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The Japanese practice that will change your eating habits
Sometimes less is more.
Centuries from now, when A.I. is growing its own flesh and constantly tweaking its code for more longevity, it will study the strange practices of Homo sapiens. Among the many fascinating and strange relics it will stumble upon will be the all-you-can-eat buffet. The notion that an animal would purposefully gorge itself, and then keep going, and going, will certainly make A.I. shake its head in disbelief.
Today, however, we're living in a time when portion sizes have increased dramatically; 54 percent of Americans eat until their plate is clean, regardless of whether or not they’re hungry. To some, leaving food on your plate is a sign of disrespect, but that’s a mindset that needs to change. Sometimes you’re just not that hungry, and there's no reason to continue.
Eating until you’re “busting at the seams” becomes a habit. You become desensitized to your body’s natural production of leptin, a hormone that inhibits hunger. Meanwhile, the hormone ghrelin goes to town, tricking yourself into thinking you need that extra serving. The result is obesity and all the diseases that follow.
Three words can help: hara hachi bu.
While the constant winner in terms of diets always seems to be Mediterranean, there’s also the way you eat. One practice to consider is hara hachi bu, a teaching attributed to Confucius that instructs you to stop eating when your belly is 80 percent full—roughly 1,800 to 1,900 calories a day. (American buffet fans will be displeased to learn we’re number one in the world in caloric intake, at 2,200 to a whopping 3,300.) This principle is practiced on the island of Okinawa, which has the longest life expectancy in the world. Interestingly, geographic data, whether intentionally or coincidentally, shows they follow this principle to a tee:
For adults, total protein and lipid intakes were about the same, but energy intake was 20% less than the Japanese national average. The rates of death due to cerebral vascular disease, malignancy, and heart disease on Okinawa were only 59%, 69%, and 59%, respectively, of those for the rest of Japan.
While the exact origins of this principle are tough to pin down, Book 7 of Analects of Confucius instructs:
When the Master was eating by the side of a mourner, he never ate to the full.
While in Book 10:
He would not eat in excess, even when presented with refined grain or finely minced meat.
In his book, The Three Pillars of Zen, Philip Kapleau cites a 14th-century text, Zazen Yojinki, which further instructs:
Eight parts of a full stomach sustain the man; the other two sustain the doctor.
Regardless of exact origins, calorie restriction has proven to be an effective method for weight loss, overall health, and longevity. It has recently been shown to reduce age-related risks of diseases of dementia, cancer, and diabetes. Though extreme instances of caloric restriction (50 percent or more of your regular intake) might have its own problems, 20 percent is certainly a goal many would find beneficial.
Easier said than done. By design, our stomachs hold 48 ounces at full capacity. Though overeating doesn’t exactly stretch our stomachs, it does change the amount of food it can hold:
Think of it more as "increasing stomach elasticity" than "permanently stretching your stomach." The scientific term for this is "distensibility"—defined as "the ability of something to become stretched."
It takes several weeks for you to change your stomach’s distensibility; the occasional binge won’t change its structure. But regularly overeating will. If you become accustomed to 2,500 calories per day, you’ll likely feel famished at 2,000, or 80 percent. Yet a few weeks at 2,000 will again change your satiety levels. The bar then becomes 1,600, if that is enough to subsist. It depends on where you start and how you've gotten to where you are.
While we’re all creatures of habit, our emotional connection to food makes caloric restriction particularly challenging. Calorie counting creates its own neurosis, though at the beginning that might prove an effective method. Basic principles to apply include not allowing yourself to get hungry, as you’ll likely increase your chances of overeating; eat slowly, which greatly aids the digestion process; eat plenty of vegetables, especially if you’re accustomed to eating lots of complex carbs and protein; and choose smaller plates—sorry buffet fans.
Whether or not Confucius created the 80 percent rule, his message was moderation in everything. Given our cultural struggle with obesity and diseases of affluence, it’s a lesson we can certainly institute 2,500 years later a half-world away.
Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.
- Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
- As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
- The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
China moves to Russia and India takes over Canada. The Swiss get Bangladesh, the Bangladeshi India. And the U.S.? It stays where it is.
What if the world were rearranged so that the inhabitants of the country with the largest population would move to the country with the largest area? And the second-largest population would migrate to the second-largest country, and so on?
A recent analysis of a 76-million-year-old Centrosaurus apertus fibula confirmed that dinosaurs suffered from cancer, too.
- The fibula was originally discovered in 1989, though at the time scientists believed the damaged bone had been fractured.
- After reanalyzing the bone, and comparing it with fibulas from a human and another dinosaur, a team of scientists confirmed that the dinosaur suffered from the bone cancer osteosarcoma.
- The study shows how modern techniques can help scientists learn about the ancient origins of diseases.
Centrosaurus apertus fibula
Royal Ontario Museum<p>In the recent study, the team used a combination of techniques to analyze the fibula, including taking CT scans, casting the bone and studying thin slices of it under a microscope. The analysis suggested that the dinosaur likely suffered from osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that affects modern humans, typically young adults.</p><p>For further evidence, the team compared the damaged fibula to a healthy fibula from a dinosaur of the same species, and also to a fibula that belonged to a 19-year-old human who suffered from osteosarcoma. Both comparisons supported the osteosarcoma diagnosis.</p>
Evans et al.<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The shin bone shows aggressive cancer at an advanced stage," Evans said in a <a href="https://www.rom.on.ca/en/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/rare-malignant-cancer-diagnosed-in-a-dinosaur" target="_blank">press release</a>. "The cancer would have had crippling effects on the individual and made it very vulnerable to the formidable tyrannosaur predators of the time."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The fact that this plant-eating dinosaur lived in a large, protective herd may have allowed it to survive longer than it normally would have with such a devastating disease."</p><p>The fossilized fibula was originally unearthed in a bonebed alongside the remains of dozens of other <em>Centrosaurus </em><em>apertus</em>, suggesting the dinosaur didn't die from cancer, but from a flood that swept it away with its herd.</p>
Dinosaur fibula; the tumor mass is depicted in yellow.
Royal Ontario Museum/McMaster University<p>The new study highlights how modern techniques can help scientists learn more about the evolutionary origins of modern diseases, like cancer. It also shows that dinosaurs suffered through some of the same terrestrial afflictions humans face today.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Dinosaurs can seem like mythical creatures, but they were living, breathing animals that suffered through horrible injuries and diseases," Evans said, "and this discovery certainly makes them more real and helps bring them to life in that respect."</p>
Join the lauded author of Range in conversation with best-selling author and poker pro Maria Konnikova!
UPDATE: Unfortunately, Malcolm Gladwell was not able to make the live stream due to scheduling issues. Fortunately, David Epstein was able to jump in at a moment's notice. We hope you enjoy this great yet unexpected episode of Big Think Live. Our thanks to David and Maria for helping us deliver a show, it is much appreciated.