Portion Control: The Most Important Tool

One of the most important skills I’ve picked up during my weight loss journey is the gradual sizing down of the portions I eat. I used to eat two eggs for breakfast; now, just two. I used to eat the king-sized candy bars, but now I eat one or two of the fun size bars instead. I would eat gobs of salad dressing before, and that’s now down to two tablespoons with the help of my measuring gadgets. I used to eat with abandon at buffet restaurants, but now I steer clear of them to avoid the temptation.

When I first started on Weight Watchers, my biggest fear was being hungry. I thought of Weight Watchers as a diet, and to me, that meant deprivation. But two funny things happened: first, I found that when I picked the best foods in appropriate quantities I didn’t feel hungry or deprived. Then, I came to realize I really didn’t need as much food as I thought I did. (I also don’t think of Weight Watchers as a diet now, but rather a way to train myself to eat better.)

Here are some things I’ve learned to improve portion control:

Bring it down over time. When I first started Weight Watchers, the program started you out with a certain daily eating allowance that became slightly smaller with every 10 lbs. you lost. I’m not sure if the program is still set up that way for anyone (it isn’t for me), but consider doing something like that with your weight loss efforts. You will ultimately train yourself to eat less, and bring your eating more in line with where it should be.

Use measuring devices. I would not have been able to keep myself honest without measuring spoons, cups, and a food scale. These items are key to gaining an accurate perspective on what 3 oz. of chicken or 2 tablespoons of salad dressing really looks like. The numbers don’t lie.

Not finishing everything. One piece of advice on eating out and maintaining weight loss that you may hear is to ask for half of your order to be packaged up before you ever get to eat. I’ve never done that, but I do try to control it on my own. If I get a big sandwich, I save half for later or, if I’m hungry, I eat one half as-is and discard the bread when I eat the innards of the second half. I also don’t force myself to clean my plate anymore, or to finish dessert.

Portion control is hard, because most foods a packaged in gigantic quantities that skew our perceptions of how much we should be eating. But no one will argue with the fact that to lose weight, you have to eat less. Coupling an accurate perception of portion sizes with a mind to only eat as much as you need physically, as opposed to mentally, is the best way to get your weight number trending downward.

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5 thoughts on “Portion Control: The Most Important Tool

    • You are absolutely right. It’s definitely not the easiest thing in the world to do, but it does keep you on the right path. I guess my thing will be to work in other activities in my life that give me the same enjoyment I get from food and eating with friends and loved ones.

  1. Portion Control is always hard. I think if I knew how to control my portions I would be 50lbs lighter.. 
    I still wonder if portions are universal one size fit all, or if it varies from person to person. If you are a 6’4” man, would you require the same amount of food as a 5’4” woman? If you are exercising regularly, would you eat the same portions?

    • That’s a good question. I know the daily caloric intake would definitely be different, but actual portion size? Would a larger or more active person just eat bigger portions, or would they eat more portions at one universal size for everyone? Or more frequent meals or something? I don’t know. I follow some RDs on Twitter; I could pose that question there and see what they think.

      • Thanx..
        Just wanted to say you make a good point about focusing in other activities so that you don’t think about food.

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