Baby Step 10: What’ll You Have?

My Southern grandmother’s way of asking if we wanted more was not, “Would you like some more?”  It was “What’ll you have?”

BabyStep10In other words, “Which of these delicious things will you have more of now?”  And it was hard, both physically and socially, to not promptly pick your personal favorite of her offerings.  For me it was her hot milk cake, her watermelon rind pickles, her homemade biscuits with homemade plum jelly or her sugar cookies.  Notice the sweet theme…. oh yes, I was a sugar hound!!  It was not only delicious but complimentary to have more.

Our culture has become very much about more.  If you have’t seen Super Size Me, I highly recommend it for an eye opener on serving sizes (and other outrageously egregious practices) in fast food restaurants.  The film has some rough language and frank talk about sex, so may not be appropriate for younger kids.

In the less is more and more is really more dichotomy of our culture that loves:
both skinny bodies and large breasts;
both many choices and extra large servings;
both designer names and cheap food;
both the most expensive health care system in the world and the 37th most effective health care system…
we are in a watermelon rind pickle indeed.

And apparently, it’s a much larger watermelon rind pickle than I ate as a child.  Check out how portions have increased over the years (and this includes the size of plates!).

Of course, weight is not the only issue that we are concerned with here at The Pantry, but to be honest it is often the card that brings people to the table.  It certainly played a role in my desire to eat more healthfully.  Even so, controlling weight and embracing good health is about so much more than food.  That’s why it is so difficult.  Even Oprah Winfrey who can hire the best chefs in the world to prepare healthy food struggles with her weight.  Food is so much more than nourishment to us.  As Givers and Recipients of food we have a lot to sort through in order to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to food choices and the concomitant health effects we generate.  We are trying to tackle different elements of the struggle in our Baby Steps series.

People will argue over whether what you eat or how much you eat has a greater impact on health and weight, but of course as is so often the case, the middle ground, or in this case, paying attention to both, makes a lot of sense.   We have talked a lot in our Baby Steps series about WHAT you eat.  We should put a little attention here on HOW MUCH you eat.  Buckle up because American advertising and culture has set us up for a fall here.

As a teenager we had a Farrells’ Ice Cream Parlor in our town.  Farrell’s had a ridiculously large banana split and a promise.  If you finished the ridiculously large banana split, you got a button that said, “I made a pig of myself at Farrell’s!”  This was to be worn with pride.  I’m sure you’ve encountered similar contests at other restaurants.  Big Bro (not to be confused with Biggest Bro of sneezing on his French Fries fame) once won a pie eating contest.   His prize was a coupon for a free cheeseburger and fries at a local deli.  He almost threw up when they announced his prize.

“More, more, more…. How do you like it, How do you like it?  More, more more!”  Click here for a trip down 70’s Disco Singer with Really Bad Hair Lane

There are a few tricks to eating less and one of them is to understand what an intended portion is.  Knowledge is power, right?  I think that this is one of the reasons why Weight Watchers is one of the few truly successful weight loss programs out there.  They teach portion control.  So, here are some tips for eating less…. eating less bad stuff…. and finally a few graphics to help your eyes and brain become accustomed to reasonable food portions.

1) Start with vegetables.  It is not possible to eat too many vegetables.  Really.  I wouldn’t consume a whole bag of greens in one setting as you might be asking for a little digestive trouble, but seriously, you will know when you’ve had enough vegetables.  Get your stomach a little full with vegetables.

2) Slow down.  Lots of research shows that the hormones that indicate satiation take a little while to let us know we are full.  That’s why sometimes you don’t get uncomfortably full until a little after you eat.  You’re already full; you just don’t know it.

3) Use smaller plates.  This is a restaurant trick and it works very well.  A serving looks smaller on a large plate and larger on a small plate.  Choose the smaller plate or bowl and then your eyes will be closer to the size of your stomach ;-)

4) Use Pre-emptive Produce.  We talked about this once before… but it’s a trusted tool in our house.  Before a snack of the salty or sweet variety can take place, a serving of fruit or vegetable must happen.  Thus, my son eats a carrot or a half an apple before he can have some pretzels or a cookie after school.  The smaller portion of snack is not as depressing when there is already food in the stomach, and the balance of healthy to less healthy is better.

5) When snacking – Put snack into a small dish and then put the bag / container away before taking dish to the couch or your desk or out on the deck.  It is very hard to practice portion control with a whole box, bag or container of something you enjoy right in front of you.

6) Make extra of your favorite vegetable dishes and use them as a snack.  We’ve been taught that snack means a handful of unhealthy items.  Buck that trend and eat some roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes and beets, or creamed kale or special green beans.  You’ll be glad you did.  And again – when was the last time somebody ate a whole container of vegetables?  A whole bag of potato chips?  A whole bag of oreos?  An entire bunch of broccoli?

7) Share an entree at a restaurant with someone.  You might be pleasantly surprised by how full you are for less money!

Here is a graphic that compares measured amounts with household items to let you better align portion size with recommendations.

Here is another that uses portions of your hand to describe measurements.

And remember to be kind to yourself!  Change is not easy.  It takes support and encouragement, and who better to give it to you than your own sweet self ;-)  The beauty of Baby Steps is that a step backwards is small and easy to attempt again.

Please share portion control stories!  Personally, I know that anyone who buys a Big Gulp could not possibly be a nurse on the way to work because nurses don’t get enough breaks in the day for a Big Urinate ;-)

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30 responses

  1. Food is so complicated isn’t it? Culture, tradition, comfort, companionship; nourishment sometimes seems to fall to the bottom of a long list. I think often about the idea that “food is love,” and how sometimes that love can be oppressive and unhealthy. Very thoughtful post. The comparisons are great (skinny bods/big ta-tas, etc.)! Okay, so it’s not just food that is complicated – we are some wacked out folk!

    • Wacked out indeed! Of course the complexity does keep thangs interesting ;-) And I think you are spot on about the dark side of ‘Food is Love’ There is a huge measure of control in feeding children (or in the giving up of control) – and when is it appropriate to do that – and how much, etc., etc.,…. I feel another post coming on… ;-)

  2. That is so interesting, I also popped across to see the portion size. While here in Australia ours haven’t changed as dramatically it’s certainly not stopping us from being one of the world most obese nations either.

    • I do hold myself to the same rule :-) It is amazing how eating a carrot first changes the snack amount and choice. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I keep a photo {quite large} of myself when I was overweight, close to me, and I “have” to look at it every day to remind me of the doctors words “..if you do not lose weight, you will not see your kids graduate from high school..”. That was enough to let me lose over 50 lbs in 4 months and I have maintained my weight since then. Thank you for sharing this informative, and helpful post at our ALL MY BLOGGY FRIENDS party !

    Linda
    With A Blast

    • Thank you for hosting and for sharing your story. Congratulations! It is indeed a daily battle and requires lots of reminders, doesn’t it? So glad for you AND for your kids!

  4. Great topic! I’m here through your link at Little House in the Suburbs, FYI.

    A.J. Jacobs, in his (very fun) book _Drop Dead Healthy_, describes training himself to eat smaller portions by using a dessert plate instead of a dinner plate and, the really genius part, eating with a pickle fork. This made him take smaller bites, so he ate more slowly, so he filled up on less food. Taking more time to eat is key, too, since it takes at least 20 minutes to register that you’re feeling full. Nowadays we’ve all been trained to shovel our food in as fast as possible, ugh.

    • That’s hilarious! A pickle fork is a great idea and certainly would slow you down! Lots of research indicates the health benefits of family dinners at the table – you can bet slowing down because conversation is going on is one of them! Thanks for stopping by :-)

    • Thank you Marigene – salad plates are an awesome idea. They’ve probably gotten bigger as well and are now the size that dinner plates used to be ;-) Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I can’t find smaller dinner plates. So, we have been using salad plates for dinner plates for a couple of years now. Can’t say it has helped with the weight issues, but that’s another story.

      • What a great idea. I like having a variety of dishes, so that would make it fun to get smaller plates as well. Someone gave me some modern plates that are literally about 14″ square. Its crazy. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. This is definitely one of the hardest struggles for me. I am a big time stress eater. When I am really being good, I always weigh out my snacks and put in a bowl. I never bring the bag with me. I am going to try the premptive fruit or veggies. That is a great idea.

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  8. I remember that sundae…ugh!!

    The hardest part for me is what you opened with…the food pushing relatives! My plan is to eat very slowly. I have to really watch my blood sugar, so that’s another issue. I really don’t want to announce my medical issues to the entire table…hopefully it will not come to that!!!!

    • As a diabetic, I find it hard to imagine my family not knowing about my medical issues. When we have a family dinner (and that count is up to 30+ now), I am usually asked to bring the dessert so that I can bring something that works for me, but is still delicious for everyone else.

      • That is wonderful that your family works with you. And with 30+, you have to bring a lot of whatever you bring ;-)
        Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    • Food at family gatherings is so complicated isn’t it? Tradition, love, desire to please or impress, wanting to receive gracefully, and of course still wanting to enjoy something special and mind medical needs is a lot of things to balance! Thanks for your comment :-)

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