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Is Portion Control Really the Key to Dieting Success?

Measuring Your Weight Loss Success is Often a Result of Measuring Your Food

Gregg McBride
Source: Gregg McBride

I remember when I tipped the scales at over 450 pounds and began dieting the sane way (eating less, moving more, getting plenty of sleep and drinking enough water). The success was immediate, and I lost most of my excess weight (over 250 pounds of it) in just about a year's time. Still, it was a tough journey—during which there were many moments when I looked forward to the diet being "over" so that I could go back to what I thought was a "normal way of eating."

Little did I realize that what I thought was a normal way of eating (gobbling down whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted) was actually anything but normal—and certainly not the way to attain and maintain lasting health. This, alas, has meant that the "diet mentality" is one that I've had to keep at the forefront of my mind every day of my life (even after reaching my goal weight of around 175 pounds).

I discovered this sobering fact after I reached my goal weight and started "allowing" myself to eat the way I used to eat (before the diet). Needless to say, I did some yo-yo-ing. Up the scale a few pounds. Down the scale a few pounds. Up the scale several pounds (into the high double digits)... And so on.

Before long, I realized that keeping my portions and food choices in mind was something I was going to have to stay committed to for the rest of my life—assuming I wanted to keep fitting into my newly acquired "regular size" clothes (not to mention keep my newly acquired healthy blood pressure, cholesterol counts, etc.).

Even today, there are times that my cup (as in my measuring cup) runneth over. And in the case of food intake, that's not necessarily a good thing. Perhaps it's when pouring a "mountainous cup" of cereal for myself in the morning. Or when choosing a large size of frozen yogurt (instead of a medium one) on a Saturday afternoon. Or even when slicing too much avocado onto my lunch salad or (heaven forbid!) when steaming too many green beans to serve with my evening meal.

"Stop the presses!" you might be thinking to yourself. "Can there really be such a thing as too many steamed green beans?" Well, in my experience... Absolutely!

In fact, there can be too much of anything—whether it's green beans, avocado or ice cream. I find that once I teeter into the "too much food" territory (even if semi-innocently through green beans serving as a "gateway drug" of sorts), this habit soon has the potential to overtake all of my food portion measurements and/or choices. And eventually this leads to my jeans being a little less fun to pull on—much less fasten. And don't get me started on buckling the belt.

Luckily for me, slightly tighter clothes offer the signal that something's off in my daily routine. And even as I blog about and share my ideas for weight loss success, every now and then I must shout out, "Physician, heal thyself." (Technically it's blogger, heal thyself—but physician sounds so much more lofty, don't you think?)

So, yes. Recently I've had to pull out my set of measuring cups and reincorporate them into daily use. It turns out that even after a decade of losing the excess weight and keeping it off, I can't always be trusted when pouring my multigrain breakfast cereal. As much as I'd like to think that I can "eyeball" a desired portion, it's not always true. Especially right after my morning workout when my stomach is growling loudly.

When first using measuring cups after a period of not using them, I'm usually surprised at how "small" a cup of cereal (or a reasonable portion of steamed green beans) is. Then again, I'm also surprised (happily so) by what it's like to eat a healthy portion and feel satiated without feeling overly full after a meal. This is all a good reminder that sometimes it's necessary to reaquaint ourselves with what kinds of portions we should be eating to achieve lasting health (not to mention which kinds of foods).

So as much as I sometimes think to myself, "I shouldn't have to measure my food portions anymore," my jeans remind me that I do. And this consciousness is necessary for every other aspect of my healthy eating (and living) efforts as well. Think of it as a reboot if you will... A reminder that sometimes we must recalibrate to recommit (and perhaps even re-achieve) the success that we've worked so hard for—and that we want to maintain for the rest of our lives.

Gregg McBride
Source: Gregg McBride