Managing our weight can be a tricky proposition. Unhealthy food choices surround us, we don't always have the opportunity to exercise, and society's system of three meals a day can send our metabolism into fits. Finding a way to take control is one of the most important steps that we can take in our battle to keep the pounds and the inches off our waistline.
Creating New Habits
Many things that we do everyday, we do out of habit. If the first thing you reach for in the morning is coffee, you have a habit. If the first thing you do when you get home is run out and exercise, you have a habit. If you're lonely or sad and you feel the need for ice cream, you have a habit. The good news is that if you are aware of your bad habits, you can work to lose them. The same is true for learning good habits.
For weight loss, there are practical, simple habits you can adopt to make the process a little easier. This time, we're going to discuss portion control. In an age when sixteen ounce cups are called 'small' with a straight face in many restaurants, finding a way to keep our serving and portion sizes at manageable levels is not just important, but incredibly vital to our long term weight loss success. Here are some ways to help you on your way to creating new portion habits.
Step 1 - Spread Your Portions Out
In our snacking article, we discuss how our body is built to constantly process energy while we're awake. Part of the reason we binge at our three meals a day is the long gaps of hunger in between meals, which upsets our body's metabolism and contributes to packing on the pounds. By spreading out our meals over a longer period, we can help our body avoid the ups and downs that lead to cravings and other unhealthy snacking habits.
Get into the habit of eating every three hours. Instead of three big meals, try eating five or six small ones. If you know how many calories you should be eating for the day, just divide by five or six and you'll know how many calories for each mini-meal you can have.
This paced eating helps to keep your blood sugar level stable throughout the day and it's easier for your body to metabolize the smaller meals. Also, if you don't feel as full as you normally do after a mini-meal, don't worry, you know you will be eating in 3 hours again.
Try eating only half of a meal that you normally have at a particular time, and then have the rest of it at the halfway point between then and your next meal. You're getting the same calories, but keeping the portions in manageable sizes your body can properly handle.
Step 2 - Scale Down Your Plates
Optical illusions are fun. It's amazing how your brain can be fooled. The same sized portion looks huge on a small plate and tiny on a large plate. You absolutely can fool your brain into thinking that your portion is plenty.
Using a smaller plate will also help those of us who grew up being told to clean your plate and not waste food. Today with portion sizes growing, cleaning your plate can be disastrous for your health. With a smaller plate, you can finish all your food so your mom would be satisfied and still feel full so you and your waist can be satisfied, too.
Take half of a meal that you normally have and serve it on a smaller plate. Eat your meal, clean the plate and see how you feel.
Step 3 - Size Up Your Plate
Sometimes you are not in charge of the portion you are given, especially at restaurants. Before you eat, look at your plate. Really look at it. Does that serving of French fries look huge? Have you been given a larger piece of meat than you would have taken? Decide at the start of your meal to only eat half of those fries or meat. Physically push them off to the side. Eat the rest of your meal and wait. Wait and see if your body gives you the "I'm full" signal.
You will usually find that you don't need those other fries or whatever portion you set aside. You can either leave them or take them home and use them for another meal. At first, you'll find it hard to leave food behind. Walking away takes practice and as you keep practicing, it will become another great weight loss habit that you make part of your life.
Sometimes restaurants are known for their huge "home-style" portions. When you order your meal, consider telling your waitress to split it in half and taking half to go. Don't be afraid to ask how big their portions are and don't be afraid to have them pack half to go.
The next time you eat out, ask your waitress for half of your order to be put into a doggie bag before you even see it. When your meal comes, eat up and notice how you feel.
Ultimately, weight loss does come down to reducing the number of calories taken in versus those burned off through normal movement and exercise. If we can control the number of calories we take in through eating smaller portions, we've learned a valuable skill that will help with our weight loss.
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