There are certain populations in the world where the 80% rule is incorporated as a regular routine into daily life. The 80% rule means that you stop eating when you feel 80% full. The benefits of caloric restriction on improved health is already well established, so by following the 80% rule you are better able to gauge yourself before overeating, allow enough time for the message of satiety to reach the brain, avoid eating unhealthy food for the simple sake of a short term reward (such as a sugar high), and reap the short and long term benefits of avoiding unnecessary weight gain and chronic disease. 


The 80% rule is a consistent practice amongst many cultures of specific geographical areas who not only outlive the majority of the worlds population, but do so with a robust level of good health and little degenerative or chronic disease. Although there are multiple factors that go into healthy longevity, dietary and caloric restriction is by far a priority. By avoiding overeating by stopping prior to feeling full, the health of an individual can almost independently be thrust into optimal well being. So when it comes to the 80% rule, stop when you’re no longer hungry versus continuing to eat until you’re full.


Why the 80% rule? Although cultural acceptance has simply supporting the health outcomes of this long seeded dietary rule, science can also explain the benefit of such an approach. It’s well known that gaining weight or being overweight is highly correlated to a multitude of chronic ailments and disease such as diabetes, cancer and hypertension amongst others. By avoiding many of the risks associated with overeating and being overweight, one is invariably able to largely reduce these diet and lifestyle associated diseases. 


When it comes to the actual activity of eating, we know that there are multiple physiological implications at play. Firstly, there is an approximate 20 minute delay between actually being full and your brain receiving the message that you are full. Stopping before you feel full gives your brain the time it needs to catch up and make you aware of how filled up you actually are. Secondly, there is a difference between the hormones involved in feeling full and the hormones that become active in terms of short term reward. So in this regard, although feeling full may be one thing, the short term reward of tasting food may essentially override the body’s drive to stop eating when full. By employing the 80% rule, you can not only allow your satiety centre in your brain to catch up to the feeling of fullness, you also help down regulate and avoid the dopaminergic (reward) system that comes with the short term reward of those surgery and salty foods. Lastly, the 80% rule allows less food in the digestive system for a longer period of time. The benefit? Studies have shown a direct inverse relationship between eating less and living longer. 


The 80% rule is one that can independently help you avoid overeating while simultaneously positioning your health into a proactive mode. In addition to the benefits of the 80% rule, other factors such as your social setting while eating, consuming nutrient dense foods, and relaxation around the practice of a healthy diet also all come into account as well, however these and other key cornerstones deserve subsequent time and discussion.


Dr Jeremy Hayman, ND is helps patients at Cornerstone Naturopathic Inc. feel better, live better, and achieve optimal wellness and health. Years of patient care coupled with dedication to personal life balance has helped Dr Jeremy employ the adage that “your approach to health should be simple”.