Have you noticed that the amount of food considered a normal portion has crept up over the last few years?
Everything comes in ever larger size packs and marketing offers tempt us to buy (and eat) even more with “30% extra free” or “two for the price of one”. We are served far more in restaurants than we need and we are continually encouraged to “supersize” our meals or work our way through “all you can eat”.
A standard bagel from 20 years ago was 3 inches in diameter and 140 calories. The norm has now crept up to 6 inches and a button-popping 350 calories. (And when did you ever eat half a bagel and save the rest for later?) To use up those extra calories you’d have to jog for over 20 minutes. If you consider all the extra calories you now consume in a day through bigger servings, you would never be able to fit in enough activity to use them all up.
The result? You may be eating more than you think you are and struggling to lose weight simply because of the size of your portions.
So what can you do to avoid falling prey to Portion Distortion?
1. Measure your food
Weigh and measure everything for a while to get an idea of how much you’re eating. While calorie counting long term is a bore, it’s good to get a general understanding of just how many calories there are in your normal portions. You’ll be horrified just how many there are in that chunk of cheese you might think of as “just a snack”! Where it’s not feasible to weigh food (for instance when you’re eating out) learn to judge a normal portion size. For example a serving of pasta, rice, cereal and potato should be about the size of a small fist and a normal portion of meat, chicken or fish is about the size of a deck of cards.
2. Buy smaller portions
Buy the smallest portion sizes you can get. Nothing is good value if it ends up in your mouth and on your hips. Only exception? Fruit and vegetables make the most of any offers on these. If you must eat in a fast food restaurant try the children’s meals (just the one!). Buy the smallest skinny latté at the coffee shop etc. Share with a companion wherever you can. Consider ordering two starters rather than a starter and main course in a restaurant and don’t feel you have to finish everything you ordered if you don’t need it. Better in the trash or in the dog than adding to your weight.
3. Read the labels
Read nutritional panels on food packets and look for the correct serving size. This is rarely the whole container (or even half of it) so beware!
4. Out of sight
Practise portion control at home by serving up the food in the kitchen and putting away any leftovers before you sit down. If you decide to have a TV snack, put a small portion on a plate and take it to the room where you watch TV. Taking the whole packet is fatal!
5. Go for Quality not Quantity
Buy the highest-quality in small quantities rather than a mega-pack deal on cheap food. And remember the quality of a meal is not just about what you eat. Present the food well. Set the table and sit down to eat. Take the time to enjoy your food and any company you have.
6. Use your inbuilt hunger meter
Eat slowly enough to notice when you have satisfied your hunger and just stop at that point, no matter how much you have left on your plate or how much is left in the pan or the packet.
From today start to be aware of how much you are eating as well as what you are eating. Notice how food manufacturers and restaurants subtly persuade you to eat more and decide not to let them get in the way of your weight loss efforts. Think about how much less you could eat and still be satisfied. This may be all you have to do to lose the weight you want!