I want to give you a visual to help you better understand portion control. First, take out one of your dinner plates. Next, make a fist. Unless you have really big hands and tiny dinner plates, they will be drastically different sizes.
Your fist is roughly the size of your empty stomach. It’s very elastic (especially if you challenge it frequently by eating large portions), and it’s made to stretch to fit about a liter worth of contents. Now, picture yourself in too-tight spandex. That’s elastic too, but put too much inside it and it looks and feels uncomfortable, right?
The next time you get ready to load up a dinner plate think of your little fist-size stomach before you shovel in large bites one right after the other (without so much as time to fully chew and swallow in between).
Remember to always eat slowly so your stomach can gradually, gently stretch to accommodate your food. Your body doesn’t even know you’re eating until 20 minutes after that first bite. If you can cut back on how much you stretch your stomach at meals, your stomach will tighten back up a bit, and the rest of you will likely follow suit.
Make a habit of proper portion control and you’ll avoid that uncomfortably full feeling. Over time, you just might get away with wearing that spandex.
- Eat a rainbow. Fruits and vegetables are a wide range of beautiful colors for more reason than to make the produce section look pretty. All the colors represent different vitamins and nutrients. So, if you eat a whole bunch of different colors, you’ll get all your vitamins straight from the source.
- Fill up on water first. Often times we feel tired or hungry when we’re actually just thirsty. Water fills you up and helps lube up your intestines so everything else flows smoothly. Ever seen a dry river bed or stream? Things don’t flow so well. Same goes for plants; they die when they don’t get enough water. Plants are alive; your body is alive; you get the picture.
- Fill up on fiber. I have spoken to so many people who have cured all of their digestive issues by incorporating more vegetables, legumes and water into their diets. Water helps lube up your intestines, and fiber helps create bulk matter to move on out. Getting your fiber from your diet instead of from a supplement also incorporates more vitamins and nutrients to your diet, since most fiber rich foods are rich in those as well.
- Have healthy snacks handy. If you keep an apple, raw almonds, lunchmeat, string cheese, yogurt and/or carrot sticks on hand, you’ll be less likely to hit up the snack machine. None of these options are in the snack machine because they won’t live long enough. Take note: If they can live forever in a machine or on a shelf, they can hang out in your body that long, too. You may as well just tape those sodium, sugar and preservative – laden foods to your gut or your thighs. Raw vegetables make a healthier crunch than chips, and they hold up just as well in dips.
- Skip the soda, mixed drinks, energy drinks, specialty coffees, creamer and concentrated fruit juices. If you want to lose 5 pounds in one month, all you have to do is change what you drink. If you can stick to water, freshly brewed tea, black coffee, and the occasional glass of red wine, you’ll be well on your way to a trimmer waist. Diet drinks may appear to be safe options, but over time you can end up with some wicked bladder issues and a metabolism that thinks sweet flavors don’t require any extra work.
- Don’t try to trick your body. If you try to trick your body by feeding it fake stuff, the joke will end up on you. I’m sure I’m not the only one still apologizing to my body about the whole olestra thing.
- Eat at regular intervals. If your body isn’t fed regularly it will go into starvation mode and hold on to everything you feed it. If your body knows it can expect more, it will go ahead and use what you give it. Also, if you wait until you’re starving, you’re more likely to reach for less healthy food options.
- Picture your last meal. When you get hungry, it can feel as though you haven’t eaten in forever. You completely forget the high-calorie meal you ate just three or four hours earlier. Try keeping a food journal or picturing your last meal before you choose your next one. This will also help you to pick a wider variety of foods. Bottom line – we are fanatical about hand-sanitizer, but we pay hardly any attention to what we put in our mouths.
- Set a timer for 20 minutes. Your meals should last you 20 minutes for a couple of reasons; 1) It probably took that long for you or someone else to make a meal, so you should show your appreciation by savouring it. 2) It takes 20 minutes for your body to realize it’s being fed. Give your metabolism and digestive system a chance at keeping up with you.
- Brush your teeth. The minty clean flavor that comes with brushing your teeth or chewing sugar-free gum can deter you from eating more. You know how bad orange juice tastes after you’ve just brushed your teeth? Mint makes other flavors seem less attractive. Don’t have toothpaste or gum handy? Seek out some mint tea. Freshly brewed tea has even more to offer.
- Eat right for your size. We aren’t all the same size, so we don’t all need the same amount of food. This is easier to figure out at home than at a restaurant. Even if you’re only 120 pounds, a restaurant is still going to serve you the same amount of food as they would if you were 250 pounds. Only you can prevent overconsumption, and forest fires.
- Fill at least half of your plate with vegetables. Your plate should be at least half filled with vegetables. The other half should be a quarter of lean protein, and no more than a quarter of starch. I will never understand why we ever started covering the entire circumference of our plates with starch and then topping it with a little of the stuff that’s good for us.
- Make your carbs whole-grain. You wouldn’t serve lunchmeat on a mound of bleached flour and sugar, right? If you’re serving white bread, you might as well. As a general rule, brown is better – unless it’s the brown sugar at the grocery store that’s just regular sugar with molasses added.
- Read the label. If you don’t recognize most of the ingredients on a food label, don’t buy it. Baring spare time and ability, you should be able to recreate anything that is already prepared for you in a grocery store by purchasing all of the necessary ingredients. Looking for a healthier version of a marinade or dressing? Check out the ingredient list and mix up your own minus the artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.
- Share dessert. Split a candy bar, piece of pie, cookie, ice cream, etc. You don’t need to consume an entire mound of dessert to taste the goodness. Why anyone would ever eat a king-size candy bar is beyond me. Got a chocolate craving? Have two small pieces of dark chocolate and a cup of skim milk. You’ll feel satisfied, plus you’ll have gotten some antioxidants and calcium out of the deal.
- Start with soup or salad. Broth-based soups or leafy greens with vinaigrette will give you a head start towards a healthier meal. Better yet, order soup and salad and skip the big entrée.
- Eat breakfast. Your metabolism doesn’t start until you “break” the “fast”. Non-instant oatmeal, blueberries, a banana, eggs and whole-grain toast, etc. will work like igniter fluid.
- Eat your beans. Lentils, black beans, garbanzo beans, fava beans, northern beans, pinto beans, lima beans, kidney beans – they’re all good for your heart, great for your digestive system, they fill you up, help reduce cholesterol, and can even prevent cancer. Add them to soup, salad, pasta, roasts, ratatouille, etc.
- Try to avoid dieting. When we yo-yo diet we confuse our bodies. You don’t like it when someone is a yo-yo in a relationship, right? If you’re yo-yo dieting and trying all the fads, you’re stringing your body along.
- Give yourself a break. So you fell off the wagon one day. So what. Perfection is unrealistic. Be consistent, and try to make healthy choices 80% of the time.
- Project “Dish Makeover”: There is a healthier way to make almost everything. Makeover your favorite dish and share the recipe with friends. You might start a chain reaction of healthy yumminess.
- Make it a family affair. Go to mypyramid.gov and look up the food pyramid and portion sizes. Have your children try to keep up with what food groups they’ve had and what size servings should be on their plates at meals. If they can learn their ABC’s, they can learn Vitamins A, B, C, etc. and other important nutrition tips to live by, too.
- Make it fun. The idea is to have a healthy, positive relationship with food. Food is not your enemy, preparation and abuse are. Love yourself by feeding yourself well. Unlike a box of cheezits or donuts, your body will love you right back.
Don’t eat fake stuff. Sounds so simple, right?
I’m not talking about not eating decorative fruit. Although, it might be a better option than some things we do consume.
It’s sad that we have to look at food labels to make sure what we’re buying is actually made of what it’s called or is claiming to contain. Most cereals that claim to have fruit in them have no trace of actual fruit, and most creamers today don’t have any cream/milk product of any kind in them. Doesn’t it make you nervous when you don’t know what the ingredients listed on your food even are?
Think of it this way: if something has been removed or added to alter fat/calories or enhance color/flavor, something unnatural has likely happened to the ingredient list. An exchange has occurred, and it’s probably not to your benefit in the overall scheme of things.
Okay, so they took out some fat, but look how much sodium is in the new version…
As a rule of thumb, a short ingredient list of things you recognize is a good indicator of a quality product. In contrast, if it has enough preservatives to live in your house for a long time, it can probably live in your body a long time, too.
If you don’t recognize the ingredients you’re putting into your body, how do you expect your body to recognize them? We’re all clogged up with artificial crap and preservatives.
Yes, good, real food typically costs more; however, the money you save buying cheap, processed food will likely be spent many times over in medical fees down the line to undo the damage. Also, if you go to a farmers’ market instead of a supermarket, the price will be lower because they haven’t spent as much overhead on transportation and advertising.
The list of ailments that can be cured with a clean diet is amazing. Mood swings, digestion issues, headaches, obesity, etc. can all be helped by taking the time to make sure what you’re eating is real food.
Skip over all the fad diets, and just reach for real food. It’s a no brainer.