I have been learning about diet and weight management since I was about 11 years old. I do not suggest this, but it is a fact of my existence. I recall my family member (won’t name – names) suggesting I have some more salad instead of more spaghetti, since my “growth spurt” should be about over. At that moment my relationship with food was forever changed.
It happens to many of us; a sudden shift when pathology begins and we lose sight of the truly nourishing and delightful nature of a healthy meal. It can take decades to return to healthy eating and usually it is an incremental process that continues to evolve and transform throughout our lives just as our activities, sensibilities and bodies shift as well.
I have managed to find many ways to foster a healthy relationship with eating and do maintain my body with regular exercise… but it is a process and what worked for me when I was training for a marathon does not work when I am busy opening a new clinic, for example. Where I am now in this process, is portion control. This is huge and I think I am finally getting it down.
2014 is the year I am setting forth as being the one where I learn to eat half of a sandwich. It sounds easy, simple, silly, but hold on a minute – we are talking about a true conscious shift here. Imagine ordering up the yummiest, gooiest, avocado and Portobello covered in gouda-est on toasted rye sandwich (inset your favorite Earl- of-concoction or other tasty meal here) and eating half of it. (Of course I am no food waster and take the other half home for lunch the next day!) This, I know, will change my eating habits for the rest of my life.
Like any transformation, the whole process must truly be internalized for it to become the standard mode of operation when eating daily. This is not just acknowledging outwardly that calories in need to equal energy expelled or I will have to buy new pants, but internalizing that message to understand that my belly will accommodate almost any amount of food I choose to put in it. I am the Gatekeeper… and I kind of love that.
The factors of portion control’s success are:
1. Starting out with a portion that looks good but is about half of what would be served in an average meal. (There are lots of good guides online that show images of good portion sizes for common foods, see below for one.)
2. Eating slowly and chewing well to allow your saliva to do its vital job of pre-digestion and give the body time to send out the appropriate “full” signals.
3. Pushing the plate aside when you feel about 50%-80% full and allowing your body that time to recognize that it is full.
Finishing your meal when your stomach is at a 50%-80% capacity is actually a very good strategy to achieve appropriate meal sizes, without going hungry, because it takes the stomach’s stretch receptors about 20 minutes to tell the body that it is full. If when you notice you are about 50% full you slow down, think about stopping with a full stop at least by 80%, then in another 20 minutes you will really feel full. *
The research is quite sound on this one and not new either. But for some reason, when I break it down to eating half of a sandwich, or half a serving of a salad, or half of my slice of lasagna, it quickly turns in to passing on the chips, saying no thank you to cookies – realizing that I do not eat those things because they do not nourish me. It turns in to conscious eating.
After activating my consciousness in this specific way around food for only a few short weeks I have made it through some lovely holidays with lots of good foods, a busy social schedule and actually dropping a couple of pounds. It is not about the number on the scale, but the way I feel comfortable after eating. I like bending and twisting and jumping; and with the 80% full rule there is less bloating, reflux and movement comes more freely with a belly less full.
For a quick visual guide to how much of a certain food is a “portion” see:
For other descriptions of the 80% full rule and some very good food combining principles see:
Thanks for reading! And enjoy your journey with half a sandwich.