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Here's my easiest "hack" to learn portion control.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2018


It's that easy.

Here's why.

A lot of people use environmental cues to figure out when they've eaten enough. They know they're done when the bag or cup is empty. When the plate is clear. When they've run out of food. We're all but divorced from our own bodies in these situations. We plow through food in seconds, long before we're able to sense satiation (it takes about 20 minutes, I hear, and that sounds about right), and we're so used to eating past that signal anyway that we can easily miss that soft voice as we stuff our faces as fast as we can.

So the best hack there is, when learning portion control and re-learning to listen to those satiation cues, is simply to use smaller plates and utensils.

Ever notice how huge plates are getting? It's not your imagination, especially if you're American. Restaurants noticed it long before the rest of us did. They've been offering HUGE portions for years. People who are healthy-sized expect to take half (or more) of it home as leftovers--but a lot of other people eat all of it and then some. Now households can get the same plates, or even bigger ones. A year ago I got new plates for my home and had to really hunt to find dinner plates smaller than 12"! I got 10.5" ones and they still seem huuuuuuuuge.

So I deliberately use smaller plates whenever I can. I'm a plate-clearer and I know it, so it's hard for me to leave a plate half-cleared. At home, it's also not easy to put regular portion sizes on a huge plate; it feels so empty, and the temptation is there to fill that plate with food, which I will then eat because again, I go by environmental cues. Short-circuit that mechanism whenever you can.

Use smaller forks and spoons, too. Ever notice how HUGE your bites get with bigger forks? Watch a really fat person eat sometime. They all but unhinge their jaws to get their overloaded forks into their mouths. They even stick out their tongues under the fork just in case that big load of food turns out to be too much for the utensil and falls off--which happens very easily when you're dealing with that big a load. This whole situation with the tongues and unhinged jaw is one of those things you will literally never see a thin person doing. They're not overloading their forks. If that's you, if you realize you're sticking your tongue out under the fork as a safety measure, use smaller forks. It'll force you to take smaller bites. You'll probably still overload your fork, but at least the sheer smaller size will prevent you from taking in more calories than you expect. And if you're taking smaller bites, that automatically slows your eating down, which allows you to have a better sense of when you're full.

Adopt the habits of healthy people, and your chances of getting to a healthy size and staying there become a lot greater. Eat like a super-morbidly obese person, and your chances of slimming down shrink to almost nothing--and you can take out the "almost" when it comes to your chances of staying there if you ever do manage to get there.

Here's a fun study backing up my assertions. It comes to us from a 2012 paper for a peer-reviewed journal (that means it's real science, as opposed to whatever blathering "fat acceptance" people like to do). The paper's writers studied the eating habits of people at an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. None of us will be surprised by what they found, either.

Here's the link.


In essence, they discovered that, as compared to slim customers, the fat customers:

* Used the really big plates more often;
* Faced the buffet (rather than facing the wall or away from it);
* "Scouted" the buffet before taking up plates to go through the line;
* Chewed less per bite;
* Left less food on their plates when they were finished; and
* Used forks more often than chopsticks.

If you eat at buffets, then watch yourself next time you go. How many of those "fat customer" habits do you find yourself doing? Do you see how these behaviors might be contributing to your difficulties in controlling your eating?

So use smaller plates and utensils. Slow down. Listen to your body talking to you. When you reach that point of satiation, listen to it--and stop. Be okay with leaving food on the plate. If you have trouble hearing that signal, then work with your need for environmental cues by setting your environment up to succeed, rather than to fail. All in all, if you don't need it, DON'T EAT IT.

And if you do overeat, by accident or design, then compensate on the next meal by eating that many fewer calories. You don't have to be exactly consistent every meal; you just have to be generally consistent over time.

(I was recently at a Johnny Carino's, a mid-level chain restaurant serving Italian food. It'd been a while, so I'd forgotten that they serve entrees big enough to keep a small army happy. Sitting adjacent to me and my dear husband was a couple easily four times our size. They were at that size where you knew they were on track to immobilization soon. They each ordered two appetizers and two entrees, and they were going to finish ALL of it and then some. We weren't staring at all or giving offense, but it was impossible not to notice the spectacle they presented. Every single mannerism I've described here, they were doing--and more besides. They must have been half snake and part bear-preparing-for-hibernation
. The woman glared at me through most of our meal, too. She wasn't glaring at my husband, who was way more in her line of sight and considerably more fascinated with them. No. She was glaring at ME, the pretty pink-haired lady in the short skirt. Her husband was looking at me too, but, um, he sure wasn't glaring. We left before they got to dessert, but part of me suspects they each got two of those too. Meanwhile, we ate about a quarter of what we got and took the rest home for enough leftovers to make two meals each out of it. I bet that gal still thinks it was "genetics" that got me to a size 8. Nope! It was calorie control, tracked through Spark!)
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • AMBER461
    Thanks for sharing.
    1182 days ago
  • LILRED413
    I'm going to have to try this for portion control.
    1188 days ago
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