As we go throughout our lives, our caloric needs change and evolve. Teenagers have the highest caloric requirement, and as we age, our calorie requirements diminish slightly. In adults, caloric needs differ based on height, weight, age and activity level. When I began losing weight, I knew that I didn't want to rely solely on counting calories, because I didn't think I would be able to sustain that method for the long term. So instead of counting calories, I decided to focus on moderating the percentage of fat in my foods, regular exercise and portion control.
In my fat world, I was a lover of big portions. The bigger the cinnamon roll, the better. A small cereal bowl wasn't big enough to hold the proper portion of ice cream for me. No, I'd fill up a small serving bowl, and then fill it again! At restaurants, I chose my entree based on the amount of food, and when at home, I always held back a little more for my family’s serving dish, just for me.
It is hard to control our portions in our super-sized world. America loves BIG. We like big cars, big movies, big promotions, big money. What we don't love are big people. I reached the point where I didn't want to be a big person anymore, and to achieve my objective, I had to get my portion sizes under control. It wasn't easy to go from eating from the container of ice cream to having a small custard cup with a few spoonfuls. I struggled with my desire to eat the whole box of cheese crackers, rather than just a small handful.
I started out by measuring out the proper portions of almost every food I ate, trying to train my eye and my brain on the "right" amount of food. For 10 years I had come to expect that pasta should fill the plate, bread should come in fours, and cracker boxes were all for me. The first time I measured pasta and saw that the proper portion was only as big as my fist I was shocked. No wonder I weighed 300 pounds. I was easily eating 4 to 5 portions at a time, and that was just for pasta! Time after time I experienced amazement and disappointment over how much food I could actually have.
Cutting my portions brought my caloric intake down drastically, probably in the 1500 – 1800 range. Was the adjustment period hard? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Here are some things to help you get started down the right portion path.
- Learn what a proper portion looks like.
- Commit to measuring your food for a period of time. It took me about 2 weeks to "get the hang" of how much of a certain food I should be eating.
- Try using a smaller plate at home. This often will help your eye tell your brain, "full plate = full tummy."
- When at a restaurant, turn down the buffet line and order off the menu.
- Make sure you are getting enough protein and fiber, both which help you feel full.
- Never value size a fast food meal. Ever.
- Drink water before meals, to give your brain and your stomach a chance to meet each other halfway.
The more you practice portion control, the easier it gets. Start today paring down your tendency to eat “big” and eat “right” instead.