of diet after a couple weeks or months.

Maybe the best decision they could make is to just live by a rule such as, “Eat mostly whole, nutrient dense food while minimizing intake processed foods”

From there, just create amazing, tasteful meals.

I wonder what would happen? Just to try this habit for a couple of weeks and honestly see what happens to our bodies and the way we feel.

As a man who loves food and everything involved in the process from eating to sharing stories with a friend over it, I have a confession to make.

I am truly happy.

The Cost of Doing Business

While getting ready to make a cup of coffee, I spilled my entire bag of beans onto the ground. This wasn’t some cheap bag either. I found it when I went to the United States with my girlfriend a couple weekends ago.

Normally I would have been furious, shouting some absurdity. But as I grabbed the broom to sweep the mess up I found a phrase running through my mind.

This is just the cost of doing business.

If I want to make cups of coffee that requires slow-dripping, weighing beans and burr grinding them by hand, shit is going to happen.

I will burn my self.

My slow dripper will tip over.

Beans will fall.

All I can do is control myself and take as much care with each action as possible. Any problem that occurs from here on after is a normal problem and at least a lesson to be learned.

This isn’t a lesson on being clumsy. This is about knowing where hard work – and the right kind of work – will take us.

Realizing that negative events will happen in advance can help alleviate anxieties and anger – allowing us to see situations for what they really are without clouded judgment.

If we want to play in the big leagues, it requires skin in the game. As soon as we do that we become vulnerable but we must accept it. If this is where we want to be, accept that we will be mocked and criticized.

Sure, we will fail. However, it is much better to know that anything outside of our comfort zones offer us extraordinary opportunities to learn.

Now if you will excuse me I must get back to sweeping these beans off of my floor.

This is the cost of doing business.

The Worthy Work

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Today I quit my job.

I had it for almost 2 years. It was meant as a job to pay the bills while I went to university. Shortly after, I dropped out of school. The job still stayed and some days it made me miserable. But I wouldn’t let my emotions be swayed.

Pretty much from the beginning, I decided I wouldn’t let a label dictate who I was as a human being. My job title made me the “Site Maintenance” guy for a petroleum company.

But that wasn’t who I was.

I had to find a way to turn shit into sugar – and you do too. We all have 24 hours in a day. It is how we utilize this time that is crucial. I realized that a huge portion of my day was comprised of driving between various locations around Winnipeg. This served as a huge learning and thinking field for me. I bought an auxiliary cable, subscribed to Audible, got the app on my phone and started to listen to audio books every time I stepped foot into my work truck.

On the surface, I was a steel-toe booted, dirty jean wearing maintenance man. But underneath I was striving for something bigger than myself. It is the only reason I got up every morning. If I built the necessary skills in a field I enjoyed while not letting anything hold me back, I knew I would succeed.

Along my journey I began to notice that whenever I grew exhausted and wanted to be left alone, those were the times I wasn’t working towards my future version of myself. My thoughts would be all over the place and in my mind I wondered why I wasn’t moving in the direction I wanted to. Only when I became present, relaxed, turned the book back on, interned (at my new job) and continued to teach people did I really feel alive. I had to find and do the worthy work.

I’m not writing this to brag that I got out of my comfort zone and got into the field I am truly passionate about. I’m here to serve as your catalyst if you are having trouble to become your own.

Understand: If you care, things suddenly become hard. The wonderful thing about this – it is also extremely rewarding. 

I didn’t have to read every single day.

I didn’t have to start a blog (which I am still learning the ropes) and practice writing every day.

I didn’t have to reach out to people in the fitness industry and ask for advice.

I didn’t have to work two jobs while not getting paid for my interning.

I didn’t have to study for fitness and nutrition certificates even though I had no job to apply them too.

I needed to.

Get ready to sweat and push into your fears.  But get ready to be happier than you ever have been in your life.

Here are two books that changed my life. I hope they change yours as well. These are here to serve as guides on your quest to learn whatever it is that you want to eventually teach and do for a living.

Mastery by Robert Greene

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport