SolveYourProblem Article Series: Weight Loss & Dieting
How Do I Really Lose Weight?


Losing Weight and Your Portion Sizes

Most Americans have been trained since childhood that leaving food on your plate at the end of a meal is impolite; we are admonished repeatedly to “clean your plate”. Only, far too often, there is far too much food on our plates. Based on current recommended health guidelines, a plate of food served in a restaurant is statistically between 4 and 6 times larger than necessary. Eating half that much at home is still 2 to 4 times more than a recommended, healthy portion. The simple fact of it is: our portions are too big.

Researchers call the “clean your plate” phenomenon the “completion compulsion”, which views foods in units that need to be consumed in their entirety in order for us to experience fullness. It’s what leads us to eat a whole candy bar instead of a bite, or an entire bag of potato chips (the small “snack” size you’d get in a vending machine) instead of a small handful of chips.

The completion compulsion was validated in a test that showed people given a smaller plate of food reporting feeling just as full as people given a larger plate of food, showing that people gauged their sense of fullness not on the amount of food they ate but on the emptiness of their plates.

But if we’re so conditioned to view food as units, we already have a healthy unit of food in place, and it’s called a ‘serving’. A single serving of any food is ordinarily somewhere from 90 to 160 calories. This means a food dense in calories will have a small portion size relative to foods light in calories.

The nutritional labeling on packaged foods includes the recommended number of servings. In many cases, however, we eat the entire package without noticing realizing we’ve just eaten 2, 3, 4, or more servings at once. That means if there are 250 calories in a serving and 3 servings in the package, eating all of it at once would give you 750 calories.

The intention of denoting a serving on the label is to help you devise the right portions for your meals. One serving ought to be one portion, but how often do we do it that way?

Tips for reducing your portion sizes overall include serving your food on smaller plates and serving food in the kitchen rather than at the table where the leftovers are sitting in front of you so temptingly.

Healthy dieting to lose weight need not involve depriving yourself of any of the foods you enjoy – not one – if you resolve yourself to reducing the amount of everything that you eat into healthier portions. This way, you can eat any food you like, if you eat a responsible portion of it.

This also means you don’t have to reduce your portions of all that you eat uniformly; you don’t have to starve yourself. To compensate for the hunger you may feel after reducing portion sizes of your favorite decadent, calorie-rich foods, you can eat a sizable portion of a food light in calories and feel just as full. And by having allowed yourself at least some of the calorie-dense yummy, your taste buds will be just as happy as your waistline.

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