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Secret #7: Portion Control and Weight Loss

When we control the portion size of our meals we gain a valuable weapon in the fight against obesity.

A study published by the American Medical Association found that Americans consume around 10 percent more calories that they did in the 1970s. Part of the change can be attributed to the higher caloric density of food today; another reason can be attributed to the change in portion size. When presented with these larger sizes, humans have a hard time regulating their intake or figuring out an optimal portion size. Given no change in physical activity, the change in portion size equates to around 200 extra calories per day or 20 pounds per year.

Weight is determined by caloric intake, a tally of all the calories from each individual component of your meals and snacks throughout the day. Reducing the portions of each food is a critical step to weight loss and weight management.

An important buzzword here is “control.” Understanding the significance of this word means accepting that when you sit down to eat, you can make a conscious decision regarding how big your cut of steak will be or how many potatoes you put on your plate.

The Evolution of the Serving Size

There is a huge discrepancy between the actual serving size you are presented with in the commercial food world and how much you should be eating. Whether sitting in an upscale restaurant or at the supermarket buying a bag of carrots, the amount of food you are sold is larger than it used to be.

A perfect example of serving size manipulation is the soft drink. At the dawn of the Great Depression, the 6 oz. Coca Cola was king at 5 cents a bottle. This all began in 1934 when underdog Pepsi-Cola began selling 12 oz. bottles for the same price. The move has had resounding effects to this day. Pepsi sales of their “supersize” bottle soared, and a decades-long industry trend was born. Now, the 48 oz. “bucket” option is a common sight in convenience stores and gas stations.

The same holds true for foods we typically think of as healthy. We’re often faced with the same temptations when given no size options. Even an upscale restaurant can err to the detriment of our health

False Generosity

Many restaurants serve larger and larger portions with the idea that more is always better. Their pitch is that they are being generous with their guests. The opposite is usually true, however; larger portions are often a marketing ploy used to increase customer traffic and food sales. Often foods served at these restaurants are of inferior quality, an economic incentive for businesses to save money while still offering large portions.

Large quantities of these lesser quality foods have distorted of what a typical meal is supposed to resemble. Consider the hard truth: their “generosity” is costing you your health and sense of well-being. In the long run, you’ll be paying more to rid yourself of the added weight.

Knowing When to Say “When”

Those of us who refuse waste (the “waste-nots”) have a hard time putting down the fork and knife when we are given larger portions. Again, here’s where controls can help us. Using the knowledge you’ve been given, understanding intuitive habits and invoking more of the self-control to say when will help you reduce your daily calorie intake and lose weight. And if wasting food is out of the question, there’s always a doggie bag.

Eyes as Big as Plates

It’s not just food portions that have increased, plate, bowl and cup sizes as well. In the early 1990’s, the standard size of a dinner plate increased from 10 inches to 12 inches, and cup and bowl sizes soon followed. These larger eating containers have had a direct influence on how much people eat. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that when people were given larger bowls and spoons they served themselves larger portions of ice cream and tended to eat the entire portion. The psychological effect of seeing food in relation to its vessel is to blame. The secret of changing bad habits is once again knowing how much a portion should be.

Visualize Your Portions

The best way to determine how much you should serve yourself is to compare serving sizes to objects you easily recognize. Here are a few visual cues to help you plan your servings accordingly.

1 oz. of cheddar cheese = 4 dice (or 2 cheese slices)
1 oz. of cheddar cheese = 1 cup of cooked paste or cooked vegetables = baseball
1 cup of cooked rice or beans = baseball
3 oz. cooked lean chicken or beef = a deck of cards
3 oz. of cooked fish = a checkbook
1 small baked potato = a computer mouse
2 tbsp. hummus or 1/4 cup of almonds (about 12 nuts) = golf ball
1 oz. slice if lean turkey = a compact disc

There’s More There Than You Think

It may not look much to you but what’s on your plate is much more than meets the eye. If you are used to eating large meals you may only see a lot of empty space on the plate when you serve yourself smaller portions. You must now train yourself to enjoy what is there. Smell, color, flavor, texture! Once you recognize that food isn’t about “how much”, but about the myriad of more subtle sensory stimuli, you can appreciate smalle amounts more fully. The entire experience will then grow in magnitude.

Practice Patience With Your Portions

Take smaller bites, spend more time to chew each bite, savor nuances of the food’s character and focus on how it makes you feel. Sometime during the meal pause and check how full you really feel. Remember, there is no rush; if you are under pressure to finish your food, you may need to adjust your priorities. Take time to enjoy what you eat.

Portion Control Recommendations

  • Prepare food ahead of time (before hunger sets in) and break portions down into smaller containers.
  • Place smaller, measured potions of food on your plate from the get-go. Starting out with large portions only makes it difficult to resist eating more, especially if you have a habit of cleaning your plate regardless of how full you are.
  • Keep pots and dishes away from the table where it’s easier to get a second helping. You may rethink your “need” for more if you have to go back into the kitchen for a refill. Often waiting 20 mins will make you fel satiated (full), the result of bile secretion and blood sugar level adjustments.

More Secrets for Successful Weight Loss

Secret #1: Knowing your food (Carbohydrates, proteins and fats)

Secret #2: Understanding the emotional triggers that lead us to eat the way we do

Secret #3: Recognizing your eating behaviors and habits

Secret #4: The impact of sleep and weight loss

Secret #5: The effect of energy levels and stress on weight loss

Secret #6: Appreciating how digestion impacts weight loss

Secret #7: Making healthy portion size decisions

Secret #8: How to eat out and still lose weight

Secret #9: Learn how to work out anytime and anywhere