3 Ways to Manage Portion Sizes Without Counting Calories
Non-dieting ways to help you decide how much to eat
One of the most frequently asked questions in our nutrition counselling practice and in participants of my online nutrition course The Pursuit of Healthiness is “how do I know if I am eating too much?”
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If you are like many of our clients you are likely tired of tracking calories, points or meticulously weighing and measuring food. Like many of our clients that are recovering from an eating disorder or a lifetime of yo-yo dieting, you need a way to help you begin to trust that you are eating the right amount of food for your needs, but in a non-obsessive way.
Moving towards a healthier relationship with food and your weight involves a progression when you are ready to ditch the external numbers and learn to trust your internal cues and become a more intuitive eater. Learning to let go of unnecessary rules about how much you are “allowed to eat” isn’t always easy and can take time, but is indeed possible with the help with an experienced dietitian that specializes in emotional eating and eating disorders.
While software, food tracking apps and recommended serving size charts can make a guess at what your body requires, you are not a robot. How much you need to eat is highly variable and will change based on your personal genetics, family history, age, muscle mass, physical activity level, stress level and sleep patterns. Your overall nutrition pattern over the last day, week and month will vary greatly depending on if you have been underfed, overeating and based on emotional triggers and learned behavior and habits we have developed over time.
Since our appetite, hunger and reasons we choose to eat change constantly, here are 3 helpful hints to begin to explore how much to eat:
#1 Use your eyes
Instead of calorie counting, consider learning to gauge food portions in a different, more intuitive way. No smart phones or calculators, carrying around measuring cups or weighing food on food scales. All you need is your eyes and hands to get started.
- Grains or starches 1/4 plate
- Vegetable and/or fruit 1/2 plate
- Source of protein 1/4 plate
#2: Use your hands
Use your hands as an extra guide to help you determine how much of each of the 3 components to have at mealtime:
- Use 1 or 2 cupped hands to help determine the size of your grains/starches at a meal.
- Use 1 or 2 fists to help determine the size of your vegetables at a meal.
- Use your palm size help determine the size of your protein
#3: Use Your Intuition
You are not a robot and your hunger and fullness will change daily like the weather. If you are full it is OK to leave food on your plate. If you are still hungry give yourself permission to have a little more. Remember it can take time for your brain and your body to connect and determine fullness. Slow down and listen to what your body is saying. When you do, your body doesn’t let you down. No judgement. Honor your hunger.