Control Your Food Portions, Control Your Waistline

Recently I have been reading a book about making decisions and the psychology behind it. Actually this book is more about neuroscience than psychology but more on that later.

One of the studies in the book talks about how we automatically eat more when we don’t control our portion sizes. It was a study done by the University of Pennsylvania in 2006.

The researchers placed candy and pretzels in a variety of public places and studied the effects of how much people consumed depending on the serving spoon or serving size available. As you can probably guess people ate more when the serving spoon was bigger even though they could have eaten more by using the smaller serving spoon multiple times.

Perhaps we are culturally ingrained to eat everything on our plate. Waste not, want not, right? Unfortunately when it comes to food, by eating all the food on our plates we eventually want to lose weight.

In a “super-size” world, controlling our portions isn’t easy, but it can still be done.

First we need to realize that this is something we need to think a little about before we are hungry at the dinner table. Eating food is pretty much an automatic event for all of us. We develop patterns of eating over the years and don’t really think much about what we are doing. Until we want to lose weight…

Whenever someone asks me for help in losing weight (or any type of diet plan), I always tell them to start a food journal or log. This is the single most important tool you have in your arsenal. Don’t even think about starting a diet plan without one.

The second most important tool in your arsenal is all the people who support you. Sometimes it is hard to stick with a plan when it is up to ourselves. Our minds are weak for chocolate cake. Surround yourself with supportive people and you can achieve almost any goal.

If you have the two things above in place, then the next couple of practices should come easily…

First you should never eat directly out of a container that has more than a single portion size you have determined beforehand. The slogan for Pringles potato chips really speaks the truth, “Once you pop, you can’t stop.” Measure out correct size portions into plastic baggies, or whatever container works, and only eat that portion.

Recognize what a serving size really is. As I mentioned in my article “How To Read Nutrition Labels“, serving sizes really can be deceiving. There are a lot of great articles on the internet that show you in pictures what a real serving size looks like. I previously wrote about this in my article What Does 200 Calories Look Like. And here is an example of What 300 Calories Looks Like. A Google search for similar terms should give you some good results.

Finally you should do some food planning. You don’t need to plan every meal, but when you are first starting out you should plan a whole day or week worth of food, calculate the serving sizes, and calories consumed. Once you get enough practice doing this, you should be able to reasonably estimate how much calories you are eating at any meal, and then adjust you serving sizes accordingly…

This is our 30th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…