I recently visited a friend who has had a great deal of success losing weight – and keeping it off. As I watched her prepare her meal I was stunned. Everything that went on to the plate was as per usual – her and her husband are certainly not the type to sacrifice flavor or deny themselves life’s finest pleasures – but the portions were, in my eyes, minute.
As a society we have grown accustomed to increasingly larger serves. This has been partially driven by eating out (restaurants definitely want to be remembered for their generosity) and by the general attitude of abundance that permeates our culture (supported by “king size” and “super size” options for everything). Bigger is generally seen as better – “the biggest steaks in town” or “all you can eat for just $9.95”.
This is cultural perspective that is not shared globally. In France, for example, small portions of high quality food are favored over large portions of varying quality – the option of a small bit of 90% cacao chocolate rather than a whole bar of milk chocolate, or a single serving of fine wine with every meal instead of an over-sized glass or three.
The French in fact offer a great clue to controlling portion sizes. Step 1 – don’t feel like you are depriving yourself. By focusing on the quality and only giving yourself the best, large portions come in a poor second choice.
What I learned from eating dinner with my fabulously slim friend was that you can’t cut back to real-sized portions in one go. I was desperately hungry after eating with her and soon after found myself topping up on snack food but I also was given a great insight into the size of the portions that we realistically need to eat to satisfy our bodies real physiological needs. You see, the rest of our eating is filling our psychological hunger, whether it be cultural or emotional issues.
So I suggest starting by gaining an understanding of what a true portion is. If you a dieting with someone like Weight Watchers they will provide information like this. Even just reading the labels of your food can help. If you are anything like me, I thought all packages were single serve but it turns out many are actually 2 or 4 serves!
Next aim to reduce your meal sizes, day by day, allowing your appetite to reduce accordingly. You can really help this process along by serving on smaller plates so that your food doesn’t look lost on a sea of china. I also found it helpful to concentrate on my eating and to chew each mouthful for longer. I find that when I eat and watch TV or read or any other “multi-tasking” I might do, I always eat more because my mind isn’t aware of whats gone in. So when you are eating, just eat. Eat slowly, savor each mouthful and chew it for longer. Well-chewed food provides your body with more easily absorbed nutrients and is easier to digest. Plus the time spent chewing gives your mind time to catch up to your body as far as knowing when you have actually eaten enough.
Eventually you will be fully satisfied on your smaller portions and you won’t believe how much you used to squeeze in. Of course, the only hurdles in this great plan are Thanksgiving and Christmas. All I can suggest is to use a ratio system. That is, still eat ten times as much as usual but remember that your “usual” is now much smaller!