* We are not actually bears. Also, Grant is not overweight, as his bear might suggest. I just needed to demonstrate a height and weight difference. And I draw badly.
Here is a short story with a nutritional message, about human (no, sorry, MY) stupidity. Also, check out the portion-size tips below!
Once upon a time, Chani was cooking a delicious meal for her fiancé (well, he said it was delicious!) She had measured out all of the ingredients for two servings, cooked them, and then served them up. Just as she usually did when it was her turn to cook. Grant did the same.
Chani and Grant ate the food. Yummy.
This carried on for several years.
Then Chani noticed that she had put on a little weight, and was getting a little bit wobbly around the seams. And then one day, during the usual meal preparation, Chani realised something really, really obvious.
As a student she had always made a Chani-sized portion because she was only feeding herself. Now she was serving a portion that would fill up Grant, and having the same for herself. In other words, Chani was eating way too much – more than was required for her height, weight and activity levels.
But not any more.
It really amazes me that neither of us managed to notice this mistake earlier. It also amazes me that I never once, whilst this was going on, felt too full. But I suppose that just goes to show how the mind can play tricks on you about how hungry you are.
I came to wonder that perhaps other people out there were making the same mistake – people who were trying to eat healthily, but were innocently getting their portion size all wrong.
Here’s where I think the problem comes from: As children we are taught to share, and to share equally with our friends, siblings etc. At work, as a chef, Grant has to make sure that all dishes that he serves up are the same size, because one customer pays the same as the next. In supermarkets, ready-meals are designed for either one, two or four people.
This might seem fair in some ways, but what it fails to take into account is our individual needs. Grant is a good 3 stones heavier than I. Our portions fill him up, but they must be over-feeding me.
Anyway, I thought I’d share this story in case it helps any of you out, especially those of you who cook for more than just one mouth at a time. It’s worth stepping back after you’ve served up your food to see if your portion sizes really match up to your nutritional goals and needs.
We all know the one about using smaller plates, but in case you don’t want to have to do a complete crockery overhaul, here are some other ways to fix your portion size:
1. Count your calories. Using an app such as MyFitnessPal, you can work out your individual calorie allowance based on your height, weight, and activity levels. Then you can scan or add in the food you eat as you go. In the evening, the amount of calories you have left can determine your portion size at dinner (providing you can measure it in terms of calories (actually, you can do this on the app)). Using these apps can be quite time-consuming to begin with, but I have to say that in the few months when I used MyFitnessPal (available on iTunes), I only exceeded my intake once or twice. It really does work! Also, after a while, you get to realise what a healthy sized portion looks like for you and don’t really need the app anymore.
2. Take a half-portion of what you would usually have. Wait 20 minutes. If you’re still hungry, help yourself to a little more, and so on. Apparently it takes our body around 20 minutes after actually being full to register in your brain as being so. So, if you don’t feel hungry after 20, you’re full.
3. Always drink a glass of water with (or just before) your meal. Quite often, feelings of hunger are actually misplaced feelings of thirst. Combine a glass of water with a reduced portion size and see if you don’t feel great after you’re finished.
4. Don’t use waste as an excuse. If you’re full up, stop. Yes, it’s horrible to see food go in the bin, but it’s also horrible when you’ve been slaving away in the gym, only to waste all that effort by eating too much. There is nothing wrong with putting uneaten food back in the fridge (best before guidelines applicable). Many restaurants offer ‘doggy bags’ – so why not do the same at home?
5. Eat what you love. Beware of cutting out food groups or certain meals. This method of dieting is unhealthy and destined for failure. If you want to eat something ‘naughty’, go ahead, so long as you have a reasonable portion size (and don’t do this all the time). Making sure you enjoy your food, mouthful by mouthful, is very important for feeling satisfied with your portion size. Take time to savour every mouthful.
6. In some restaurants, e.g. Jamie’s Italian in Glasgow centre, you can ask for a small portion (there are separate prices on the menu). We go here sometimes if we’ve been in town shopping and until lately I didn’t realise this. When I did, I ordered the small portion of ‘Scallop and Squid Ink Angel Hair’ (my favourite) instead. And it filled me up, just the same. Magic! (Jamie’s Italian can be found in several major UK cities – I’d highly reccomment it).
Have any more portion tips? Comment to share!