Why Portion Control May Be Keeping You Fat
A Contrarian Take On The Most Popular Weight Loss Technique Of All TimeDecemeber 15th, 2011
Portion control may be keeping you fat.
If you are like most people, you are probably thinking "no, it is all the extra food I am eating that is keeping me fat."
Well, maybe. But I want to share with you the reasons for my controversial assertion.
First of all, it needs to be said that portion control is a critically important tool. Of course we want to keep an eye on calories, and for people just starting the weight loss process portion control is something people must learn and even master.
However, the problem with portion control is that people most often use it as their primary weight loss strategy. Because life is busy and most of us have a limited amount of things we can focus on, it often becomes the ONLY strategy that people use.
This is the simple reality of things.
We may know darn well that we need to eat more vegetables and more fiber. Likely there is a whole list of things we "should" be doing. But getting to work and doing all the things you need to be doing likely trumps those "shoulds."
So we are left with a strategy that most of us have been taught-- and one that is not working to well based on every statistic available.
And it is getting worse.
So why are we SO focused on something that is not working? Probably because it sounds so "reasonable" and "sensible." Arguing with portion control is like questioning cooking advice from Martha Stuart.
It is also the advice we are likely to hear from our doctors, as well as those who teach the doctors.
There are a lot of ways that we get programmed as individuals and as a society, and this is definitely one.
I'd like to argue that not only is the singular focus on portion control not the answer, but it is likely a root of many of our nutrition problems.
Not only does it promote the idea that any food is fine as long as it is eaten in limited quantities- but in my experience building and running PEERtrainer, portion control actually discourages people from eating the best foods in beneficial enough quantities.
Vegetables are a CLASSIC example of this. I work directly with a lot of people, and one thing I have gotten very good at is troubleshooting. When people share their logs with me, I can see a pattern very quickly.
Many people obviously do not get enough vegetables. But when I probe into this and work to identify the "why" I often see that people are eating several portions of vegetables- but that they are portion controlling the vegetables!!
Talk about a WTF moment. It is one that I experience so often it is not funny. But the good news is that once I make this observation, and tell people to go NUTS with the vegetables, most make this adjustment with an astonishing degree of success.
These people just need a small amount of reprogramming!
On the flip side, people are portion controlling a lot of junk, thinking that is is a "reasonable" strategy. Foods that are high in sugar, low in micronutrients and that often create reactions which throws your system out of whack
For some people, a small amount of wheat, dairy or eggs can have a big and negative impact. It doesn't matter what the portion of those foods are. They can cause reactions.
Additionally, people portion control meat and animal protein. Now, based on all the available science, as well as the interpretation of the available research, we hear that we need to keep meat consumption to roughly 10% of calories.
However, this does not take into account any difference in the quality of the meat source. Would it sound reasonable to you to suggest that a serving of poached Wild Salmon is probably better for you than a hot dog?
Might it also sound reasonable that regardless of calorie content, you want to avoid the hot dog and that no portion is acceptable? So often it seems that we are given "rules" to follow, and that we often follow them blindly without applying a little common sense.
Fiber and fat are great example of this. A very popular weight loss concept has been to increase fiber and reduce fat. I don't need to point out who has made that popular. Formulas are created that essentially says that all fiber is good, and all fat is bad. But a little common sense helps us quickly understand that there are certain fats that are good.
Conversely, there are certain sources of fiber which probably are not that great for you, regardless of the portion size. In conclusion, I hope to have made a fairly easy to understand argument here. For those of you who are struggling with weight loss resistance, think about some of this.
And please share your feedback and questions. What has been your experience in this area? Please leave a comment below!
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