3 stacked dice = One serving of cheese
August 31, 2013 9:33 PM   Subscribe

Like many modern US Americans, I've come to realize that I have a VERY inflated idea about what a "normal" portion size is. I need to get my head right, so that this is normal, not this. I want to be one of those people who gets nauseous at the very idea of eating too much food, and I want every tip/trick/mental hack/and idea in the book to do it! Tiny portion eaters of metafilter, please show me the way.

I've made big changes in my life before. I know it can be done and I'm willing to work hard.

I need to make the mental shift so that eating normal portions feels right and good, not like I'm depriving myself. I want to be one of those folks who makes 3-4 meals out the average American restaurant portion, or orders a kiddie ice cream to share with a friend instead of getting a double adult scoop.

Conversely, if I can also make eating obese American size portions feel wrong instead of hooray more yummy food! I want to do that too.

Give me everything you've got!
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (43 answers total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
Alright, this is coming from someone who is 125 lbs, but has been around 150 before, so I'm not one of those people who can just eat whatever and never gain anything.

If I'm going to eat cheese, it's not going to be 3 stacked dice, I can tell you that much. I think it would be really hard for me to do that unless I were already full when I started having the cheese. And no joke, I had a double adult portion of ice cream two days ago. But the thing is that's going to be the calorie overload I have that day. Not every meal can be like that. It's not going to be a cheeseburger for lunch and then a steak dinner with multiple sides and THEN the double ice cream.

Most of what I eat (I'm guessing a bit more than half?) is fruits and vegetables. (I'm a vegetarian) I eat a lot of eggs. And I eat a lot of whole grains.

I think part of it may be developing your taste for more vegetables (a lot of fruit will also give you a lot of calories and sugar). If you can find foods to eat that you really really love, then you can eat veggies and other lower calorie stuff most of the day without feeling deprived. (I do not eat iceberg lettuce salads, the idea of doing that all day would make me want to run. I'm talking things like roasted kabocha squash, sauteed carrots, really savory and delicious stuff. But then again lettuce salads may turn out to be something you end up really liking.) And then if you are eating veggies most of the day, every day, you can have as many cheeseburgers as you want and it won't be as big of a deal.

(I'm assuming the stuff about cheeseburgers because that was the example you gave of what you're currently seeing as normal).
posted by cairdeas at 9:50 PM on August 31, 2013 [5 favorites]

Using smaller plates/bowls can actually trick your brain into thinking you're eating a larger portion than you are. I was skeptical but I tried it out and I actually do have an instinct to eat whatever amount fills the plate or bowl I'm eating from.
posted by capricorn at 9:55 PM on August 31, 2013 [13 favorites]

Also, when I'm at a restaurant, just simply in terms of being full, I feel satisfied after like 2/3 of the average restaurant portion. It wouldn't make up 3-4 meals for me, no way. I think two meals out of it would be reasonable if there were like a ton of sides, like a breakfast with a omelet AND home fries AND a muffin AND fruit.
posted by cairdeas at 9:56 PM on August 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Get a digital scale and use a calorie counting app. Pay attention to how your weight goes up or down depending on your caloric intake (this was pretty eye opening for me). Know how many calories foods are. This works for at home.

For restaurants - never order a large and divide your plate at the start of the meal into what you are going to eat and what you are not. Pay attention to what you are eating while you eating (controlling social eating is damn near impossible for me). Always assume restaurants are using the most calorific ingredients possible - because they do - and then they add extra cream on top of that.

I found that after about a year of calorie restriction my sense of fullness was completely downsized. I can still eat a whole large bag of potato chips but I feel awful afterwards whereas before a whole large bag was a pretty damn comfortable portion size for me. However, it was about a year of feeling deprived for me before the new normal settled in.
posted by srboisvert at 9:58 PM on August 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've found that intermittent fasting (like skipping breakfast and lunch and then having a light dinner) two days a week has made me more conscious and more apt to opt for small portions on days I'm not doing a fast.

BTW, wanting to feel nauseous at the thought of eating portions you might eat now doesn't sound like a healthy aspiration.
posted by Good Brain at 10:00 PM on August 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think a period of calorie counting or carefully portioning your food is the best way to reeducate yourself on what a portion looks like. Measuring out your food and counting calories kind of forces you to decide how much you're going to eat before you eat, so you don't end up doing the "ehh a little more pasta, wait just a liiiittle more, that doesn't look like enough" at mealtimes. Measuring out a cup of pasta and half a cup of sauce or whatever and realizing that that is enough to satisfy you is a good way to retrain yourself on how much food you really need. You also avoid sitting down with a bag or box of something and just mindlessly eating until oops, there's the bottom. You can calorie count without dieting, if you aren't interested in losing weight- just calculate how many calories you need to maintain your weight and stick to that.

Use smaller bowls and plates and figure out how much a serving of things you like looks in them, or how much they hold. I have little ramekins that I know hold a half cup or a cup, which is really helpful for measuring servings.

If you tend to clean your plate, whether because you were raised that way or feel sorry for the last few sad french fries (hi), stop. My boyfriend is the kind of person who can accidentally lose weight and is naturally thin, and I was astonished when we started eating together regularly at his ability to just... stop when he's full. Get used to taking leftovers, and try to remember that what you paid for restaurant food is a sunk cost and cleaning your plate isn't making you better off if you're trying to eat less.
posted by MadamM at 10:13 PM on August 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Reach for a glass of water before you eat something. Sometimes when I'm think I'm hungry, I'm actually thirsty.

I actually do order kiddie size ice cream cones (but I don't share them). I tried a month where I cut out all added sugar. After a month of looking at ingredient lists, I realized that sugar is in freakin' everything. It's a lot. Try to visualize that when ordering sweets. It's disturbing.
posted by hooray at 10:20 PM on August 31, 2013

You may want to add more new habits, but Capricorn is absolutely right: smaller dishes mean less food eaten.

I've always disliked Thanksgiving, work my ass off, everybody eats and eats, then complains they feel sick to their stomach. Nice. A few years ago I inherited a set of Wedgewood china, and decided to try it for a large Thanksgiving dinner. The dinner plates are 6" across, with a wide rim (1-1/2"). Everybody loaded their plates, had seconds, declared they felt "full, and the food was delicious." An hour later, pie was offered, everyone was eager, no one complained of being too full, or sick ...... it was grand.

We now use these dishes daily for dinner, and it really has changed how we look at food that's presented to us. We virtually never eat an entire portion of a restaurant meal; we automatically take half home. Better for our tummies AND another meal the next day! We don't have to make an effort, we're just used to smaller portions.

Go measure how big your dinner plates are. Our dinner plates are today's salad plates. Eat from salad plates. If you drink things not-so-good-for-you (I do love my Co-cola), pour some in a small glass. You can always have more, but mostly you probably won't.
posted by kestralwing at 10:23 PM on August 31, 2013 [8 favorites]

I don't know if this would apply to you (I come from an Asian culture where we pair side dishes with rice, noodles or bread), but when I eat out I ask for smaller portions of rice, noodles or bread (the carbs, basically).

Alternatively, you could pack away half the meal as a takeaway before settling down to your food. And eat that the next time you get hungry.

I agree with Capricorn and Kestralwing, using smaller dishes helps loads.

MadamM is right too. If you feel the need to empty your plate because reasons, just pack it away and eat it later if you have to. Or start out with smaller portions.
posted by rozaine at 10:31 PM on August 31, 2013

Eat slowly. If you're still hungry after you finish your food on your smaller plate, wait 15 minutes so your stomach catches up with your brain.

nthing smaller dishes!
posted by doodledeedee at 10:37 PM on August 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Try to eat slower. Or make a plate with the small portion sizes, eat it and wait ten to fifteen minutes. If you're still really hungry then, you can add some more food. A lot of time for me, the full signal is delayed. I had to spend some time eating group meals with fairly limited portion sizes and after the meal I would still be starving but ten minutes later I'd feel full. So now I try to remind myself of that.

Also, counting calories. I did this for a little while and it was crazy how much less calories there were in vegetables and fruits. I've always loved fruits and in the last few years, since I started buying my own food, I've tried to get my brain to think of fruit as a treat, rather than candy or some sweet carbs like cookies. I like it just as much and it's much harder to go over portion sizes.
posted by raeka at 10:40 PM on August 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Some stuff that I do:
  • Use small plates. Like everyone is saying, it works.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Eat small snacks though the day. If I'm really hungry at meal time I'm more likely to overeat. If I'm worried about being hungry later, I'm more likely to overeat.
  • Pay close attention to diminishing returns. The first bites are always the tastiest. If I keep eating the not-as-good bites that come later, I'm only diminishing the average tastiness of the meal.
  • Pay close attention to how hungry I feel. Hungry -> time to eat. No longer hungry -> stop now. Full -> I try not to get here except on special occasions.
At restaurants:
  • Focus on socializing. This makes me eat slower, which ends up meaning eating less.
  • If I'm at a place that serves huge portions, as soon as the food comes out, I physically separate a portion that I'm planning to take home (or just not eat). Then when I finish the designated eating-portion, I feel like I got to the end.
  • Keep in mind that restaurants use huge plates. Sometimes I'll divide my dinner in half, and when I'm reheating the saved half at home I'll find that the "half" meal does not fit on the plates I own.
  • Ignore people who as me why I'm eating so little food. What do they know?

posted by Courage is going from failure to failure at 10:40 PM on August 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't count calories or weigh food, ever, and I don't have a weight problem. I eat the way I was brought up eating, which I think is a bit different to what is standard these days.

Eat much more slowly. Put you knife and fork down between every mouthful. Chew thoroughly. I astounded by how fast some people eat. I actually can't eat quickly without feeling ill.

Eat lots of vegetables, especially leafy ones. I get 6 meals (for one person) out of 2 chicken breasts and 6 cups of cooked rice, by adding a heaping serve of quickly stir-fried veggies (bok choy/peppers/red onion/carrot, etc.). If I'm cooking a piece of fish or steak, I buy the smallest one and add a salad of stuff like baby spinach, celery, avocado, tomatoes, and a hard-boiled egg or two if I've done a lot of exercise that day. Basically, cover most of your plate with lightly-cooked or raw veggies.

Only order starter/app sizes at restaurants, with a side salad, if you know the restaurant has large portions. Get used to defaulting to the smallest size of everything. If you train yourself to take smaller bites, chew thoroughly and eat more slowly (as mentioned above), you'll take the same amount of time to get through your meal as the person inhaling the large serve.

When you're making a cooked breakfast, have one piece of heavy, chewy, top-quality bread, toasted - I something like seeded sourdough - not two pieces of spongy stuff slathered in butter.

Don't 'save the best until last'. If you have a plate of food, eat your favourite bits first, so that you won't mind leaving some food on your plate if you get full.

Don't eat the free bread (unless you're legitimately really hungry).

Eat better-quality food but less of it. It really does make you feel more sated. And yes, eat it off smaller bowls/plates. For example, I have little gelato bowls that I use for breakfast, which is 1/2 cup of raw, sugar-free muesli + a few blueberries + Greek yoghurt + chia seeds + flaked almonds. It's a small volume of food but really textural, filling and nutritious. My flatmate used to eat a *basin* of some processed Cheerios-type thing.

Finally, if you buy a snack and they give you something huge and you have nobody to share it with? Just chuck half of it in the bin before you even start eating. Keep reminding yourself that there is no scarcity. If you eat too little and are still hungry, well, food is cheaply and readily available. We're not in a state of famine.

I agree with you that portion sizes are way out of control. I live in Australia, and its bad enough (and getting worse) here; my last trip to the States, I was gobsmacked by the size of the meal servings. I think you just have to take the attitude that *you* control what goes into your body.
posted by Salamander at 10:59 PM on August 31, 2013 [7 favorites]

If you're eating, focus on eating. As much as you can (and I know, it's hard), minimize other distractions. Conversation is all right (encouraged, really!), but don't eat at your desk if you can avoid it, don't eat while watching TV or clicking around Metafilter, etc. This goes for the converse as well--if you're doing something and want a snack, get up and get the snack, that's fine. But finish it before you go back to what you were doing.
posted by kagredon at 11:25 PM on August 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Get a kitchen scale and weigh your food. Weigh everything, don't estimate, and track what you're eating.

Using smaller dishes is fine, if that helps you, but plenty of food is sufficiently calorie dense (cheese, oils, nuts, etc) to still add up if you're using smaller dishes.

I weighed my food religiously for a long time and after a while, I got much better at estimating how much of something I was eating.
posted by inertia at 11:26 PM on August 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

"One serving" is fairly arbitrary. Sometimes it's based on a particular use of the ingredient. 1 serving of peanut butter or cream cheese is 1-2 tablespoons, based on the amount used to spread on bread, but other applications will use different amounts.

For things where there's no obvious typical use, serving sizes tend to be 1 teaspoon, 1 tablespoon, 1 ounce, 1 fluid ounce, or 1 cup - except when they're not. There's no set pattern.

I also recommend getting a good kitchen scale. Weighing things regularly can help you get an eye for the weight of a particular volume of food, or vice versa. Then plug them into a comprehensive nutrition database like the USDA Nutrient Database.
posted by WasabiFlux at 12:17 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Since I actually started going hungry (doing 5:2), I find I simply can't eat as much as I used to. My body just won't accept it. I've started to feel nauseous in the past when I've tried to eat as much as I used to.
posted by Solomon at 12:21 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Once a week, I make a big batch of chicken stock, skim the fat off, and keep it in the fridge. If I'm still hungry after dinner or lunch, I have a cup of warm stock with spices. It's almost like an after-dinner cocktail for me, it's absolutely delicious and I usually find that it's enough to stop me from polishing off a box of cookies.
posted by third word on a random page at 2:45 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you are anything like me, you'll probably never get to the point where your body magically tells you when you are done eating after 500 calories.

I've just had to grow to accept it. Every meal is not my last one; dinner is 4 hours away. It's OK to be hungry between meals.

I find that if I eat protein-dense foods, I get less hungry.
posted by gjc at 2:55 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Stop messing around with cup sizes, stacked dice, plates that will fool your brain and using your hand to measure things. Go on a diet and weigh your food. I lost 7 stone in 6 months on a diet which made me weigh my food and calorie count. 8 years later the weight has never come back. The weights, volumes and calories of certain foods are seared into my brain. There is no wriggle room with scales. It changed my life.
posted by mani at 2:58 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a kid I ate very little. As in, a Chicken McNugget Happy Meal was too much food for me. By the third nugget I was stuffed. I also could never finish a can of soda. All in all, I probably could have stood to eat more back then, although my tiny appetite is no longer so tiny.

What I think was going on:

1) I get bored of the same flavor/food. The four-egg omelet at the local diner may be tasty, but I'm sick of it halfway through. Maybe you can experiment with eating mono-flavored or mono-textural meals where the 5th bite is still delicious but the 20th is boring and so it's easier to just stop eating?

2) On the other hand, certain flavors/mouth sensations were so extreme (to me), that I couldn't handle very much of them. The carbonation of soda was too fizzy. The sweetness of ice cream too cloying. If you reduce the frequency with which you eat the most dangerously seductive items (but not go completely cold turkey), you may find that a little goes a long way. Lately I've slowed down my juice consumption and find that I now have to water down the cranberry juice because straight from the bottle tastes way too sweet.

Good luck with shrinking your portion sizes.
posted by spamandkimchi at 3:40 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Taking smaller bites will help you eat more slowly, and you'll savor the food as well. The taste is the same and your food lasts longer. Along the same lines, slice cheese super thin.
posted by tiger tiger at 3:47 AM on September 1, 2013

"Serving sizes" are arbitrary. All they're really intended to do is enable you to get a mental picture of how much you're eating. Those images you've got there? According to that, eating a single New York strip is like three servings of meat at a go. A decent-sized T-bone would be more like four. Hell, even a single chicken breast would be at least two servings. Eating any of those things at a single sitting hardly counts as gluttony, though in some cases--particularly the T-bone--you probably wouldn't want to do it every day.

So I think you can probably forget the idea of what counts as a "normal" serving sizes. The serving sizes you're looking at aren't at all related to what people actually do/should eat, they're designed as basically "food units" for nutritionists.

That being said, yeah, we probably eat too much. But the solution to that isn't to figure out what counts as a "normal serving size" and eat that, it's just to eat less than you're currently eating. So when you sit down to serve yourself something, just give yourself a little less than you think you'd otherwise want. Smaller dishes really do help here. Again, the point is not to reach some kind of objective standard of "normal," it's just to eat better.
posted by valkyryn at 3:51 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Myplate.gov or even better, the harvard food plate. Shows you what food should look like on your plate.
posted by SyraCarol at 4:22 AM on September 1, 2013

It isn't very environmentally friendly, but I eat out of 6 oz Dixie cups a fair bit. I like my yoghurt 9% fat, I enjoy potato salad, I'm not generally interested in food that is made to be low calorie -- when I eat I want it to be delicious. Since it's creamy and delicious it's not much of a sacrifice to only have 6 oz of it. (That's just for little high-calorie treats, of course. I don't have 6oz of cherry tomatoes.)

I have a selection of plastic children's cups and dishes (because I have a young daughter) and I frequently eat off them myself. Modern dishes, and glasses, are absurdly large. Maybe you want to chuck all your current dishes and cups? Not for kiddie plates, but look for pre-80s sizing. 1950s-era, maybe. Small example of 50s portions -- 7oz glasses are still relatively easy to find.

I need to make the mental shift so that eating normal portions feels right and good, not like I'm depriving myself

Does the second link not help do that? Those portions ARE four normal meals. Those meals are gluttony, not a treat.

I'm usually thin but I gained weight postpartum; once I realised how much bigger I was I slashed my portions and made this painless by eating only the nicest possible foods. If you eat out a lot, maybe you want to change the sort of restaurant you go to? Lots of places will give you tiny quantities of unusually delicious things instead of Cheesecake Factory buckets of mediocre.

Another thing I've found helpful in cutting portion sizes is to finish my meal, and, if I am still hungry, I wait about twenty minutes. If I am indeed still hungry then, seconds it is. But quite often after twenty minutes are up I'm no longer interested.
posted by kmennie at 5:39 AM on September 1, 2013

One thing I do with cheese is I buy nicer cheese and then I don't want to eat as much of it and am satisfied with, usually, even a smaller amount than the 3 stacked dice. I'm not talking about super expensive cheese, but it might be a little chunk from Whole Foods or a cheese shop that is a few dollars as opposed to getting a huge brick of Kraft cheese for the same price.

i also do this with chocolate and dessert. I trained myself to like dark chocolate(took awhile) but now I usually find milk chocolate too sweet. When I do eat milk chocolate or even dark chocolate with sweeter additions in it, I eat a lot more of it. Recently I was having cravings and I cut them by just buying a bar of straight dark chocolate 70%. I can always just have a couple squares of straight dark chocolate and it seems to nip other cravings in the bud.

For everyday portion control, make sure you're getting enough fiber. I eat a lot of beans and lentils(didn't used to) and I find that when I eat them regularly I simply don't have the urge to snack that I otherwise do. Also pay attention to how you feel while you're eating - mindful eating - and pay attention to your body's cues that it has had enough.

For help with this, read French Women Don't Get Fat - seriously it's just such a good book I recommend it to everyone.
posted by fromageball at 6:29 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Make sure you get your fats. Fats satiate and help turn off the cravings.
Make sure you use real sugar - preferably unrefined. Sugar helps regulate insulin appropriately and helps turn off the cravings.
Eating 3 times a day means you are probably 5-6 hours apart (with a long break for dinner). That means you are going into starvation mode, that means the mind will crave more.
Smaller portion, 5-6 times a day. Skip the snack.

Portion size - 4 oz protein - that's meant to be eaten at every meal. Please note the part that said get your fats. Ergo - Bacon is not the enemy - it can be a way of life if you like.
Similarly - 1C veggies every meal. Notice I didn't say fruit. Good news, fruit has natural sugars, but it is NOT a vegetable replacement. Raw leafy greens that aren't iceberg lettuce are great, cooked leafy greens like chards, kales, collards, and spinach are also great.
Starches - whole grains, planned small portions, 2-3 times a day. You'll get plenty more inadvertently. This also gives you opportunity to sample something at other times during the day.
Fruits: palette cleansers and dessert.

Vinegars: Read your vinegar labels. If it says corn syrup - no. If it says grape mist - yes. If it says something you can't pronounce - no. If it says distilled and lists a fruit - yes.
Sugars: Raw Sugars (turbindo or whatever its called, sugar in the raw, agave nectar, soucannatt, real maple syrup). Those are good things. Notice: Bacon. Every. Morning. With. Maple. Syrup.

Cheese: get the other stuff in, then bring cheese in a few days later. You'll find those 3 dice are a lot more manageable with an always satiated stomach.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:01 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with everything above, and its pretty much all been said but just wanted to chime in that I am that person who never finishes their plate, is the last person eating at the table always and always has a friggin fridge full of leftovers (wasting food drives me crazy but that's another issue).

My biggest advice is to slllloooooowwwwwww dooooowwwwwwnnnn. Eat a bite and chew and swallow. Let it settle. Take a breath. Have a little to drink and then go for another. Stop eating when you feel 80% full - meaning, you are feeling no longer hungry, like you could have a bit more, but the point: you are no longer hungry. Then stop. You won't feel stuffed, you'll feel energized and good, regardless of whether you just had a lobster Caesar salad with full fat dressing, or part of a cheeseburger, or a fruit salad. Then get the rest to go! (Enter my leftover food problem).
posted by floweredfish at 7:16 AM on September 1, 2013

If you are ordering foodstuffs from a fast food establishment, get the sandwich instead of the combo. Drink water.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:34 AM on September 1, 2013

Nthing switching up your vegetables to carbs ratio. As long as they're not fried or in heavy sauce, you can eat tons of vegetables, and they're more interesting than pasta or rice. Be on the lookout for totally useless carbs, too, and cut them when you can: for example, the giant tortillas they use at burrito joints are bland and full of empty calories, and don't even do that great a job at holding the burrito together, so I get burrito bowls instead. I've found that if you reduce your carb intake without eliminating it completely, and substitute whole grains whenever you can, you lose your taste for the mediocre stuff, and you start to really enjoy the good stuff. Commercial macaroni will be unappetizing, and high-quality bread made with white flour will taste even better.

As for things like cheese: I tend to save cheese for when I can really enjoy it (and I really love cheese). There are some dishes where adding cheese doesn't seem to make much difference, so I've started skipping it. But I won't feel bad about eating a bunch of super-fancy cheese every now and then.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:47 AM on September 1, 2013

A few years ago, when my husband got laid off, we pretty much gave up eating out. Even after we were back on our feet, we still rarely eat out--cooking at home really made restaurant portions seem insane and a waste of money.

When I do go out, I either order a salad or something really spicy (or if that's not an option, something I don't normally love, like fish). I can rarely physically finish a restaurant-sized salad, and something spicy or not my favorite is easy to abandon halfway through the meal without regret.

Also, fwiw, I have found that cutting every carb I can for breakfast and lunch helps keep me from going back for seconds at dinner.
posted by elizeh at 8:53 AM on September 1, 2013

Just a small tip and kind of obvious, but a remarkable number of people in my family seem to have forgotten about it since they taught me etiquette as a child: only cut off one bite at a time, lower fork and knife, chew, and only then cut off the next bite. This should slow you down a little and help you eat less in the 15-20 minutes it takes for satiety signals to fully hit the brain.
posted by apolune at 9:02 AM on September 1, 2013

You might find, after forcing yourself to eat less for just a few days, that you really do FEEL BETTER when you eat healthy portion sizes. I used to overeat quite frequently, and never realized how terrible it made me feel until a period of illness cut my appetite, I started to eat less, and I realized that I just feel BETTER when I don't stuff myself to the gills. I have less indigestion, less bloating, feel lighter and more energized, and don't regret the last bite. It's pretty amazing.

For me, part of the overeating is not just feeling hungry, but having a habit of spending x amount of time eating. So for example, taking lunch to work - I would take lots of crunchy carbs and huge volumes of dry cereal, chips, crackers, etc. because I felt like it should take me 20-30 minutes to eat lunch (a holdover from school days I guess?). If I were eating normal portion sizes of sandwiches, chips, cookies, it would only take me 5 min to eat lunch. So instead of adjusting a lifelong time habit, I replaced all of those huge volumes of time-consuming-to-eat carbs with leafy greens, crunchy veggies, etc. and I still get my 30 minute long meal, but I eat less food density overall.

I also agree with plate/container size. I started packing my lunch in these Ziploc divided rectangle containers, and I put fruit & veggies in the big section, protein in the middle sized one, and cheese or nuts in the smallest one as "dessert" and when I finish, I feel "done" because the box is empty! It's also much easier to pack than 5-6 small plastic baggies or tupperwares.
posted by raspberrE at 9:07 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Someone mentioned it, but make sure you are eating fat. For example--I completely stopped eating nonfat dairy (yogurt, milk, etc) because I found that if I ate a bowl of cereal with nonfat milk, I can eat like five bowls. With 2%, I have one bowl and I'm done. It's the same with yogurt.

All that being said, as people mentioned, portion sizes are pretty irrelevant. For example--one egg is considered one serving. I don't know about you, but the eggs I buy are 80 calories. If I had one egg for breakfast I wouldn't make it two hours, even if I put veggies and bread with that. Two eggs? Perfect. Sure, it's two serving sizes, but then I'm not grabbing bread to add with it.

Trying to associate nausea with eating too much could lead to emetophobia. It sucks. Don't do it. For this reason I don't have many good tips for you beyond the above :/.
posted by obviousresistance at 9:39 AM on September 1, 2013

I'm a 120-lb woman married to a 160-lb man, and I work in the construction industry so spend a lot of time eating with guys with much higher TDEE than me. One easy thing to do is make sure I'm not matching them drink-for-drink/portion-for-portion/whatever. If I'm regularly polishing off servings of food the same size as the site-based 6 footers sitting opposite me, I will gain weight, I have seen that in action.

Coursera has a free University of Pittsburgh course on nutrition as it relates to health ongoing at the moment which I've been taking, and is pretty interesting.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:59 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

These things helped me lose 75 lbs and keep it off, with only minimal fluctuations:

-cut or measure food into reasonable portion sizes and store it that way. It will make you much more aware of what you're taking in.

-look at your food, smell it before digging in, and chew it slowly. Make sure it touches every part of your tongue before swallowing.

-get over the idea that leaving food on your plate is a waste. It's just as wasted if it ends up as surplus fat on your butt.

-ask yourself "am I satisfied?" rather than "am I full?" and stop eating when the answer is yes.
posted by rpfields at 3:27 PM on September 1, 2013

I have found with desserts, especially ice cream, that paying close attention to it as I eat it is key. The first bites are so, so delicious, and then as I go on, it is still good but that incredible special amazingness is gone. So eating less at a time means that I am maximizing the deliciousness for myself, because if I have a little bit each time, then it is always at peak deliciousness when I eat it, and I try to stop a bite or two after that peak flavor is lost. I've come to find larger portions just too much - even if I eat them I consider it wasteful, because I'm not truly appreciating what I'm eating. Once you're really in tune with this measure of your own satisfaction, it's easier to leave things on the plate because you know you don't need more - you've had the best and it's only downhill flavorwise from there.

I'm not sure how you get to this point, it kind of happened naturally for me (and I'm not there at all with other things, like potato chips!). Quitting obvious sugar for a month (not all sugar, because that requires a lot of vigilance, just the stuff you know has it) can help, because it will sensitize you to it and smaller amounts will have more impact when you start eating it again.

High quality might be helpful here. There is so much incredibly good gourmet ice cream where I live, and it's much richer than regular ice cream, so a smaller amount has more flavor and more fat than the generic stuff and is thus more satisfying. Good luck!
posted by sumiami at 9:58 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

I know it can be done and I'm willing to work hard.

Eat naked.

Portion control includes meal control. It does you no good to have small portions if you can easily eat many small portions and other unscheduled and unconsidered snacks.

The answer (at least when you're at home) is to eat naked. Or in your underwear, if you can't eat naked for some reason. Or in your bathing suit, if even the underwear is unacceptable for some reason. In fact, the best might be to wear skimpy exercise clothes because you are also going to exercise. In any case, before you eat anything with calories (even one cookie), you need to strip down to mostly skin, look in the mirror, stand on a scale, and then sit down to eat your carefully considered portions.

You can do this easily for breakfast because you're getting out of bed or out of the shower before going off to your daily whatevers. While you're out during the day, you'll just have to imagine that you're naked. When you come home again, you can peel off everything and relax with a meal.

If you stick to this, it will discourage casual snacking and it will make you think about how much you load on to your plate.
posted by pracowity at 6:36 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Quit going to restaurants. Restaurants are not your friend; they don't give a crap about portions. For a few months, cook all your own food yourself. In particular, focus on cooking smallish things, and try to get them just right. Over time, you'll gradually stop regarding food as heaps of raw material to consume and begin to see it as an art form that can be savored even in smaller portions. Then, when you start going to restaurants again, ordering won't be about how much you can consume; it'll be about enjoying the taste of a particular dish, no matter what size it is.
posted by koeselitz at 8:10 AM on September 2, 2013

I spent one month eating measured single portions of things (reading packages, food guidelines, using measuring tools). I also looked at the calorie count on everything. This was part of a diet I did. I was freaking ravenous and the grumpiest person for 3 weeks. Then some things changed!

1) I learned how to eyeball what a single portion is.
2) A single portion started to become enough to satiate me. Eating more than that made me feel uncomfortably full.
3) I stopped eating so many sweets and junky things. Once I realized that one bag of chips had the same number of calories as breakfast and lunch put together, then I had a better way of understanding what was going in my body.
posted by dottiechang at 10:43 AM on September 2, 2013

Your best ally in this is your brain. It should know when your body has received enough sustenance and calories. The problem that a typical American has is that the type of food consumed has a very skewed profile that confuses your brain. Take soda for example: it has sodium (which is supposedly to help trigger your thirst mechanism) with the end result of you drinking more than what you need. Other types of food is the same: salt, sugar, artificial flavors and aroma to trigger that part of your brain to consume more. In my case, I would stop eating only after my stomach had been filled up. That was the only way I knew that I was full.

My advice would then be to throw away ALL processed and restaurant food. For at least a month. Let your brain be trained again to receive the proper signals of what it feels like to be full as you consume real food. I subscribed to Paleo diet though I do not think you have to.

I used to be able to consume a burrito the size of a newborn baby. Now I can recognize much better when I've had enough even before my stomach tells me I'm full. And I'm much better able to split restaurant food into 2 or more portions.

That's the being full part. The social and habit parts are harder to break. I still do feel the urge to finish my restaurant food even after I'm full because....well...that's the way I've always done it. So tricks like dividing up the food and asking for a to go box in the beginning of the course might be very helpful.
posted by 7life at 1:29 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Make friends with people with the same mental outlook.

Remember that friends twice your weight will eat twice as much.

Note that a pound of muscle burns 70 calories a day, while a pound of fat burns 2 calories. Adding ten pounds of muscle (which is a lot!) burns 3.5 Snickers bars, each and every day, even if you sit on your butt all day and do nothing.

So, basically; if you want to eat more, exercise notably more, with a goal to change some fat into muscle. If you don't want to do much work, look around for the person who looks like they're about as out of shape as you are, but slightly thinner, and eat what they eat. You can always snack later.

Also, carbs are the damn devil as far as weight gain, for about half of Americans. For the rest, they don't seem to matter much, but yeah, we all get a different hand of cards.
posted by talldean at 7:17 PM on September 6, 2013

I read a fine article titled "Fooled by Food" in the April 2013 edition of the Nutrition Action Healthletter. They interviewed Brian Wansink at Cornell, director of the Food and Brand Lab. He wrote a book called "Mindless Eating - Why we eat more than we think" which seems to be especially appropriate for your question.

Here he is with an interesting insight into dish/container sizes:

"Q: How do serving or package sizes affect how much we eat?

A: If you want to be skinny, you have to think skinny, not wide. We're not used to looking at width the same way we're used to looking at height. We pay more attention to height. So you're in greater danger of overeating from a wide bowl than from a taller, skinnier bowl or glass.

Q: Why?

A: In nature, something that's tall is more of a threat than something that's wide. Most animals look at height as an indication of how threatening a predator is. We don't see wide things as a threat.

Q: So we don't notice that something that's twice as wide holds twice as much?

A: Right. If you let children choose something in a tall and skinny container versus a wide and fat container--even if the wide container holds a lot more candy or potato chips--they always go for the tall, skinny container because they think it's got more.

Even professional bartenders in Philadelphia poured 31 percent more alcohol into short, wide glasses than into tall, skinny glasses. We see the distance from bottom to top, not side to side.

Q: So companies shrink width, not height, when they make packages smaller?

A: Yes. If they're going to shrink the size of a package, the best thing to do is to leave the height alone and shrink the width or diameter, because people pay more attention to height."

Other tips from the article:
1. use not just smaller dishes but smaller spoons
2. a package of cookies marked "small" may actually cause you to eat more of them
3. people gravitate towards medium-labelled offerings at fast food places. This is a problem if the "medium" is actually fairly big.
4. even if you don't *use* small dishes, having them around in your cupboard is a good idea because it makes your "normal" dishes look big.
5. if you eat in a group, be wary of following their food quantity habits by default
6. the pictures on the boxes of snack foods can influence how many you eat. Packages with pictures of say 10 crackers on the box encourage people to eat more than packages with pictures of 4 or 5 crackers
7. people tend to eat more of foods that are labelled "healthy" or "organic". This applies to restaurants as well. People underestimate the calorie counts at Subway more than they do at McDonalds
8. people usually underestimate the calorie count of restaurant meals by 25%. To make better guesses look at the individual items or ingredients in the meal and tally it up that way.
9. do not leave snack foods out in the open or easily visible.
10. one reason why we don't get as fat eating cheese and vegetables is that they take longer to chew compared to junk snacks.
11. the first food you see at a buffet will influence what you pick to eat. So at home, make sure the fruits and veggies are front and center. Serve them first.
12. you can be equally satisfied after a casual snack that varies in size by up to 20%. Therefore cut the size of your snack by a fifth and you won't alter your enjoyment of eating or satiety. The reason is that after you have swallowed something you don't have a precise memory of what you ate. So minutes later, you remember the food tasted good but you don't remember how many bites you had.
13. people tend to eat slower and less in soft-light, soft music restos, compared to in loud, bright restos. Do the same at home, eat with the tv off
14. be aware that higher stress leads to more eating
15. keep food off your desk at work
16. it's a myth that people buy more food at the supermarket if they're hungry. They buy the same amount, but they buy more junk food.
17. some foods have built in cues for quantity. e.g. chicken wings - you can count the bones. Chicken tenders, not so much.
18. the more variety you are exposed to in a meal, the more calories you end up eating
19. beware of fancy food names - we tend to eat more of a "succulent italian seafood filet" compared to a "seafood filet"


My own personal weight reduction tip is to weigh yourself every morning. I'm in the school that says you cannot control what you can't measure. Over several months, you get a feeling for what and how much food affects your weight. It is not as simple as just counting calories because of individual metabolic differences. E.g. 100 calories of peanuts not the same as 100 cals of sugar.
posted by storybored at 6:52 PM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

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