Recently while reading about ikigai, I came across the 80% rule. Before I get to rule, let me explain ikigai. In simple terms, ikigai is the purpose for life. I call it existential fuel, fire in my belly and the reason I am alive. Ikigai is discovered internally and not externally because it is the compass for life, not a map. Living in purpose is really an art and it has many components that include eating and exercise habits.
As we walk towards ikigai, one of the key elements is diet hence the eighty percent rule which states that we should eat until we are only eighty percent full. Yes, eighty percent full! This means that we should be a bit hungry at the end of every meal. Tell that to an African mother or grandmother.
When we were growing up, it was expected that we should eat a lot. In many instances, it meant that our plates were piled high and we ate until we were beyond full. I remember many times when I visited my friends and their parents would be horrified about how ‘little’ I ate. Even my grandmother at times thought I ate too little. Ha! I was always conscious of the need for everyone to have a portion of whatever was prepared as well as the fact that I needed to take care of my size so I ate carefully. I ate so carefully that I was often teased that I eat leaves and twigs.
When a couple gets married, part of their success or suitability for each other was assessed by weight gain and not one two kilograms. When a woman is pregnant and has the baby the most common thing you hear about food is that you have to eat for two so just go and eat as much as you want. As we navigate work we are told that food is the fuel you need so we eat big meals to keep going and snacks in between. How come no one has ever told us about the eighty percent rule?
As one who has never eaten much, but has always eaten until full, this eighty percent rule really grabs my thinking. It is intriguing because there are whole communities in Japan who thrive on it and are living longer yet I struggle with remaining a little hungry after the meal. How do I rewire my mind and tummy so that when I stop I don’t go back to the serving dish or plate? Some say drink water, but drinking water with or just after a meal isn’t advisable because it dilutes the digestive enzymes and slows down digestion. I’d rather not drink fluids for at least half an hour after food so that digestion happens ASAP.
The recommended ways to achieve the eighty percent rule is to eat smaller portions, drink more fluids especially water and skip dessert. These are doable and I have done them before but now I wonder why it is hard to keep on the light food path. The last few weeks, I am dealing with a new taste for carbs and a return of my love for dark chocolate and dessert. What has changed? How have I shifted? Where are we going with this? I really don’t know.
What am I doing about it? For a start, none of the usual things for sure! This time I am choosing peace. I will not criticise myself excessively or bang my head on the table as before. I will not ask myself how could you? I will not stress about it all? I will, however, take an honest look at the situation and dig deep to find the triggers and then deal with them. No more surface dealings. There has to be a way to get to eating only eighty percent of what I need.
Off I go to sift my life and find the tools to shift.