We’re very lucky to have Amanda Clark prepare this post for us today.
So many people have body image and weight issues as either a primary or secondary problem they come to me with. I can help you talk about the psychology side but Amanda has lots of experience with the practical. If this is you, I recommend you check out her website too – there’s a link at the end.
Food is an essential and pleasurable feature of life. One that creates a healthy body at one level of intake, and takes it away when the balance is too high or too low.
Our bodies create hormonal messages on the inside that remind us to eat but there are so many other messages coming from outside that add to the conversation.
The fact is that we tend to eat whatever is in front of us – and sometimes what’s in front of others too!
Portion sizes of common foods have increased dramatically over the past three decades. Not just because fruit and veg are growing bigger but because marketing companies like us to buy more of their products and they like their packages to serve as billboards in the supermarket to capture our attention.
There was a nice piece of research carried out some years ago where local Parisians were asked how they know when it’s time to stop eating. They said things like “when food no longer tastes so good” or “when I feel satisfied”. The same questions in Chicago brought responses like “when the plate is empty” or “when everybody else has finished eating”
Oh to be more French! They used internal messages to determine when they had eaten enough whereas the American’s used external cues. How do you decide?
The fact is that we are very influenced by our environment. The bigger our dinner plate, the more we eat, the bigger the bowl, the more we eat, the bigger the cup, serving bowl, serving spoon or supermarket trolley, the more we eat, all without significant awareness.
Maybe you’ve noticed how your café coffee has changed over time. 30 years ago, a takeaway coffee would have been served in one of those polystyrofoam cups on the right in the image shown here. It would have been based on water and even if you added 2 sugars and full cream milk, the most you had in there was 85 Cals. Today you can scale on up to the Starbucks Venti with over 500 Cals depending on your choice of coffee.
Figure 1 Coffee comparison
Even dietitians are not immune. Several studies have either used nutrition professionals or students who had just learned about the effect of portion size. They served them either smaller or larger serves of ice cream, pasta or other foods and still those with the larger plate or bowl ate more. Even once a portion is far too much to consume in one sitting, if we pile more on your plate, you will likely eat another mouthful or two.
Because the influence of portion size is not fixed through education or awareness, we can help along our attempt to be more internally focussed by serving the right amount of food and studying how that feels. This way we might recognise that “just enough” amount of food in future eating occasions.
At Great Ideas in Nutrition on the NSW / QLD border we can closely estimate how much is right to eat for your needs.
We recommend that when you aim to eat less than you need – to reverse the gradual gain most people are experiencing, that you just shave a little off your intake several times per day rather than skipping meals or making drastic, unsustainable or unsociable changes.
If you have lost touch with your appetite and can’t identify that feeling of satisfaction, we recommend using an external measure of portion control to help avoid the portion creep.
We designed the Portion Perfection plate for just that purpose.
Figure 2 The Portion Perfection Plate
Look to the plate for 3 key components of healthy eating for optimal weight.
- Nutritional Balance – choose ¼ of your intake as protein foods including red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu or legumes, ¼ as low glycemic index (GI) carbohydrate foods such as low GI potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, peas, corn, pasta or long grain rice. The most important component is ½ plate of low starch vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, beans, zucchini, cabbage, lettuce, cucumber or tomato. We have a few different ways you can use your plate, but that is a good start.
- Portion Control – If you fill just the base of this plate, 2 cm deep in the middle, and to the above pattern, you will have 350 Cals which is the ideal amount for women aiming to lose weight. Fill to the edge in this way and you have approx. 450 Cals which is ideal for men aiming to lose weight or women aiming to maintain weight. Men aiming to maintain weight can afford to have an extra something with dinner such as a small tub of yoghurt, a cup of fruit or a small dessert.
- Mindful eating – It seems the more we think about what we are doing, the more we notice the effects. Just by focussing on the taste, texture, temperature and aromas of your meal, you feel more satisfied. This strategy is also helpful for getting back in touch with internal cues, including finding that place of “satisfaction” rather than fullness.
If you are looking for weight change, start with your evening meal tonight – be mindful of the makeup of your plate and invite your senses to the table. Enjoy!
Amanda Clark is a local Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and creator of Portion Perfection – a visual weight control plan. You can access the tools described above alone or in combination with dietetic services for weight management in Tweed Heads or via telehealth.
Download a free sample Healthy Snack Bible from our website
Great Ideas in Nutrition www.greatideas.net.au or find us on
Facebook: www.facebook.com/portionperfection or
Figure 3 A selection of Portion Perfection Products