Retrain Yourself on Food Portion Sizes – Part 2

This article is part 2 in a series. The first article is here: “Retrain Yourself on Food Portion Sizes – Part 1.” If you enjoy this series, please consider subscribing to Almost Fit or sharing it with others via Digg, StumbleUpon, Facebook, or your favorite social media tool. Thanks.

Almost Fit - ScaleIn case you haven’t been on speaking terms with your scale for a while, or you’ve been avoiding all forms of news and information in favor of continuing to blindly support that questionable Krispy Kreme investment, it may come as a surprise to you to learn that we Westerners have a bit of a problem with our weight.

(And yes, that last statement is my official entry for the Understimator of the Year Award, which I have a sneaking suspicion is somehow tied to the Darwin Awards.)

In the, “what the heck is wrong with what we’re eating” category of Almost Fit, today’s article is part 2 of the discussion of portion size. And I’m going to reveal the spoiler for this series, so look away if you don’t want to know the truth: The portion guidelines I’m going to list at the end of this series probably won’t work for you (at least not at first, if you’re anything like I was 6 months ago).

In my experience of 20+ years of dieting, quite honestly portion control was never really effective over the long haul. I’d do pretty well for a while, but ultimately I slipped back into my old ways. And it always left me feeling like, “Wow, what is wrong with me? Why do I lack the willpower to make this happen?”

While I take firm responsibility for my choices dietary and otherwise, it is a question worth careful consideration: Why couldn’t I do it over the long term? Was it just a character flaw that I should accept? I think that for me there were lots of internal and external factors, but one of the biggest reasons was this:

I was simply eating too much of the wrong, supposedly healthy things.

Specifically, my focus in portion control was to eat the exact prescribed portion sizes of everything BUT whole, real foods (with a few negligible fruit exceptions). Lots of low fat, low carb, low calorie products, shakes, diet soda, diet bars, and so forth, but next to no real, whole foods.

That, if you have been reading here at Almost Fit for a while now, has changed.

What I’m not doing now

Understanding what a real portion is at the center of changing the way I eat, and is one of the core principles of eating Real Food in Moderation. It is coupled directly with WHAT I’m eating. But more on that later. For now, here are the things that I’m NOT doing when it comes to portion size:

  1. I don’t weigh my food.
  2. I don’t use a ruler to measure the size of my food.
  3. I don’t use a calorimeter to measure the caloric density of my food.
  4. I don’t count calories!
  5. I especially do not count fat grams.
  6. I don’t measure my fluid intake (unless I’m exercising heavily).

What I am doing now

  1. I focus on eating as many fresh fruits and vegetables as I can eat, and I don’t worry about measuring those portions. I eat as much as I can, so long as I’m not bursting at the seams. So far, I can’t get enough.
  2. I do not treat what I eat like a chemistry experiment, focusing on the measurements of micro components of the food as a basis for my decisions. I keep my vision at a macro level, looking at the overall picture of what I’m eating. I focus on enjoying food for the sensual experience of eating, not the “fuel” factor.
  3. I do not consume measured amounts of supplements at this point. I have not been diagnosed with any major vitamin or mineral deficiencies, so thus far I’m finding the nutrients I need in the foods I’m eating; the effect of taking in nutrients as part of a whole food has been demonstrated to be substantially greater than consuming supplements that contain the extracted parts of those foods. As Michael Pollan points out in his book In Defense of Food, we don’t even know the science behind how the components of whole foods are symbiotic, and so far we’ve often gotten it wrong.
  4. I use several basic rules of thumb to “recalibrate” what I expect a portion size to be (I’ll be describing those very soon).
  5. I use smaller bowls and plates – not to trick myself. Or maybe I am. I’m not sure – my diversion is so effective that even I can’t tell when it’s working.
  6. I am retraining myself to identify when I’m starting to feel full, and then I stop.
  7. I eat smaller bites.
  8. I eat a small portion of ice cream, the real stuff, nightly. Yes, after 8PM. Yes, full fat Haggen Daas.
  9. I weigh myself generally every day, but measure my progress by the month. I’m in it for the long haul.

My focus now is on eating the best I can afford, just less of it. What does this imply? The biggest surprise to most “dieters” is I’m eating lots of naturally occurring fats from natural sources, and I’m losing weight doing it. It means no more processed chemically fortified blue skim milk; I drink real, whole milk (raw if I can get it), just less of it (you need less because its richer). That includes real, whole milk cheeses from grass-fed cows. Crackling fresh artisan breads. Decadent chocolate. Cream in my coffee. Ice Cream, with real sugar, fat, and whatever else that beautiful cold comfort confectionary wizard can imagine.

And the result? My weight is down nearly 23 lbs. this year, without significant exercise yet (I’m working on that); my blood pressure is lower (I checked it today, and my high and low pressures have dropped into the “middle” ranges, as has my pulse rate); my cholesterol is fine; heartburn is gone; and I am enjoying food.

No, I am LOVING food. And getting thinner for it.

So how is this possible? Although I’m eating great food, it definitely requires some retraining. Before we get to the actual techniques for estimating a reasonable portion size for just about everything, the next part is going to discuss some prerequisites to making this work. Nothing complicated really; no supplements, products, hacks, or surgeries – just rethinking what makes you feel good when you eat.