Size does matter!

At least when we are talking about food portions.

Restaurant portions are now as much as eight times the standard serving size. EIGHT TIMES!!

Here is why this doesn’t work for us. We have to live with a 10,000 year old body in a 21st century world. Our bodies are designed to store and conserve energy (in the form of fat) for those times when we couldn’t find food–all too often the case 10,000 years ago.

Fast forward to today when we are surrounded by food portions that are larger and more calorie dense than anything imagined even fifty years ago.   At the same time, our labor-saving devices let us conserve energy like never before. It is no wonder over two-thirds of Americans take in more calories than they could ever use.

Let’s take a modern day hunter/gatherer example: You pull up to the drive-thru and roll down your window– no, actually you take your finger and simply toggle the switch. That takes about two calories. Shout into the speaker and place your order– that’s another two calories– and drive to the pick-up window. Then you take your supersized burger, fries and drink and perform some heavy lifting as you place them on the seat next to you.

Here’s the math on that. Calories consumed: 1500. Calories expended: 12.

So what do we do? One thing we can do is adjust our thinking about how much and when to eat. It definitely takes a mind shift because we have become so conditioned to these huge portions.

First, how much do we really need to eat for health?

The best rule of thumb without putting a lot of effort or time into weighing and measuring our food is to visualize the following example. Using a 9 inch plate, half of it should be vegetables and fruits and the other half should be divided into half lean protein and half grains.

9 inch plate


Now that takes some getting used to. I have had to use my brain to overcome my habits and eyes many times. First, when visualizing a meal like this, I remind myself that it will be enough. When I finish eating it, I am sure to make a mental note that, yep, it was enough. Every time we eat the correct portions, we reprogram our brains. Soon, it is a habit. The other thing I have had to tell myself has to do with another healthy habit. That is to eat small meals every 2-3 hours. So, when I look at my plate and think it won’t be enough food, I remind myself that if it truly isn’t, I will eat again in a couple of hours so I will be okay.

Here is the science behind eating small fuelings every 2-3 hours. A study by David Jenkins, MD, PhD demonstrates that eating small portions at frequent intervals is good for your health in a number of ways. The researchers divided their subjects into two groups. Both ate the exact same food with the exact same number of calories. But one group ate their food divided into the usual three meals a day. The other ate more often, consuming lots of little meals.

The group that ate small meals throughout the day lost more weight. But that’s not all. After only two weeks, they found that the people who ate every three hours reduced their blood cholesterol by over 15% and their blood insulin by almost 28%!

If we feed the body at regular intervals, we send a signal to the body that it doesn’t have to store calories. It satisfies our ancient programming, prevents activating the alarms of starvation, and turns off fat storage.

There are many other habits that create health and it is important to employ them all. Keep coming back to learn more about how to create health in your life.

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