In my nutrition practice, there are three steadfast rules that I work with almost every client on to help them on their health and wellness journey. If you use the 8-8-8 rule daily as it applies to your nutrition and eating habits, it can change the way you think about food and transform your health.

Rule #1: Eat until you are 80% full.

The Japanese term Hara Hachi Bu translates to, “Eat until you are eight parts (out of ten) full”, or eat until you are 80% full. This idea can help people who both overeat and under eat. It really comes down to proper portion control, which can be a big issue for many. Let me explain.

We want to eat mindfully. Slow down, enjoy the flavour, taste and joy from our food, rather than scarfing it down as quickly as possible. When we eat quickly, we tend to overeat. Our brain can’t register quickly enough that it is full. When we eat until we are 100% or 110% full, it is taxing on our bodies, and specifically our digestive health.

On the flip side, we don’t want to eat until we are only 50% or 60% full either. This won’t leave us feeling satisfied, and we will be hungry again quickly. This will lead to grazing or snacking, which is not ideal either for energy, digestion or blood sugar health.

How do we do it? My best suggestion is to eat until 50% of the food on your plate is complete. Then pause. Wait for 3 – 5 minutes and listen to your body. What are your hunger and fullness cues telling you? Are you at the 80% sweet spot? If so, stop eating, and pack the rest up for later or tomorrow. On the other hand, if you are still hungry, continue eating slowly and mindfully until you reach Hara Hachi Bu.

Rule #2: Aspire to eat EIGHT servings of fruit and veggies (combined) every single day.

There are tremendous health benefits to eating eight servings (or more!) of fruit and vegetables every day. Benefits include reduced inflammation, chronic pain and chronic disease; better balance of hormones and blood sugar levels; longevity and disease prevention; better sleep, sustained energy and mental clarity; digestive health, heart health and cancer prevention, and much more. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytonutrients, plant proteins and so much goodness allowing for you to live a physically and mentally healthier life.

Rule #3: Aim for the 80-20 rule with nutrition.

This is one of my favorite rules when it comes to nutrition. The concept is all about balance. Aim for 80% of your food to be healthy, nutrient-dense food. This allows for 20% wiggle-room for the ‘not-so-healthy’ stuff. Why I love this is because it reiterates the idea that we don’t need to be perfect with our nutrition. We want to instill joy in the process of food and nutrition, from grocery shopping to preparing and eating our meals. The idea of never eating a piece of cake again is not sustainable. The idea of having a ‘cheat day’ puts a negative connotation on food and sets you up for food guilt and a negative relationship with food. The 80-20 idea sets you up for success seven days a week, 365 days a year. Food is not your enemy.

Once the 80-20 rule is easy-peasy, aim for 85-15 or 90-10. But that’s where we stop. Again, we don’t want to aim for perfection with regards to our healthy food choices. We want to aim for long-term, sustainable healthy choices that will last today, tomorrow and forever. The nutrition goals we set and achieve should be centred around health, longevity, and true nourishment of your body. Goals we set around lifestyle should be built on a foundation of strength, long-term health, and confidence.

The important thing to remember when we talk about nutrition is to build in daily habits and rituals that are sustainable long-term. I see all too often nutrition professionals and especially fitness coaches, put unrealistic lifestyle suggestions in front of their audiences. It is not realistic or even wanted by everyone to be in the gym six days per week, have a six pack, weigh and measure every bite of food or (the worst) take before and after photos to show how terrible you were before you got to where you are with their help. That mentality is really not healthy and often ego-centred for the coach not your well-being. Find me one centenarian who thinks any of those things are the key to health and I will eat my words. Lead with health, and the rest will follow.