Weight Loss

7 Secrets of Portion Control

July 22, 2011

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One of the best ways to lose or maintain weight is to become a portion-control pro. It’s one of the secrets of the French Paradox, and one of the reasons why a lot of women throughout the world (Europe in particular) are able to enjoy the wonderful food they do, yet stay slim.

This is definitely something you can do, too. It will take some effort and intention at first, but will soon become second nature. Here are some of the tricks you can use to help downsize those portions:

1. Before eating, divide your plate

“Cut” your plate in half. One-half gets filled with vegetables and/or fruit. The other half is for equal parts carbs and protein (eg. only half a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, the other half is a salad!)

2. Beware large containers

The bigger the package of food, the more you’ll eat. In a study, two groups were given half- or 1-pound bags of M&Ms to eat while watching TV. Those given the 1-pound bag ate nearly twice as much. Lesson? Nevaah eat straight out of the bag or the box. If you buy in bulk, pre-divide those snacks and goodies into little ziploc bags as soon as you get home.

3. Practice the 80% rule

The Japanese have a practice known as hara hachi bu, which means eating until you feel about 80 percent full. At that point, your stomach is probably 100 percent full. Your brain just doesn’t realize it yet. And the Japanese? Way healthier than us.

4. Shrink your dishes

54 percent of Americans eat until their plates are clean. So an easy way to eat less? Use smaller plates. Filling up a smaller plate (10-inches instead of 12- or 14-inch plate) will do a little jedi-mind trick on your brain. You think you’re eating a full meal, rather than feeling like you’re depriving yourself with a pathetic little portion in the center of a big plate. Studies back this up: when researchers gave study participants 34- or 17-ounce bowls and told them to help themselves to ice cream, those with the bigger bowls doled out 31 percent more ice cream.

5. Turn off the TV

The distraction of TV stops you from being aware how much you’re eating. While watching American Idol or the Bachelorette, it’s a piece of cake to happily plow through…well, a big piece of cake. And the more you watch, the more you’ll gobble. In a study comparing the popcorn-eating behavior of TV viewers, those who watched an hour-long show, versus a half-hour show, ate 28 percent more popcorn.

6. Be extra careful when eating with friends

The unfortunate fact is, when you’re eating with others you’re likely to wolf down more food. You’ll eat about 35 percent more when you dine with one friend versus alone. With a group of seven? You’ll eat 96 percent more. But just to be clear: there’s no way I’m going to discourage an evening out with friends. Too important for a healthy, happy life. Instead, what I’m recommending here is that you be aware of this tendency. Pay close attention to what you’re ordering, what you’re sharing, and how many servings you’re taking.

7. Keep serving dishes off the table

Leave the lasagna in the kitchen. If you bring dishes filled with food to the table, you’re more likely to help yourself to seconds (and thirds, and fourths…) Unless those dishes contain only grilled veggies…leave them out of reach.

It must be said, a lot of this advice has to do with “mindful eating”–paying attention to what we’re eating instead of just thoughtlessly plowing through a whole bag of Cheetos. Very important to healthy eating, and healthy living in general.

Bon appetit!

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