Why everything in moderation is harder than it looks

Walk in any grocery store or gas station and you are likely to find aisles stocked with portions that are too big for your own good.  We all know that sodas and chips come in value size versions and who can pass up buying in bulk at their local wholesaler?  Even healthy comes in big portions and it gets harder and harder to pass up the fifty cent upgrade options at the grocery store, movie theater, or diner.

The fact is companies make money from consumers who feel secure getting more bang for their buck.  Who wouldn’t pay a little bit more to get more in return?  Unfortunately over time, portions have gotten bigger, which has inevitably led to bigger waistlines.  We can see the effects of this through widespread obesity and ill-fed accommodation by restaurants dictating the average portion size and car companies accommodating super sized behavior by increasing the size of their cup holders.

You may be shocked to hear that a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is meant to serve four people, not just you.  Yet the serving size has never been a deterrent for you who grew up with this favorite at family picnics and the increasing size of the carton it came in didn’t seem to bother you. In fact, not even a bright red warning label with a skull and cross bones would  keep you away and the free-for-all tub certainly doesn’t come with a restriction size.

Mixed messages and portion size have been combating it out for decades now, and the processed convenience foods, which have somehow replaced real food in some households, has turned against us in a bad way.

So while we can agree that everything in moderation is harder than it looks, it doesn’t have to be painstaking to practice appropriate portion size.  (You can read more about portion size from a past blog  here).  For example, proteins should be only be the size of a deck of cards but you are trained to expect at least double that at any steak restaurant you go into.  Then you run into the “I’m paying for it, I ought to eat it all” dilemma, or the “It’s okay, it’s a special occasion, so I can splurge” mode.

Once you realize that moderation can be a part of  your control, consider these two things that can moderate your moderation:

1) Measure & Measure Weekly

How are you going to be able to know what portions you should be having if you don’t visually see it for yourself?   The USDA Food Pyramid is a great source to find out recommended portion sizes.  If you measure your servings on a weekly basis you can remind yourself of the true portions and not fall victim to your version of measurement (You have to start being honest with yourself).

2) Chose wisely

Have you ever played a game called Would you rather?  It’s a great game and it really gets down to your core beliefs when making the most profound decisions in life.  Here’s one:  Would you rather be attacked by a bear or be attacked by a shark?   The concept is wacky but can still apply to portion size.  For example, Would you rather have a scone or scrambled eggs, wheat toast, bowl of fruit and a glass of orange juice?  Well, on the forefront you may pick the scone because it sounds yummy or you have a sweet tooth at that particular time.  But then hopefully you start to rationalize that the scone has 930 calories and bundles of fat that is going to weigh you down and make you hungry in two hours.  The scrambled eggs, wheat toast, bowl of fruit and a glass of orange juice is on the other hand is more nutritious , has less calories, and will keep you full longer.  Decisions, decisions…

The idea is to pick foods on a different value system.  This may even include the realization that food companies don’t exactly have your nutrition needs in mind.  Read my Tricky Packaging: Food is a market too blog.  Yes you may have gotten your scone for just a couple of dollars but at the price of what?  A sugar-rush and addition to your bag of health problems later down the road?

Portion awareness starts with decisions about what portions look like and how they compare nutritionally.

So the next time you are contemplating a bargain buy, consider if the chunk change is worth the extra calories and reevaluate the portion size that you are allotting for yourself.

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