You’ve worked out hard this week. Two boot camps - including one in which you think you saw God - and three cardio sessions on your own have left you feeling proud of yourself. When Saturday comes you decide to celebrate because you deserve it after working out so hard all week…by Monday morning, your face is puffy and you are dreading your workout because, somehow, you ate too much.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not a food Nazi, but the fact is eating too much a couple of times a week can erase the gains you’ve made in the gym. This is why portion control, and knowing what a serving truly is, is key to permanent weight loss.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Rolls, Morris, Roe, 2002) tested how adults responded when given different portion sizes. Using four different amounts of macaroni and cheese, the researchers discovered the participants consumed 30% more when offered the largest portion compared to the smallest portion. The kicker is a majority of the participants could not tell the difference in the amount of food consumed by sight or by satiety.
To determine if you are eating too much, ask yourself the following questions:
· Do you eat out often?
· Do you eat fast food often?
· Do you snack or eat a lot at night?
· Do you eat fried or processed foods on a regular basis?
· Do you eat while working, in front of the television or computer?
· Do you have trigger foods, which cause you to overeat?
Answering these questions can help determine if you are consuming too many calories.
True serving sizes are usually smaller than we think they are, and can most easily be remembered using comparisons to familiar objects. For instance:
· A single serving of vegetables or fruit is about the size of your fist.
· Pasta is about the size of tennis ball.
· Meat, fish or poultry is the size of a deck of cards.
· Pretzels, chips and similar snacks are enough to fill a cupped hand.
· Potato is the size of a computer mouse.
· Pancakes (try them with bananas!) are the size of a CD.
Finally, since knowledge is power only if it is used, try to control your portion sizes at home by using smaller dishes, never eating out of the bag or carton and freeze the leftovers, so they won’t be as easy to finish later that night. When you go out to eat, know what you are served will be about three portions and take half home. At the grocery store, beware of mini snacks like cookies and crackers, which do not fill you up and choose packaged foods (if you must) in individual serving sizes. Most of all, read your labels and know what and how much you are eating.