Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation

Sep 02nd
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Home Green Living Vegetarianism The Advantages of the 80/20 Lifestyle

The Advantages of the 80/20 Lifestyle

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The author works with patients during a 2008 medical outreach event in McFarland, California. Photo: Michelle ChenSince the beginning of 2012, Master Cheng Yen has been promoting the concept of eating only eighty-percent full and saving twenty percent to help others. During a teaching on January 11, she explained, “A handful of rice is about thirteen hundred grains, which is equivalent to one bowl of cooked rice. If everyone saves fifteen grains of rice, then one hundred people will save enough for one bowl of rice. Our international disaster relief is based on this same concept: many drops of water come together to form a river. Love is very powerful when gathered.” If each of us reduces our food consumption by eating only until we are eighty-percent full, we can use the twenty percent saved to alleviate the suffering of others. This practice would not only benefit those receiving the twenty percent, but reducing our portions would also benefit us with greatly improved health.

In my twelve years of medical practice, the three medical conditions I encounter the most are high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Whether it is the patients I see at my office or the ones I encounter in Tzu Chi’s medical outreach events, I often have to prescribe multiple medications for these conditions. In fact, treating diabetes alone can often take up to five medications.

As an alternative to relying on multiple medications, I believe that eating only until we are eighty-percent full can help solve each of these health issues. When one eats less, one loses weight, and weight loss is directly linked to lowering blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. Thus, whenever I participate in medical outreach, I emphasize the benefits of “The 80/20 Lifestyle” to all my patients.

Although the 80/20 Lifestyle is a wonderful tool for ensuring good health, promoting this concept to patients is not always easy. Therefore, I like to introduce this concept stepby-step over the four medical outreach visits we conduct in each location every year. During the first visit, we emphasize dieting for one’s own health. During the second visit, we introduce the idea of dieting for the environment. In the third visit we begin discussing the 80/20 Lifestyle. The fourth visit explains how these wonderful ideas are connected and combined.

The topic of the first visit, “Diet for Your Own Health,” emphasizes building a healthy body through eating simple, vegetarian food and not overeating. Many Americans are obese today, myself included. But since I started observing a vegetarian diet in May 2011, I have already lost fifteen pounds in just ten months. During this time, I have learned to consume less salt and oil. I began to eat simple food composed of nuts, vegetables, and fruits, so I spend less time on food preparation and cooking. By eating simpler and not overindulging, my body has become healthier and fifteen pounds lighter.

Medications for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are prescribed only after dieting has failed, and are typically the last line of defense. Because it has been reported that an eight-percent decrease of body weight can lower blood sugar as effectively as one or two medications, weight loss is the preferable method of treatment. Besides improving these three conditions, those who choose a vegetarian diet will also have increased fiber intake, which can reduce the likelihood of contracting colon cancer.

Finally, one concern I frequently hear is that vegetarianism might lead to malnutrition or anemia. In my case, after eight months of being a vegetarian, my blood work is completely normal. Thus, from my experience, “Diet for Your Own Health” makes perfect medical sense.

At a recent medical outreach event, a Los Angeles volunteer shared her vegetarian experience with me. She said that she had been struggling with high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol for many years. About two years ago, she became a vegetarian. Because she has decreased her daily caloric intake and lost weight, she feels lighter and happier. She used to visit her doctor once every three months to follow up on her various medical conditions, but her visits were decreased to just twice a year because of her stable medical condition. Then, this past October, her doctor told her, “Your numbers are all normal. You are no fun anymore. I will see you back here in one year.”

The other key component of the 80/20 Lifestyle is the concept that we can use the twenty percent we save in food costs to aid others. There are over seven billion people on earth, one billion of whom are hungry. If we reduce our consumption and never waste food, we can easily overcome the world hunger problem. Eating to just eighty-percent full not only ensures that we can remain healthy, but that those in need can become healthy as well. Eating to only eighty-percent full is a simple way that each of us can bring compassion into action and make a positive difference for ourselves, others, and the world.

A healthy mental attitude is vital to good health, which in turn leads to a happy and fulfilling life.
Jing Si Aphorism by Dharma Master Cheng Yen

Story taken from USA Journal No. 33, Fall 2012