Monday, November 17, 2008

Habit-A-Week Challenge, Week 7: Watch Your Portions

It's week 7 of the Habit-A-Week Challenge. How are you doing with your habits? Remember: progress... not perfection.

This week is the week to focus on portion sizes. Some of us have this down pat (but everyone can improve! Ideas below). Other readers, I know, are still struggling just to start doing SOMETHING that will stick. If you are one of the desperate, the aching, the hopeless, this is a good habit for you to start with. Changing your portion sizes is not drastic and does not take a lot of work, but it can truly change your life.

When I weighed 278, a "portion" of Oreos was the whole box. A portion of chips was however many I felt like eating straight out of the bag. And a portion of pizza was as much as I could stuff down before I had to take a break for 30 minutes to make room for another "portion." No more.

You can change your life with this principle: eat one serving. If you are in binge hell right now, gaining weight, feeling out-of-control, try this one thing. Instead of trying to change everything you eat and go from Big Mac Meals straight to salads and grilled chicken, just change the AMOUNTS you eat. Small changes over time yields results. So for the beginner who is still drowning in junk and just needs to *start* taking control, how about this: eat the same foods you always ate, but only ONE serving of any given food. When you grab that box of Oreos, read the label. Allow yourself ONE serving and put the rest away. One serving of Oreos, in case you were wondering, is 3 cookies. This amount has 160 calories. Much better than eating half the bag for 1200 calories. Do this for everything you eat! Crackers? Read the label and count out one serving. Meat? Measure out 4 ounces. Salad dressing? 2 tablespoons. This way you can have anything you want BUT ONLY ONE SERVING. Put the rest in the freezer if you have to.

This method does take self control but works wonders for some. Even those of us who are already losing weight and mostly in control with the eating can benefit by learning more about portion sizes and sticking to them. It's nice to be able to treat yourself to a half cup of low fat ice cream once in awhile. And a side benefit: when you eat appropriate portions, you decrease the volume you are eating and your stomach will get used to less food. And it will get full faster.

If you think you are fine with your portions already, how about this: when you go to a restaurant, pay attention to portions there, too. When you get an entree, it is probably more than one true portion. Try eating 4 oz of the meat, half a cup of the side dish, and boxing up the rest for later. Or just cut your entree in half when you get it and save one half for tomorrow.

When you are eating vegetables, you can INCREASE your portions instead of cutting back. Instead of a half cup of steamed broccoli, try eating a cup. We want more veggies! So watching your portions here means making sure you get enough.

I have learned recently that sometimes a half serving is enough. Are you used to always having a serving of crackers with your soup? Next time, try a half serving. Often, 7 crackers is plenty for me. The same goes for sandwiches. How about having a half sandwich instead of a whole one? You can always go back and make another half if you are truly still hungry when you are done.

Part of this goes back to eating mindfully. Pay attention to your stomach. Stop eating when you begin to feel satisfied. Maybe you do not need that whole serving. It's okay to put the rest away for later or even to throw it away.

Another way to cut down on portions is to use a smaller plate. It sounds hokey, but it works. Next time you are having dinner or lunch, try using a smaller plate. It tricks your brain into thinking you got more food, and you can be satisfied with less. Try a smaller bowl for your cereal, or a shot glass for your dessert. If you restrict your dessert to what fits into a shot glass, you really can have just about any dessert you want and fit it into your healthy eating plan.

As for me, I am fighting terrible PMS at the moment. I am caring for myself by taking Excedrin, drinking lots of tea, eating comforting, warm oatmeal, and riding my bike even though I don't feel like it. Last night I was dying for pasta, so I steamed a spaghetti squash and topped it with Newman's Own Sockarooni pasta sauce (YUM) and a bit of Parmesan cheese. SO warming and filling for a very minimal amount of calories.

I'm off to do yard work! Be well.


HollyALP said...

I love that you exercise even when you don't feel like it. I've been thinking a lot about the changes we make in our lives and what drives us to be successful for some goals and unsuccessful for others. For me its typically what I feel like being persistent over, and what I just get sick of doing. I've been thinking about pushing my limits and learning to stick to my resolves a little better.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually getting rid of my dishes and switching to smaller ones. Even that little bit of psychology could help :)

Token Fat Girl said...

exercising when you don't feel like it? you're a genius :)
great job!
I really love the idea of using smaller dishes to eat food out of. I've been using bento boxes as well for portion control.

bbubblyb said...

Holly, I know what you mean about being persistent over things and getting sick of doing some things. It's tough when you think about it being for the rest of your life.

Lyn, I do need to get back to being extra aware of my portions. I think overall I'm pretty good about them but I could improve for sure. I can say the one habit that I've kept all these weeks of the challenge is the water and I really think that is a biggy for me. Way to go on eating the squash instead of the pasta.

Sheri said...

Way to go Lyn! My biggest defeat right now is "I don't feel like it," which I am going to kick hard out of my life. My new motto should be, "It's gotta get done," surrounded by mindless nothing so I just go do it. Just like feeding a baby, it's gotta get done, and whose a bigger baby in my life than me lately. After all, the "I don't feel like it," really translates into a two-year-old's tempertantrum, "I DON'T WANNA!" to which I give in.

We've already been using the smaller sandwich plates in our house for dinners, but I like the idea of smaller bowls and the shot glass for desserts! Really cool.

Pandora said...

Lyn, I was really struck by your comment "when you start to feel full." I have been noticing that 20 minutes or so after I finish eating I am much fuller than I was at the end of the takes time for our brains to catch up with our bodies.

Remembering that is helping me to stop when I "still have room."

Good habit! And one that really pays off in the long my usual portion sizes have gotten smaller, I'm more satisfied and feel much less deprived on much less food.

Pubsgal said...

Great tips! Portion control has been a really big part of what I've been doing to get healthy. I still weigh and measure portions, because I'm all too prone to over-guesstimating.

One tool that helps me when eating out is the "rate your plate" method (here's a diagram:
Fill half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables, one quarter with a protein serving, and one quarter with a starch serving.

I also found this article on portion sizes:
Their "Serving Size Card" ( looks like a handy tool.

Vickie said...

I love the veggies covered in spaghetti sauce too - zucchini, green beans, squash - can have a REALLY big plate full for very few calories and lots of nutrition. a good GO TO food when one wants to chow (like PMS time as you said).

julie said...

I agree with you on the stomach shrinking so you're used to less food, and it feels right. I can't eat anywhere near as much as I used to. I'm not doing restaurants much, being broke and all, but I eat the occasional burrito, which now puts me straight to sleep. But, even the burrito is only ww tortilla, brown rice, whole beans, not a ton of cheese, and lots and lots of salsa.

I think the exercise bit is important, as well. I have been doing an hour or two at the gym every day (unemployed), and I often don't feel like it. I go anyway, unless I can find a good excuse.

Emma Wood said...

Great advice as always! I'm on a VLCD at the moment, but am trying to garner tips for when I get back on the proper food and spend the rest of my life trying not to put it back on!

Smaller plates definitely does sound achievable!

Jen said...

Portion sizes - GREAT REMINDER! I found an article that talks about calories vs. portion sizes, it includes pictures of what 300 calories really is - check out my blog from yesterday, I put the pictures on it.

Thanks for helping us each week, one goal at a time!

Jen, a priorfatgirl

new*me said...

Portion control has really been the key for me too! I have to use smaller plates, eat slow, and give my brain time to realize I have eaten.

Another great habit to remind us, Lyn!

Paula said...

This is the crux of the whole situation, and the hardest of all for me to do. Everything you said is spot on, really good advice.