15 May How Much Is Enough?
By Guest Blogger: Rebecca Weiss
If you’ve ever read anything about weight loss, or seen any diet commercial, you are familiar with the concept of portion control. Yes, it’s all about serving size. You’ve heard, as I have, that restaurants are killing us with giant portions, that protein servings should be the size of your palm, that it isn’t what you’re eating, it’s the amount you’re consuming that matters.
Over the past several months, as I’ve been striving to lose weight and get healthier, I’ve made many adjustments to my lifestyle. I exercise regularly, I’ve cut back on soda, I no longer snack after dinner, and so on. One thing I still struggle with? Portion control.
One of the first suggestions my dietician made when I started seeing her was to leave a bite of food on my plate at the end of every meal. Just one bite—leave it there when I’m done eating. That’s simple, right? I couldn’t do it! “That’s mine,” I thought. “I want that. I’m enjoying this meal, and I want it all.” It honestly felt like a sacrifice. Like giving up one bite was a hardship of some sort. When I expressed these feelings, she told me I could still eat that bite, but to wait a little while and see if I still wanted it. It was still so difficult for me to leave that morsel on my plate.
Through much soul searching and self-reflection, I can say that this is related to my seeing food as a reward. That not having as much as I want, not having every bite that I see, means that I don’t deserve to have what I want. And, no one wants to feel that way. While in reality, it’s just one bite of food, somehow what’s sitting on the plate is my self esteem.
Several factors compound this issue for me. Restaurants really do give you much too much food, and if you eat every bite on your plate, you’ll be maximizing your calories. Because my husband and I both work full time and have two little kids, we eat out a lot, and I’ve had to find ways to make that work.
First of all, remember that you are the customer and customize your meal. Get a salad or vegetable on the side instead of fries. Ask for a kid-size portion—my regular order at Five Guys now. Share your dish with someone else—two-year-olds are usually good for a few bites, even if you don’t ask them to share, they’ll just take food right off your plate. Take a look at the dish when it’s served and decide what portion you’re going to take for lunch the next day and set it aside. And, my best trick: get up about two thirds of the way though the meal and go to the bathroom. Wash your hands, fix your hair, whatever, then go back. Sometimes just getting out of the food trance makes it easy to leave what’s on the plate.
For meals at home, I’ve realized that family-style serving leads to seconds and thirds and more. Since my husband is the cook in the family, I’ve asked him now to leave the serving dishes on the counter near the stove, so that once everyone has their portion on their plates there’s no more food visible. This actually worked the other night when we were having a delicious pasta dish he had prepared. It might have been the first time I’ve eaten a single portion of pasta at home—ever. And, there was so much left over for lunch the next day!
I’ve also got a new strategy for those days when I feel like there’s a bottomless pit in my stomach that a reasonable-sized lunch won’t fill. Instead of having a bag of peanut M&Ms, I go to the gourmet salad bar and fill one of those plastic containers with grilled vegetables, and I eat as much of it as I want. Because, let’s face it, no one’s over weight from eating large portions of Brussels sprouts or grilled mushrooms. The vegetables are delicious and filling, and just knowing that I can have as much of them as I want gives me a little boost. My self-esteem is intact, and the discomfort of leaving a bite behind is eased somewhat. But, it’s still not easy.
Rebecca Weiss is a writer, mom of two, and director of communications for a New York City auction house. In 2012 she started a fitness and wellness journey. She is a monthly contributor to Mom Dishes It Out.