Kaki Okumura is a Japanese wellness writer who grew up in the US and Japan.
In Japan she learned that food is not just fuel and that it can be used to express love.
Two of the Japanese eating principles she follows are moderation and variety.
The irony of eating well is that often the more effort we put in, the less good we feel. Strategies like counting calories, tracking macros, and intermittent fasting all demand a significant degree of commitment, can quickly become overwhelming, and may start to feel obsessive.
Growing up in the US, I used to be quite overweight. In my desperation, I turned to strict strategies like counting calories to get down to a weight that felt acceptable. Even once I achieved this, my thoughts were plagued with concerns like, “Am I eating too much,” “this is too much fat,” and “I can’t go to the party because they’ll be serving cake.”
I was technically healthy according to the number on the scale, but I hated the idea of having to navigate my health in this way for the rest of my life.
It was only after I moved to Japan and learned about a different perspective towards healthy eating, that I came to understand that it doesn’t need to feel obsessive. We can be healthy and enjoy snacks, desserts, and our favorite foods without worrying too much. I learned that food is not just fuel, but it’s how we express love, understand our culture, and express our values.
So what is the Japanese way of eating? What I have learned from life in Japan is that eating healthfully is not so much about making a 180-degree change in our diet, but it’s about being mindful of the little actions we take every day, and understanding that compounded, our healthy habits can have a big impact.
These two Japanese healthy eating principles helped me go from obsession to freedom:
1. Eat in moderation
Harahachi-bunme directly translates to “80% your stomach” but what it really means is to eat in moderation. The idea is that for most of our meals, we should enjoy it until we’re 80% full, a point where we are satiated, but not overly stuffed.
This way, we can enjoy the dishes and foods we love, without much change. It doesn’t really require that you change anything about what you eat, just to be mindful of how much you’re eating. Stop at 80% full, and you’ll never have to go on another diet.
The caveat is that it’s hard to understand fullness if we aren’t eating any fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, but these foods also don’t need to be our whole diet. If we eat in moderation and regularly eat nutrient-dense foods, we can enjoy desserts, snacks, and anything else and still maintain a healthy diet.
2. Focus on variety
While many diets are about cutting out food or hyper-focusing on increasing our intake of “superfoods,” a traditional Japanese diet often emphasizes variety.
For example, a popular way to serve Japanese meals is through ichiju-sansai, which translates to “one soup, three sides.” The one soup is usually miso soup, and the three sides are usually a single-serving portion of a protein, and two vegetable dishes.
You don’t need to adopt the saying literally to benefit from it. One of my favorite ways to apply ichiju-sansai is by simply balancing a meal I’d usually have – for example, if I’m having Thai fried rice as takeout, I may steam some broccoli or edamame in the microwave for an extra serving of vegetables and toss it in.
The irony is that worrying less about my diet has been critical in bettering it. Stress and obsession is no way to lead a healthy diet, and it’s also not necessary. When we are able to practice moderation and variety consistently, we can meet our health goals without worrying about what we eat. Instead, we can focus on the aspects of life that make it joyful, fulfilling, and meaningful.
Read the original article on Insider