I gained quite a bit of weight in 2020 (about 6 kg or 13 lbs). The problem wasn’t what I was eating, because I stuck to healthy foods throughout the year. It was portion control. The problem was how much I was eating.
Portion control does not come easy to me. I started weighing out and measuring my portions a few months ago and have lost 4 kg or 8,8 lbs so far.
I do count my calorie intake, but without measuring your portions in some way, it is very hard to get a good estimate of how much you are eating.
Why Portion Control is So Important
Being aware of portion sizes is very important. If you eat a healthy diet, but you eat too many calories, you will probably gain fat, which might not be what you are after. Take me, for example — my portion sizes are mostly to blame for me maintaining my doughy figure for all these years and then gaining weight last year.
Bigger portions of healthy foods are great for people who want to gain weight and muscle, however. You may think that you are eating enough, but you might not be consuming enough calories and/or protein in order for your body to put on muscle or fat.
But if you are like me, portion sizes that are too big and eating too much overall are the main concerns.
Here are a few tips to make portion control easier:
Dish Up Mindfully
Be mindful when you dish up your food. Being aware of what portion sizes look like for different foods and knowing how many portions of each macronutrient (carbs, protein, and fat) you want to eat in a day can help you be more strategic.
If you only want one serving of carbohydrates per meal, you will need to be aware of what a portion of your carb of choice looks like. If you have a choice between two carb options and you want both, knowing what a portion size for each option looks like can help a lot, because you can have half a portion of each and still get to enjoy both.
If you want more of that healthy dessert you made, then you can always reduce the portion sizes during your main meal and possibly have two servings of dessert or if you are trying to gain, just have two dessert portions anyway. More servings equal more calories, which equals more gains.
Read Nutrition Labels
Read labels to see what a true portion size is, or you can look at the total calories, protein, carbs, and/or fat and decide how much you want to eat based on the macronutrient and/or calorie content of foods.
You might think that if you buy a candy bar, it should already come in a 1-serving portion but the one you bought could have 2 or 3 portions in one bar.
Reading labels will also teach you more about how many calories you are consuming in a day.
Eat from a Smaller Plate or Bowl (Bigger if You’re Trying to Gain)
You can eat from a smaller plate or bowl, which will make it harder to overeat if you are trying to eat less, but if you are struggling to eat enough, a bigger bowl or plate might encourage you to eat more.
Share Your Food
Sharing a slice of cake or slab of chocolate automatically means you consume less of it.
If you are at a restaurant and want to order dessert or an unhealthy main meal, you can share it with a friend or even a few friends, or you could ask the waiter to put half in a takeaway container to take home beforehand to make it less tempting to eat everything.
Meal Prep Your Food
Preparing your meals in advance can help make portion control easier. If you make your own portion-controlled ready meals, you won’t need to measure and think about portion sizes most of the time. You will only have to do it while meal prepping.
Work out the different portion sizes beforehand and divide your food into different containers. I have these small glass jars and divide my ice cream between them before freezing. That way, my ice cream is already portion-controlled, and I know exactly how much I am eating. Yes, I have eaten two or three of them at times, but I did not say you could only have one portion, I just said you have to be aware of your portion sizes.
Start Your Meals with Water or Tea
Having a big glass of water and/or some green tea can help make portion control easier. The liquid will fill part of your stomach, meaning there will be less room for food and you will be less likely to overeat.
These are just a few practical tips on how to practice portion control. Perhaps you will find your own strategies for managing how you eat and practising portion control. Whatever works for you is the best portion-control approach. You don’t need to follow all the rules someone else recommends.