The two simple keys to weight loss

Portion sizes and snacking. Weight loss is not difficult, once you figure out these keys to weight loss.

Without them, weight loss can be impossible.

Since the eighties (mainly), portion sizes have expanded like crazy, in step with women joining the workforce in millions and consequently eating out more often and not having time to cook properly.

Restaurants and eateries wanted to be seen providing “good value”, so they increased sizes more and more, and people were happy, getting more food for their dollars.

We mirrored the burgeoning portion sizes at home with bigger home-cooked portions, and the result was a massive increase in obesity.

Along with bigger portions came the snacking. Junk foods, sweets, cakes, biscuits – all grew more common due to more discretionary cash available to families, and after-school snacking became common for kids, because mum didn’t get home to make dinner until later. Convenience foods added to the mix.

There were other contributors – food being more processed, eating out becoming more affordable, the increase in screen time (and the junk food that went with it). But overall, the big culprits were portion sizes, and snacking.

I’d got to the point a year or so ago where I didn’t even know what a healthy portion looks like. I’d lost touch with my hunger signals, and I’d stuff myself daily to feel “full” instead of “comfortable”.

When I finally started tracking my food intake properly (thanks to MyFitnessPal), I was horrified to learn many days I was topping out over 2500 calories, sometimes as many as 3500 a day! It was a real wake up call.

Truth is, most of us don’t know what healthy portions looks like. For example, I bought a bag of potato chips the other day (yes, it was a mistake). Then when I checked the nutrition panel on the bag, I saw that a serve is 15 chips. Nobody eats just 15 chips!

Check out the nutrition panel on my stepdaughter’s Doritos:

A serve is 11 chips and 580 kj (139 calories). Nobody eats 11 chips. If you eat the whole bag, like most people do, its 3654 kj (873 calories). Which is half a day’s energy needs in a snack we don’t even notice.

Portions matter. Prior to wiseing up, I’d have eaten the entire bag. These days I try not to eat chips, but when I do I remind myself I’m eating half a day’s energy needs in just a “snack”!

This is how we’re all getting fat. Obesity is now more common in the world than starvation. Even previously third world countries such as India are grappling with an obesity epidemic. It’s everywhere, and it’s getting worse.

I grew up right at the height of the bad advice. I remember my mother banning butter and eggs from the house, and switching to “healthier” margarine. I remember learning in school that it was ideal to eat between 6-11 (!!!) serves of carbohydrates daily, and 6 “mini meals” was the ideal eating pattern.

Remember the old food pyramid? I do. Looking at all that bread, cereal, rice and pasta, there’s no surprise we all got fat.

Portions matter. We all ate to excess because none of us were taught how big a “serve” actually was. Was a serve of bread a thin slice of white bread, or a piece of stuffed crust pizza? Nobody knew. I sure didn’t.

So here’s how I’m easily losing weight: I’m practicing portion control and I’m eliminating snacks. My meals have got a bit bigger, but I’m not eating all the junk in between. Plus, what I’m eating at my meals is wholesome, real food.

Sounds simple and old-fashioned, but it works.


Portion control

I can be a real idiot.

For the last two years, I’ve wondered why I can’t lose weight. But I finally figured it out.

Two words: portion control.

I started actually tracking my calories in food I eat, together with carbs, sugar and fat.

This sounds really basic, but if you eat double the amount, you’ll consume double the calories and nutrients.

So while that breakfast smoothie might be very healthy, if it’s too large a portion, I’m not going to lose weight having it.

Same with meat, fish or any other food. No matter how healthy, if I eat too much of it I’m not going to lose weight.

Checking my portions is really important. I just made some curry egg omelettes for work lunches this week. I didn’t realize how much cheese I was going to put on them until I measured it. What I thought was “about right” was actually about 1.5 cups of cheese. I would never have guessed that!

Now, cheese is a great food, but it’s high in calories. A cup and a half of cheese would have easily stymied my weight loss efforts for the week. And get this: I wouldn’t have even realised it.

So for the next few weeks I’m weighing and measuring everything. Sounds Draconian, I know, but it’s the best way to get my intake down to reasonable amounts.

This has been a wake up call for me.

Likewise, I would normally have eaten two egg omelettes for lunch, instead of one. Not because I was hungry enough to need it, but because it “looked right”.

That was stupid. I didn’t need two. It was just a bad habit to eat two, nothing more.

And here’s the great thing: if I cut my servings of such things in half, I’m having my calories.

While eating one egg omelette is about 250 calories, two egg omelettes is 500 calories.

And if I eat them at work every day, I’m swapping out 2500 calories and instead eating 1250 over five days at work.

Make that one small change, and I’ll be dropping 3750 calories every 3 weeks, which is a pound of weight loss.

That’s a huge improvement for something I don’t even need!

They say life is a learning curve. That’s true, but you can’t learn if you don’t open your eyes to begin with!