Get your portion size under control

    Portion control is a subject very near and dear to my heart — and my pant size. I’ve touched on it before, but it’s so crucial it warrants the full-article treatment. It was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn in terms of how I view food. Because I’m a Type 1 diabetic, I’ve seen a registered dietician so that she could educate me on the proper way to eat — in terms of quality, yes, but also in terms of quantity.

    The first time I went to the dietician I was 12 and newly diagnosed with the ‘betes. This lady seemed nice enough, but she couldn’t make me change the way I ate; it was a rude awakening to discover that one serving of meat or protein is equal to a measly deck of cards, and that a bagel you might find at Einstein’s is roughly four servings of bread. Ho lee cow. I just had no interest in learning how to size up food on sight and eat less. I blame America.

    How many servings of beef are in that burger?. (Photo by dusdin on, licensed under the Creative Commons.)

    Why is portion control so out of control? For many people, food is like a drug. You can become addicted and need a bigger amount of food to satisfy your hunger. Why else would organizations like Overeaters Anonymous exist?

    Luckily, you can fool yourself into thinking you’re eating more food than you really are. Cutting things up into smaller pieces creates the illusion of bounty — just ask Jesus. Dividing food also slows down your eating. It is well-known among the weight-conscious that the delay between putting food in your mouth and feeling full is about 20 minutes. So instead of scarfing down those two slices of pizza, why not try cutting them up to see if you’re really only hungry for one? Your friends may laugh, but who’ll be laughing when they gain the freshman fifteen?

    Another trick is to eat foods that are largely composed of air or water. This is known as volumetrics. In this strategy, fruits and vegetables are your best friends. They are quite filling, considering the nutrients you get and the calories you don’t. You can have these to your heart’s content, just remember that you need five servings of fruits and veggies a day and a serving is about the size of a baseball.

    Finally, there are tools out there designed for the frustrated dieter. Measuring cups and spoons are the obvious route, but there are also specialized plates that come compartmentalized, taking the guess work out of portion control. And if you ever feel confused, the oracle that is the Internet is chock-full of resources.

    I like to think I’ve come a long way since I was the stubborn diabetic child who thought portion control was for losers. I’m now a stubborn diabetic adult who knows portion control will help me win.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to cut my grilled cheese sandwich into eighths and pretend I’m the queen of Tiny Grilled Cheese Land.


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