When More Is Not Better: Explaining Portion Control to a Gluttonous Nation

Whenever those science peeps in lab coats learn how to condense appropriately nourishing meals, the tradition of cooking, and the socializing of eating into a single pill, I’m gonna buy that. But until then, we all have to choose what and how much we eat.

The marketplace has been ripe for change and now caters to our growing demand for “healthy, convenient” choices. Not only is there a plethora of options around us, but there is also an abundance of food. Many of us are eating the right things yet eating too much of them. There is so much food that we carelessly consume it and then joke about being runners so we can keep up our doughnut habits. I honestly look forward to five-hour rides because of all the food it will justify. Yet studies show again and again that overconsumption of food (and some specific foods in particular) leads to myriad health problems. Even if you burn the calories, you may still get the damage — hence the rising occurrence of diabetes in athletes. Studies also show us that moderate calorie consumption promotes longevity, reduces inflammation, and positively contributes to our bodies’ ability to reduce oxidative stress (a key component in cancer).

I’m not recommending all those socially acceptable ways to be anorexic (see cleanses, intermittent fasting, and Isagenix). I’m talking about any meal ever served to you at a Mexican restaurant, Thanksgiving, and all those ridiculous post-workout feasts we reward ourselves with. Our bodies are not designed to consume that much. Our lives are more sedentary than before. We embrace bizarre hobbies to make up for the fact that we don’t hunt on foot and scavenge for food anymore. We used to burn as many calories finding dinner as we ate during dinner.

So without counting calories, weighing food, or checking ourselves into an overeaters’ clinic, how do we know how much food we should be eating? I saw the other day that a serving size of hummus is the size of a golf ball. Which is approximately enough for two cucumber slices in my book. Clearly we need to adjust our understanding of portion sizes. This is much easier said than done. It takes a little self-awareness and a lot of self-honesty (two things I struggle with every time I go to a barbecue or approach a cake). Here are a few realities of portion sizes. A serving of meat, chicken, or fish is approximately 3 ounces or the size of a deck of cards. Chances are, you eat about three of those at dinner. A half cup of rice is the size of an ice cream scoop. Not a dish of Coldstone’s. A serving of fruit is not an entire Fuji apple, but rather about half that apple.

We don’t need to throw our chicken breast on a scale or fear food. We must simply take a candid look at our plates and ask ourselves: Do I need this much food right now? Could I serve less on my plate and have leftovers for breakfast? Will I starve to death if I don’t eat an 8-ounce steak at dinner? Having an abundance of food available to us does not mean we must eat it all. Grab a smaller plate for dinner. Fill it as much as you need. Chew every bite with gratitude. Your body will repay your kindness. //

Ammi Midstokke is a nutritional therapist in Sandpoint. She wrote about abstaining from alcohol for a year in August. To find out more about saving the world with kale, visit her website at www.twobirdsnutrition.com.

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