The Japanese have a great expression concerning healthy eating habits: Hara hachi bu. Hara hachi bu means “Eat until 80% full” (literally, stomach 80%). This is excellent
advice and it’s pretty easy to follow this principle in Japan as
proportions are generally much smaller than in places like the US.
Using chopsticks also makes it easier to avoid shoveling food in and
encourages a bit of a slower pace. This principle does not encourage
wastefulness; it does not mean to leave 20% of your meal on the plate.
In fact, it is bad form to leave food on your plate. In Japan, and in
Asia in general, we usually order as a group and then take only what we
need from the shared bounty in front of us. I have found — ironically
perhaps — that if I stop eating before getting full I am more satisfied
with the meal, I’m not sleepy after lunch or dinner, and I just
generally feel much better. (Hara hachi bu is mentioned in this Honolulu Advertiser article and is discussed in this popular book called The Okinawa Diet Plan: Get Leaner, Live Longer, and Never Feel Hungry).
Applying the principle to other aspects of life?
Hara hachi bu is one simple principle that can help you have a much healthier life. It’s also a principle that can be applied to the length of speeches, presentations, and even meetings, etc. My advice is this: no matter how much time you are given, never ever go over time, and in fact finish a bit before your allotted time is up. How long you go will depend on your own unique situation at the time but try to shoot for 80-90% of your allotted time. No one will complain if you finish with a few minutes to spare. The problem with most presentation is that they are too long, not too short. Performers, for example, know that the trick is to leave the stage while the audience still loves you and don’t want you to go, not after they have had enough and are "full" of you.
(By the way, the Hara hachi bu principle is not at all applied to presentations, speeches, or meetings in Japan. In this country these events are almost always too long, sometimes painfully so.)
Below are a few slides I’m using to talk about this principle in a future presentation. (Photos from iStockphoto.com.)