The Portion Size Problem

dry roasted almonds - 1 oz - about 25 almonds, 170 calories

The size of the average meal that is served at mainstream restaurants far exceeds the caloric need of your average diner, who also gets more and more sedentary as the years go by.  Personally, I don’t find the “obesity epidemic” all that surprising.

This post has pictures of examples of portion size increase.  It’s definitely worth a look:

Portion Size, Then vs. Now

On television, you see endless visions of people eating massive quantities of gooey, cheesy, sweet, syrupy, creamy, crispy, delicious, decadent food.  None of these people are fat.  In fact, they are all much thinner than your average person on the street.  And they are all laughing, smiling and practically making love to the food they are devouring.

While these beautiful thin people eat all the tasty food, the voice-over tells you you deserve to treat yourself.  You had a hard day.  Indulge in this 2000 calorie meal with two 600 calorie alcoholic drinks and a 1,000 calorie dessert (it’s too good to share)  And then there are things like this:

Bikini burger, eh?

So it’s really no wonder that when we discover what a real, normal portion actually looks like, we tend to react with anger and frustration.  Truthfully, when I finally got the food scale and started weighing things, I was really surprised.  But I’ve had the scale for a year and a half and I’m over it.  I’m used to the way things are supposed to be.  The “normal” portion of old now seems outrageous.

Once you realize how distorted our notion of portion size is, you will never be able to forget it.  You will always have to think about it.  Every single place you go, you will have to make a conscious decision not to eat the quantity you are served.  You will have to use smaller plates and bowls.  Your boyfriend will finish his entree, and you will get a to-go box for half.  This seems like it really sucks, doesn’t it?

I felt that way at first, but I stuck with it and now, I’m used to it.  I’ve made new habits.  I’ve discovered that it’s great to have leftovers because you get 2 meals for the price of one.  I love my 8 inch plates that are always clean because my boyfriend uses the big plate.  I decided to embrace it.  That’s how you make a lifestyle change.

We could moan and complain about how it isn’t fair that we can’t eat an entire bag of Oreos, but think about this for a second.  Why was I so emotionally attached to the practice of eating large quantities of food?  Why was it so hard to give up?  What did I get out of it?  I still eat all the foods I love, I just eat less of them.  I still get to enjoy the flavors, but it’s all about quality, not quantity.  The first bite always tastes the best.  People in food commercials look like they’re drunk or horny for the food they’re shilling.  Eating has become an escape for people, just like a drug.  We’re putting a lot of importance on food for all the wrong reasons.  We’re ignoring our health and opting for extra cheese and double meat with a side of ranch.

Never before in human history has there been an abundance of food like we have today and much of it is cheap, nutrition-less food.  Food is a hugely lucrative business and it is in the food manufacturer’s interest for you to eat more.  The more you eat, the more they can sell, the more money they make.  It’s really no surprise how out-of-control portion sizes have become.  It takes effort to get it under control.  It’s frustrating sometimes, but you don’t have to be perfect.  I found I became more and more consistent.  The less I overate, the less I wanted to overeat, to now where I definitely do not want to overeat and feel ill if I do.  I’m not sure if the thing about shrinking your stomach is true, but it certainly seems that way.  I would guess I used to eat close to twice what I eat now on a daily basis- some days much more.  Today, when I get hungry, I eat.  I didn’t actually need all that food.

Portion size tips:

  • Don’t guess, measure.  If you don’t have a scale, you can use size (tsps, cups, etc)
  • Always read the package carefully.  Many products seem to be marketed as a single serving but actually contain 2 or more servings.
  • If you are going to a chain restaurant, you can find the nutritional information online ahead of time and make smarter choices.
  • Think of each restaurant meal as 2 meals.  If you find yourself finishing your plate out of habit, ask for a box up front and divide your meal in half before you begin eating.
  • Share.  Split an entree instead of ordering two.
  • Cooking for yourself is always the best.


2 thoughts on “The Portion Size Problem

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