If ever there was a fountain of youth, it would have to be in Okinawa.
It’s not that all Okinawans look 25 years old, but this small island off the coast of Japan is home to the longest-living people in the world.
How are they living longer?
It’s by maintaining a practice that’s been a tremendous inspiration to me and my work.
You’re probably wondering what their secret to living longer is. Well, a big part of it is a very simple practice: they only eat until they’re 80 percent full.
If you’ve read my book The All-Day Energy Diet, you’ll know this is a practice that I’m a big believer in. I also touch on it in my upcoming book The All-Day Fat-Burning Diet. It’s very easy to overlook how powerful this simple practice can be, which it’s one of those key nutrition tips I share every chance I get.
Basically, many Okinawans tend to eat fewer calories on average over the course of their entire day.
By simply eating less food—although not to the point of shutting down their thyroid, mind you, but by slightly restricting their caloric intake—they allow their bodies to spend more time in healing and repair.
They don’t consider this dieting, it’s just a part of their culture. Whereas we in North America tend to eat until we’re “full”, that’s a feeling they’ve been conditioned to avoid.
There are different ways to try doing this. You can simply eat less with each meal, or you can also give intermittent fasting a try. This practice has been proven to help you lose weight. You can give it a shot by doing a 1-day fast.
Why Eating Slightly Less is the Secret to Living Longer
Here’s why eating less is one of the best ways to live longer: we have these things called telomeres inside of our bodies, which are chromosomes on the end of our chromosomes.
Underneath a powerful microscope, they look like the tiny plastic casings on the end of shoelaces, and pretty much serve the same purpose for our chromosomes: they keep the ends intact.
Research on animals has shown that when we eat fewer calories—in animals, it’s about 30 percent fewer calories—the length of these telomeres is longer. The longer the telomere, the longer you live. The shorter the telomere, the shorter you live.
So how do we increase the length of our telomeres? Animal research has proven that it’s by doing what the Okinawans do—you eat until you’re 80 percent full.
It’s really that simple; longer telomeres are the key to living longer.
To do this effectively and consistently, you must be conscious and present with your food when you eat—which is also one of my 5 simple diet rules to follow.
It’s very tough to do this if you’re eating while you’re driving, or even if you’re at the computer or in front of the TV. By splitting your attention in this way, there’s a far slimmer chance of you noticing when you’re beginning to feel full.
Awareness of this nature will also help you to be more conscious about what you’re putting into your body.
So often, we binge on junk foods in order to find some comfort from our stressful lives. By bringing awareness to our meals, we can better gauge both the quality and quantity of what we eat.
To help you institute this principle in your life, I’m issuing you the I Will Be Present With My Food Challenge.
Are you willing to eat in silence without distractions, be it in the form of the television, your cellphone or the computer?
I know it’s going to be very uncomfortable at first, but it will allow you notice how your body’s responding to the food you’re putting into your body.
Furthermore, it will also allow you to enjoy the flavors of your meal in a way you’ve never experienced before.
As funny as it sounds, you’ll be feeding yourself properly for the first time if you’ve never tried this before.
If you’re intimidated, it’s even more reason to give this eating technique a try. I’m sure you want to live a long and healthy life, so do as the Okinawans do. They won’t steer you wrong!
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Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.