Haramaki, Heattech or MUJI: items to keep your body warm and comfy

Our body is a small scale energy generator. What are our own energy efficiency and waste heat recovery measures to stay warm? Look at Heattech by Uniqlo and haramaki.

Zen perspectives in Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Las Vegas Project

How much is sufficient? “80% Full Product” by MUJI

Pursuing “just right” (not too much, not too little), MUJI uses the slogan “fitness80” to ask what the “just right” level/amount is for humans.

What is Zero?


Zero is a device available to all of us in order to thrive and live a fulfilling life in an increasingly over-populated, resource-constrained and drastically changing world.
Zero is next generation sustainability and resilience.

Zero is an answer for mindful satisfaction.

How does it work, and why now?
There is a critical disconnect between what’s going on at a planetary (macro-economic), micro-economic and personal level.  Earth is now holding 7 billion people.  At a planetary level, the environment is stressed and resources are becoming scarcer.  Many experts believe that the current system is not sustainable. However at a micro-economic, we keep trying to expand our economic activities.  Businesses compete fiercely to provide more for less, fueled by ever-intensifying consumer demand.  We seek to access more products and services for less to feel satisfied and happy.  This disconnect may keep growing until we end up depleting all the resources, unless we proactively embrace another perspective on how we pursue satisfaction and happiness.

If you felt “what about technology? Technology will eventually solve all the problems,” stay tuned. Zero and technology will be discussed in the near future.  Please sign up for updates from the sidebar.



  • The Earth’s resources are finite.
  • Population keeps growing at an exponential rate.
  • Production capacity also keeps growing, but no one knows for sure to what extent it can keep growing.
  • Many commodities, notably food-related products and metals/minerals have been showing significant price increases over the last two decades.
    • Cheap resources underpinned economic growth for much of the 20th century. The 21st will be different.(Mckinsey Quarterly, 2011)
  • Climate change and environmental degradation is already directly damaging our existing assets (e.g. through extreme weather), or indirectly affecting our productivity (e.g. drought or deforestation)


  • Global competition intensifies and business environment keeps changing at a fast pace.
  • Customer demands for “more for less” intensify even though input prices keep increasing.
  • Middle class is disappearing.


  • Care about the environment, but don’t want to give up the happiness and comfort delivered by plethora of affordable products and services.
  • Life security depends on job security and income, which depends on economic growth.

What’s happening at a micro-economic and personal level simply don’t go hand-in-hand with the reality that the Earth faces. You cannot keep increasing your output in a closed system with decreasing input, and our planet is a closed system.
So we have been talking about sustainability for quite some time now.  It is critical to figure out how we can maintain our output in a closed system.  However, sustainability is no longer just about resource sustainability or environmental sustainability.
In the 21st century, the sustainability of our own satisfaction and happiness is at stake because it depends on the sustainability of our economy, which depends on resource/environmental sustainability.  And we are already starting to see the impact.

This is where Zero comes into play.


Next generation sustainability is not 4.0 or 5.0, it’s 0.0.
By zeroing on our own potential, rather than focusing on the amount of products/services we can get, or on how much efficiency external systems can deliver to us, we can feel mindful satisfaction and live a fulfilling like without relying on “more.”  You can think of this as sustainability Zen.

If you would like to know more about Zero, please start from Zero Intro.  There are also various contents on how to find/leverage Zero in our daily lives and in business.

“Deceptively simple line”: Charlie Brown, a cartoon of Zen

A cartoonist is someone who draws the same thing day after day without repeating himself. Charles M. Schulz

Chapter 2-7: Sugar, as the new black

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Sugar is a very interesting food indeed. It has a lot of implications, when thinking about the satisfaction we feel by eating food.

Ever since their existence on Earth, humans have lived without sugar, for about 100,000 years, until New Guineans successfully domesticated sugarcane, around 6,000 BC.  The cultivation of sugarcane slowly expanded after that, but it was still limited to South Asia and very small areas in the Mesopotamia and Mediterranean area, until around the 15th century.  According to “Sugar & the Slave Trade,” Europeans had access to probably less than a pinch per head for the whole history, before the 16th century.

England first saw sugar in 1319, Denmark in 1374, and Sweden in 1390. Obviously, the prices were outrageously high.  The sweetners humans had before sugar were honey, dates and fruits.  So basically our body was designed based on a world without sugar.  It did not expect large amounts of sugar to be ingested. 

Then, something happened in the 15th century that changed our diet completely, and irreversibly: Europeans discovered the Caribbean islands and South America.  Since the climate was suitable for growing sugarcane, they rapidly expanded sugarcane plantations, which increased the amount of refined sugar on Earth drastically and exponentially. 

According to the article “Sugar Love” by the National Geographic, the average sugar consumption by an Englishman increased by 25 times, from the 18th century to the 20th century.

YearSugar consumption (lbs)% relative to 1700

Average amount of sugar consumed by an Englishman (source: “Sugar Love (A not so sweet story)”  National Geographic

An ingredient unavailable to most of us for tens of thousands of years suddenly became something indispensable in our diet, in a matter of a couple of centuries. This was a drastic change to our body.

Why do we like sugar so much? Obviously, it’s a carbohydrate, the source of energy. It helps keep our body running. That’s why it tastes so delicious. But why can’t we stop eating it even after we’ve ingested enough calories? Why does it taste so addictively good?


One of the reasons is the characteristics of refined sugar, which is a pure (or almost pure) form of sucrose.  Sucrose is a disaccharide, which consists of glucose and fructose, and fructose is the sweetest of all naturally occurring carbohydrates. Because sucrose is in such a pure form, it’s broken down into glucose and fructose very easily in our body.  It’s almost painless the way our body processes refined sugar. It is a bit like driving a car on a street without stopping at the red lights.  Our body processes refined sugar, or pure sucrose so fast that nothing can stop it. 

Whereas the pleasure sugar brings to our body is intense and instantaneous, it causes insulin and blood sugar levels to skyrocket.  You are driving so fast that you don’t notice that you actually ignored the red lights, until you went passed them.  While the speed and the excitement is addictive, you cannot retroactively correct your traffic violation. 

By the time you know, the other parts of your body are frantically working to digest all the glucose you ingested: it’s way more than you can deal with.  The end results are obesity, diabetes and/or other complications.

No other naturally occurring foods come with such a high glucose/fructose concentration.  If a fruit includes 10% glucose and 10% fructose, the rest (80%) is fiber (or other elements).  Our body has to digest fiber in order to absorb the glucose, but fiber is not easy to process.  It takes time.  Unlike refined sugar, which can ignore so many red lights along the way of our digestive system,  fruits with fiber would have to stop at each red light.

In Chapter 2, we have been reviewing how the level of arousal of our senses (including taste) changes when the amount of external stimulus decreases.  Zero = abundance hypothesis is that the level of satisfaction is not just the function of the amount of pleasure or pain we feel, but also the function of the level of arousal.  We feel the deepest satisfaction when the amount of pleasure/pain is just right so that we can keenly concentrate mentally and/or physically. (If needed, please review Chapter 1: Zero = abundance hypothesis.)

Figure ZA hypothesis

Conceptual relationship of satisfaction and level of arousal

It turns out that sugar not only affects our taste system, but also affects our digestive system.  For taste system, sugar requires little arousal, since it’s flavor is so intense.  What about our digestive system?  As described earlier, it requires almost no efforts to break down sucrose:  no arousal is needed to perform this task.  But on the other end, sugar puts excessive burden and stress when it’s time to take glucose into our body cells.

bell-curve-sugarConceptual drawing of the effect of sugar on our digestive system

Because of it’s inconceivably pure form, sugar induces extreme reactions in our body.  It gives intensive and instantaneous pleasure to our sensory system.  At the same time, it makes some part of our digestive system almost asleep, and stresses out other parts tremendously.

Maybe sugar is good at confusing our body.  Since it’s so powerful, it easily makes us forget where the amount of pleasure (or simply the amount of sugar intake) aligns with our optimal level of arousal for both our sensory and digestive system.  It almost seems like our body will stay confused once it’s been confused.

We all know that subtraction plays a critical role here, but it becomes very difficult once you are too used to ingesting a lot of sugar.  If that’s the case,  is there a time when it’s not so difficult to ingest so much?  Can we train our body so as it can know its optimal level of arousal when ingesting food? 

Plum Organics has an idea.

Next bottom taste buds

Analogue Renaissance! Re-discoveing the beauty digital cannot deliver

Kodak calls this phenomena “Analogue Renaissance.” Apparently, demand for analogue products is increasing in the era of streaming and Youtube.

Chapter 2-8: Taste buds’ performance and Plum Organics

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Plum Organics, a revolutionary baby food company that completely changed the baby food shelf at the grocery store by its first-to-market spouted pouch, is very vocal about the importance of conscious AND delicious food for babies.  Babies are critically (often irreversibly) developing their taste buds.  They offer quality baby foods “to inspire a lifetime of healthy eating from the very first bite” with “culinary-inspired ingredients.” (source: Plum Organics website

They believe that the first 1,000 days (270 days in pregnancy + 2 years in life) are critical for child’s overall development.  Believe or not , babies’ taste development starts in utero.  They are already “tasting” food through what their mother eats.  Once born, they start recognizing what they are eating after about four months.  Then when it’s time for solid food,  they’ve already developed some (or strong) likes/dislikes towards foods.

Interesting thing is, even though parents usually understand that they would need to choose nutritious foods for babies, “deliciousness” hasn’t been drawing much attention. This is counter intuitive if we remember how keen we are when we look for food for ourselves.

There are possibly two reasons for that. First, we somehow decoupled “deliciousness” from nutrition. We tend to assume that delicious (such as sweet or salty) foods are not nutritious, and try to avoid giving them to babies.  Second, we don’t really realize that babies are “tasting” (or appreciating) food.  We feel our job is done once we give enough nutrition to babies.  

Both assumptions are wrong.

First, deliciousness should be tied to nutrition because that’s how humans have been surviving for hundreds of thousand of years.  Since sugar wasn’t part of our diet for 99.99% of our 100,000 year history, we must have been finding deliciousness elsewhere.  Deliciousness has much larger potential than just sweetness or saltiness.  But since extreme foods such as refined sugar have been confusing our body, we feel like as if delicious foods have little nutrition, and nutritious foods are not delicious.  Second, babies are developing their taste buds very very quickly.  Even if they often reject “new” foods (most foods are new to them anyway), it’s normal and is just part of the whole learning process.

The ability to find deliciousness in naturally occurring foods is the ability to find nutrition, if our taste buds are tuned properly.  For example, the pouch in the picture (zucchini banana & amaranth organic baby food) is 99g per pouch, with 70 Calories.  It includes 16 grams of carbohydrate in total for which 10 grams come from sugar. Most of the sugar in Plum Organics products is naturally occurring from the fruit.  If trained properly, our taste buds can feel sweetness naturally occurring in vegetables, fruit and other “healthy” ingredients.   Plum Organics shows us that babies are capable of doing so.

For Plum Organics, consciousness and deliciousness are interconnected. (We are programmed to find deliciousness in healthy, body-conscious food, right?)   And that happens if our taste buds are trained to maintain their optimal level when ingesting healthy food – which is supposed to increase our odds or survival.

Subtraction awakens and activates our internal abilities to achieve peak performance.   When we achieve peak performance, we feel satisfied.


Chapter 2-6: Deliciousness in the modern world

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How does “deliciousness” look in the modern world where many of us have access to enough, and even an excessive amount, of food?

Does the current environment change the way we feel “deliciousness?” Do people from different regions feel “deliciousness” at the same intensity for a certain taste?

Let’s take a look at sugar.

AISSY, a Tokyo-based taste consulting firm advising various food-related businesses, conducted an analysis on how much sugar is contained in cookies and chocolates in the US and  Japan.

AISSY used a globally patented “Taste Analysis Machine.”  It replicates a human’s taste sensing system and translates “deliciousness” into computed results (often as a radar chart) using the five tastes (sweetness, saltiness, sourness, bitterness and umami) as variables.

AISSY’s tasting machine “LEO”LEO

AISSY selected and compared 10 products from the US and Japan, and measured the sugar content using their Taste Analysis Machine.  Just to be  clear, none of the products were from “healthy” or “lean” product lines.  Popular brands people buy for pure enjoyment were chosen.

The results were significant. 

Whereas Japanese products resulted in a sugar level of 3-4, American products resulted in a level of 4-5. Level 3 translates to a sugar content of 3%, 4 translates to 5.1%, and 5 translates to an alarming 9%.

Sugar conent

Sugar content of 10 sweets sold in the US and Japan (Data provided by AISSY)

Although we shouldn’t make a direct correlation, sugar content level agrees with the statistics of the rate of obesity.  Japan’s obesity rate is one of the lowest and the US is the highest among the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development)  countries.