Manage Portion Control to Lose Weight
Edited by Grimm, Eng
This guide is part of our series of articles on improving and maintaining your health and wellness.
Lose Weight by Paying Attention to How Much You Eat
Portion control is the key to losing weight, but many people aren't aware of this.
For most people, the first thing they think about when considering losing weight is cutting back on unhealthy fats and sugars. They imagine replacing delicious French fries with not so delicious steamed potatoes, or a delicious fried chicken filet with a bland boiled chicken breast. While these steps certainly do help some people lose weight, they don't address the real problem, and are therefore somewhat unrealistic.
We go out to eat, and in most restaurants, boiled chicken and steamed potatoes aren't an option. Likewise, we go to the movies and have popcorn, or stop and have a bag of chips or another snack from time to time. Certainly we can replace them with healthy food, but there is a better option that's easier to live with. It's known as portion control.
Portion control quite literally means controlling the size of your food portions, but it also means being much more aware of food and marketing than most people are. For instance, you've probably noticed that in TV commercials and movies, you always see people with huge plates of food, giant bowls of cereal, and eating directly from a bag of chips. However, these are absolutely not accurate portions. In fact, they're usually enough for several people.
For example, a quick look at the Frito Lay website shows that Doritos are 140 calories per serving. As Doritos makes different sized bags of tortilla chips, they don't list the servings per bag on their website, but for reference purposes, a small bag of chips from a vending machines is about 1.5 ounces (one and a half servings), and a small personal sized bag in most convenience stores is about 2 ounces (two servings). A family sized bag is 17 ounces (17 servings).
The problem here is that most people just look at the back of the bag, see that it's 140 calories, and eat the whole bag (or half, if it's a big bag). While that might be a little less than 300 calories if you're snacking on a personal sized bag, half of a family sized bag is about 1,200 calories. Now consider the fact that you're probably not washing that down with water, and remember that 40 ounces of Coke is about 500 calories, and you've just 'snacked' an entire day's worth of calories in less than 20 minutes.
With Portion Control, You Can Lose Weight and Keep it Off
When you don't learn to control portions, you almost always end up gaining back all of the weight you lost.
People tend to diet in one of two ways. Either they start off on an unrealistic diet, and often fail due to the bland cardboard flavored food they are eating, or they starve themselves trying to lose weight through not eating. Both of these methods are bad, and they usually don't work.
The method that does work for losing weight is portion control. Using this method, as in the case above with Doritos tortilla chips, you would set aside one serving size, and eat no more. In case you're wondering just how many Doritos there are in an ounce, it's about 11 chips. But it's not just chips; you can control portions for almost everything you eat. Here are some examples:
- One Half cup of ice cream is about the size of a light bulb.
- One cup of strawberries is about 12 average sized berries.
- One cup of cereal is about the size of a baseball (baseballs are much smaller than softballs).
- One and a half ounces of cheese is about the size of your thumb (or three playing dice if you have small or huge thumbs).
- Two tablespoons of peanut butter is the size of a golf ball.
- Three ounces of meat is about the size of a deck of cards.
Now, think about those numbers for a minute. If one cup of cereal (a serving size) is the size of a baseball, and the people on TV usually pour out a bowl full, they're eating three to four portions at a time (pay attention to how many people in sitcoms get more than one bowl of cereal but never get fat). You're being taught to instinctively grab far more food than you need, and ignore the labels entirely - instead basing how much you eat on your stomach.
How to Control Your Portions and Lose Weight
Losing weight and controlling your portions is much easier than you might think.
Most of us have huge plates, at least when compared to the portions we just discussed above. Putting 'one cup' of cereal in most bowls will make a person immediately feel like they barely even have one bite of food. The same holds true for meats and vegetables. Put that tiny three-ounce steak you were planning to eat on the same plate your 16-ounce Porterhouse usually goes on, and you'll think that someone played a cruel joke on you.
- 1Add in the always-good advice to eat slowly, while also chewing your food to a paste, and you'll find that you're feeling full by the time you finish eating. Note that chewing your food to a paste literally means chewing it at least 20 times, and in many cases, as much as 40 times or more.Use smaller plates, and suddenly the amount of food you have on the plate seems much larger.
- 2This is something else a lot of people are unaware of. The stomach grows and shrinks, depending on how much you eat, and how often you eat it. Not eating anything will cause your stomach to quickly shrink to a relatively small state, which eating too much will cause it to rapidly expand. The bigger your stomach is, the more food it will want you to eat before 'feeling' full. By eating smaller meals more often, you'll trick your stomach into always 'feeling' full, and shrinking it's size in the process.Eat more often, but eat less each time, and you will find that your stomach shrinks.
- 3A great example of this is juice. You're better off eating a whole orange than you are drinking an eight-ounce glass of orange juice (one serving size). This is because an orange, or any other fruit for that matter, is a 'whole' food. Your body thrives on the entire piece of fruit, not just part of it. It takes three to four oranges to make one eight-ounce glass of juice. If you just drink the juice, you miss all of the fiber and vitamins naturally contained in an orange.Stick to natural foods, and try to eat them 'whole' whenever possible.
- 4You can test your own perception with this. Pour 8 ounces of a juice into a measuring cup, and then pour it into a tall thin glass. Then, pour the same amount into a short fat glass. In most cases, you'll visually decide that the short fat glass does not have as much liquid in it as the tall thin glass - even though you already know they are the same! This is yet another great example of how our minds trick us over portion control and weight loss.Use tall thin glasses to drink from.
Tips and Suggestions for Managing Portion Control
- Losing weight can be challenging, especially if you are trying to quit smoking too. Sometimes it's best to learn portion control before you try to quit smoking. That way you have a greater degree of control over yourself and your portions.
- Always split your entree with a friend when eating in a restaurant. Once you start practicing portion control, you'll find that the average restaurant entree will seem like it can feed ten people.
- Have fun with portion control. After you manage to cut down your portions to normal sized plates, switch back to your old giant plates one night for a laugh.
- If you've already started to quit smoking, just practice portion control, but don't worry about the weight loss aspects just yet. It's hard enough to stop smoking without needing to worry about portion control in the early stages. Waiting a week or three won't change anything, and will make the process much easier for you.
Article Citations and References for Portion Control
The following articles, government sites, and medical journals were used in this guide.
- American Cancer Society
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Drug Abuse (NIH)
- Healthy Canadians
- Kids Health
- National Cancer Institute
- National Health Service (NHS)
- National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- Queen Victoria Quit Org
- Smoke Free
Categories : Weight Loss
Recent edits by: Grimm