I’m no biohacker, but I have a profound interest in nutrition, food, and how we can optimize our health and well-being. So of course, I always read and watch a lot of videos on new research surrounding diets like the ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, paleo, and anything else that claims to be the key to optimizing our health.

Most recently, I tried intermittent fasting for 7 days. To be fair, I’m no licensed nutritionist and my diet was developed over my own research online. Here are some details on how I pursued it:

When I Ate:

  • There are multiple ways to intermittent fast, and multiple levels of strictness and control, but basically I just skipped breakfast and dessert for a week, ate an early dinner, and focused on eating whole foods. …

Lessons from Japanese longevity on the most balanced way to eat

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Illustrations by Kaki Okumura

But first, let’s talk about fish

When you think of Japanese food, there are many things that come to mind, but more than likely you’d probably think of fish.

Given that Japan is an island nation with a rich history of seafood this is unsurprising: while seafood consumption has decreased in recent years, Japan is still among the top three countries in terms of per capita seafood consumption, trailing just behind South Korea and Norway. At its peak Japanese people were eating over 40kg (88lbs) of seafood per person a year, about 1.5 times more than their meat consumption. …


In Japan, there’s a different perspective on vegetables

An illustration of broccoli
An illustration of broccoli
Illustrations:Kaki Okumura

I watched my friend add an extra three tablespoons of olive oil to her broccoli with a mixture of amazement and skepticism. She then broiled it in the oven until the florets were basically charred through, and the stems soft and wilted. Then she added a dollop of butter and a dash of salt.

The broccoli tasted good, but it didn’t quite taste… like broccoli anymore, I suppose.

Plain vegetables are not bland vegetables

Watching my friend cook broccoli, at first, it occurred to me that my friend was simply picky and didn’t like the taste of broccoli. But when I realized that she cooked all of her vegetables in the same way, I understood that broccoli wasn’t the issue. …


The gingko tree lesson on changing how you see the world

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Illustrations by Kaki Okumura

It was an unusually warm day in Tokyo, and so I decided to walk outside and enjoy the sun. It was a particularly beautiful hour where the sunlight was golden, so I stopped to take a photo when I saw the most peculiar thing.

What is that boy doing?

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Photos by Kaki Okumura

At first he was walking normally, when suddenly he began hopping around an empty sidewalk, doing a weird dance as he went along. I thought it was an odd place to start playing the game “The Floor is Lava”, especially when you are all alone. Well, kids.

It was only when I continued on walking that I realized: oh, he was not playing the lava game. He was avoiding the ginkgo fruit.


Slowly, gently, and with grace is how you’ll get there

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Illustrations by Kaki Okumura

Out of all the weight loss diets I’ve tried in my life, adopting a Japanese way of eating food worked for the purest of reasons, in that it was the slowest way for me to get there.

Let me explain.

It's been several years since I've been overweight, but the emotional memories from that time in my life are often just as vivid today. It is frustrating beyond words in the beginning of any health journey, when you are doing everything by the book, yet it seems like nothing is amounting to anything. I distinctly remember reading about how people should be losing a pound a week, and then I’m thinking about how I’ve only lost 0.2 pounds in 10 days. I would read articles on celebrities who had lost 20 pounds in 2 weeks, and new discussion threads on someone’s before/after using a trending diet program. I’d think to myself, what am I doing wrong? …


Waking up to freshly cooked rice will restore the magic of the day

An illustration of a Japanese breakfast
An illustration of a Japanese breakfast
Illustrations: Kaki Okumura

My breakfast shapes my perspective on the state of the world and the way I see myself that day. If I eat like my world is falling apart, it will feel like it’s falling apart. If I eat like I have it together, I will be able to successfully seize that day. Sometimes, a sense of ownership over your day is as simple as that.

While emotions don’t reflect our reality, they play a big role in the way we perceive it, and our actions reflect that. So if you’d like to try making a Japanese breakfast, don’t be intimidated. …


Things that would've made the experience easier

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Illustrations by Kaki Okumura

Looking back, I wish I hadn't been so hard on myself. I eventually found a balance for myself and slimmed down to a healthy weight, but only found success in maintaining it when I found compassion for myself. If I could've heard it, these are 39 things I wish someone would've shared with me, for it would've made the journey a lot easier.

What I Would've Told My Previous Self About Losing Weight

1. It’s okay to want to lose weight for looks. It doesn’t make you vain, it means you want to take care of yourself.

2. Every day counts, but also a single day doesn't matter.

3. Don’t diet. It’s not worth the stress, and it doesn’t even work. …


My changed perspective on refined carbohydrates

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Illustrations by Kaki Okumura

“Why are there so few overweight Japanese people? They eat so much white rice!”

After several years of living in Japan, when I went back to the United States I was asked this by someone. It was kind of an awkward question, one that I didn’t even know how to approach, because I didn't agree with how the person was equating eating white rice with weight gain. This thought surprised me, because just a few years back, I used to be really afraid of eating refined carbohydrates too.

Japanese people eat lots of rice. It’s no hidden fact: on average, a modern typical Japanese person consumes 82.1 kg of rice per year — for comparison, Americans consume about 10.8 kg. In Japan, rice is often served in school lunches and in government cafeterias. It comes with almost every kind of Japanese meal, most typically as short-grain white rice. Yes, the rice that’s served is not brown, black, red, or wild: just plain white rice. …


For people stressed or intimidated by fitness culture

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Illustrations by Kaki Okumura

In the United States, I’m often bombarded with images and ads of fitness culture. Athleisure is the craze, and it seems that the majority of people are members of gyms like Anytime Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, or LA Fitness. Any decent hotel or typical college campus has free access to a gym, sometimes even offering workout clothes for rental. It’s the land of Alo Yoga and the birthplace to Crossfit. The most successful online influencers write about fitness, and it’s not uncommon to see someone share their workout on social media as they would their food.

But in contrast to that, for a country that is a leader in longevity and has very low rates of obesity — the least among high-income developed nations at 4.3% — you might be surprised to find that there is not much of a workout culture in Japan. Athleisure is not a big thing, and not many people have a membership to a gym. People would rarely use their lunch break for a gym session, and those who do are probably seen as exercise zealots. …


It’s where the most memorable experiences are served

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Illustrations by Kaki Okumura

Whether it’s a date, business client, or just somebody you want to impress, there is a seat to always ask for when making your reservation. If you’re at a Japanese restaurant, hands down, always take them to the counter.

What I’m not referring to is the bar counter you find in American restaurants, where the counter seats are often regarded as a simple waiting area. When I say counter seats, I mean straight-in-front-of-the-chef dining, whether that be sushi, kaiseki, tempura, or yakitori.

Open kitchen, counter dining is no longer exclusive to Japanese food, but the practice began in Japan. This style of eating was first developed in the city of Osaka in the 1800s, then known to be a casual form of eating. But post-WWII there was a rapid social restructuring and growth in the business sector, lending for restaurants to pivot and become a place of socializing and entertainment. …

About

Kaki Okumura

Raised in Tokyo; living in the US. I care about helping others learn to live a better, healthier life. My site: www.kakikata.space 🌱

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