Maitre D: And finally, monsieur, a wafer thin mint.
Mr. Creosote: I couldn’t eat another thing. I’m absolutely stuffed.
~“Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life”
It’s not hard to see how eating habits in America have spiraled out
of control, and I’m not talking about the plethora of all-u-can-eat
buffets at every highway exit. If you’re getting in line at Bob’s
Country Store for one more helping of fried catfish, and while you’re
up, maybe you grab some of that apple cobbler with ice cream to share
with Mama, then you’re out of the scope of this blog. What I’m
talking about is the fact that most portion sizes intended for one person
at restaurants can practically feed an entire family. And just think about
it: when was the last time that you went to a restaurant and could see
your plate under the food on it. Once you shovel through the super chimichanga
with rice and beans or the slab of ribs with a side of beans, mac n’
cheese and Texas toast, you notice that the “plates” are the
size of butcher blocks. Heck, there’s a barbeque joint out there
that serves the food on aluminum trashcan lids. Our portions are out of
control, and I have some easy tips to help you manage portion size at
home and when you’re eating out as well as the reasons why losing
only 10 pounds can vastly improve your health.
Use Your Hands
The easiest way to control portions is to use your hands. You don’t
have to carry around measuring cups, a deck of cards or a tennis ball
as a visual cue because your hands are always at the table with you. For
each meal, you can have one of each below.
Here’s how it works:
- Your palm determines your protein (chicken, beef, fish, etc.)
- Your cupped hand determines your starch.
- Your thumb determines your fat.
- Your fist (one or two) for vegetables.
- Your palm again for fruit.
Keep in mind that these are just basic guidelines. For taller than average
people or those who are actively exercising, you may consider increasing
your calorie count. The important point here is to understand what a proper
portion looks like. The hand method is an easy way to stay within proper
portions. To get more detailed information, I recommend visiting
livestrong.com—the website has a great calorie tracker—and
precisionnutrition.com, which goes into more depth about portion control and weight loss.
Portion Control Tips
Here are few more additional portion control tips that are common sense
but can help reinforce good portion habits:
- Drink a full glass of water before eating. It will initiate that fullness
feeling in your stomach.
- Half is the new whole. Split an entrée or take half home for the next day.
- Be mindful of how much butter you put on your bread or dressing on your salad.
- Drink water instead of soda. Soda has wasted calories and diet sodas can
train your body to retain calories.
- Eat from smaller plates and bowls.
- Cheat with vegetables. Double up on your salad, broccoli or other low calories
- Eat slowly. It takes your brain around 20 minutes before it receives a
signal from your stomach that you’re full.
- If you drink through a straw, be wary of the calories. Just like sodas,
iced coffees all dolled up with whipped cream and caramel sauce are really
Just Ten Pounds
Now that you know how to approach portions, weight loss should be a cinch
right? That’s pretty much rhetorical because I know that weight
loss can be an intimidating and daunting task, especially for my patients
who have joint issues due to the years of increased weight on their joints.
Also, most people look in the mirror and become overwhelmed by the thought
of needing to lose 30, 50 or 100 pounds. I say, start with just
10 pounds. Below are some benefits of just losing 10 pounds:
Reduced joint pain. My favorite. Being overweight of course puts increased pressure on your
joints. For every pound of excess weight, it adds three times that amount
of pressure on your knees and hips. On the flip side, by losing 10 pounds,
you take 30 pounds off your knees! Studies show this can significantly
decrease joint pain, allow for exercise and slow the progression of arthritis.
Reduced risk for diabetes. Being overweight puts you at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. A loss
of 10 pounds reduces the risk of diabetes by 60 percent.
Lower cholesterol level. Being overweight is linked to increased low-density lipoprotein (LDLs),
also known as bad cholesterol. This can deposit plaques on the arteries,
narrowing them and leading to increased risk for strokes and heart attack.
A 10 pound weight loss can lower cholesterol by 10 percent.
Lower blood pressure/Reduced risk of heart attack. Losing 10 pounds can prevent your heart and kidneys from working too hard.
Lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol level from just a 10 pound
weight loss can result in a 50 percent risk reduction in heart attacks.
Reduced risk for sleep apnea. When you’re overweight, the increased weight can narrow the airway,
resulting in a life threatening condition called sleep apnea in which
the body inhales less oxygen than is healthy during sleep. The brain combats
this by waking up multiple times throughout the night. Losing 10 pounds
can widen the airway, decrease the effects of sleep apnea and allow for
a better night’s sleep.
Reduced risk for cancer. Though the reasons are unclear, studies have shown the risk for many types
of cancer, especially breast and uterine, are reduced with losing only
Improved sex life. Giggle, giggle. Seriously, sex drive is affected by high blood pressure
and diabetes, conditions common to overweight individuals. Erectile dysfunction
can be a problem for as many as 80 percent of overweight men
Taking less medications. Medicines to treat the resulting health conditions of being overweight—high
cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction—are
not cheap and all have their own set of side effects. By losing weight,
you will not only feel better, but may even save money on your prescriptions.
As with anything in life, the first step is usually the hardest. It’s
easy to rationalize why something can’t be accomplished. Weight
loss can be overwhelming if you look at the entire process. To the same
degree, people are amazed when they ask how long I went to school after
high school to become an orthopedic surgeon, and I say 14 years. “Wow!
I couldn’t do that,” people often say. And I couldn’t
have either had I looked at all the years at once. Instead, I focused
on one year at a time. The best way to accomplish a goal is to focus on
smaller goals. Start with trying to lose that first pound by proper portions,
honest assessment of eating habits, and hopefully a little exercise, and
soon enough, you will see positive results.
Good luck! I’m pulling for you.