portion control

If you halve it, you can have it

When I first made my decision to lose weight in March of 2014, one of the first things I had to learn was the sizes of appropriate portions. In one of my first posts I took a humorous look at what I previously considered to be an appropriate snack, verses what was ACTUALLY an appropriate snack.

I have come a long way since then, and my brain is partially re-trained to recognize what constitutes a healthy portion. I don’t declare victory on this front because I know that if I don’t remain diligent, I will slip to old ways.

Recently an acquaintance on Facebook posted pictures of her husband. With diet and exercise he has lost over 80 pounds. He looks great, and he also reports that he feels great! When I saw the comparison pictures I offered a few words of congratulations and encouragement. He saw my comment, and mentioned that he has, over the time he’s been losing weight, used a principle that he heard from me. Namely…

halve it

Part of how he has learned to control his food urges, and re-train his brain, has been to systematically cut in half the portions he would normally have eaten.And he says it has worked for him

Just today I was talking to someone who asked how people who have sustained weight loss manage to cut out all those calories so quickly, without driving themselves mad. Speaking only for myself, I said that it was a matter of cutting back slowly on the portions at meals, and radically on snacks.

To this day, as I continue on my path, I use this principle to good effect. As you are working through your brain training on portions, and dealing with those inevitable snack urges, give this idea a try. All other things being equal, you’ll find yourself eating less.

Quick update on my week so far

Since my Friday weigh-in I have been very active. We had a weekend of absolutely gorgeous weather, and I did my best to take full advantage. I had yard work and garage work to do, so I turned on some music and got to work. As a result, my steps were well above my target on all 3 days (Friday through Sunday), and my yard and garage are in good shape too!

On the food front, the news isn’t quite so good. While I don’t think I particularly OVER ate on Saturday or Sunday, I wasn’t really diligent in my tracking. As a result, I colored those two days yellow on my chart.

Today I went to the gym after work and did a 42 minute interval training on the treadmill. I workout at Lifetime Fitness and their app connects to my heart rate monitor and gives me prompts to increase or decrease my intensity to match the target zones. At the end of the workout it shows me a graphical representation of the work I have done. In a future post I will pull the graphic in and show you what I mean.

The bottom line is that it has drastically changed how I approach the treadmill. No longer am I content to walk for an hour at 3.8 miles per hour, with an incline of 0%. Now I get up as high at 4.3 MPH, with an 8% to 9% incline. I have stepped up my game dramatically.

Today was as beautiful as the weekend, so I spent my lunch time walking at work. As a result, with still a few hours in the day, my step count is up to nearly 16,000.

Hope you all are having a great week!

I’ll be there as soon as I weigh my nuts!

Last Sunday, on day two of my journey, the Oscars were on TV. My wife, daughter and I had decided to settle in to watch for a while. It was after dinner, and I was feeling a bit snacky! One of my favorite snacks is mixed nuts. My wife gets them at Costco. She usually buys two of the large vessels of nuts – one lightly salted, the other unsalted. We mix them together in a big bowl, then put them back in the jugs. As I was preparing my snack, my daughter asked when I’d be down to watch the show. My answer of “I’ll be there as soon as I weigh my nuts,” was met with gales of laughter from both the women in the house.

I had previously used the Weight Watcher’s App on my phone to determine that one ounce of the mixed nuts was equal to 5 points. But, I had no real idea how much was one ounce (I later learned I could use the quarter cup dry measure to find the same amount). My wife told me that we had an electronic scale like the one here:

scale pic

So, I got out a ramekin, put it on the scale empty and then added nuts until it went up by one ounce. This is what one ounce of nuts looks like:

one ounce of nuts

This is where the retraining of my brain comes in. As I said, I like to eat mixed nuts. It is a frequent snack for after work, but before dinner. In the picture below the bowl on the left was my previous snack size, compared to a healthy, 5 point version on the right.

nuts side by side

I checked this morning. That is 10 ounces of nuts, or FIFTY POINTS! That’s right, my  after work snack was registering at upwards of FIFTY POINTS. It’s no damn wonder I have added an “X” to my sizes in each of the last couple of years.

I have to re-teach my brain how to think about portions. I have wondered at times why it is that my wife can make such healthy dinners, I can eat relatively little at breakfast during the week, and still gain weight. It is because my brain and my eyes don’t have a healthy concept of portions. I see a pile of food as something to be conquered. My mother taught me to always clean my plate, so when I am in restaurants that is what I do. I’ll be damned if I am going to let something like a full tummy keep me from joining the Captain Penny Clean Plate Club (yes, that was an actual thing. In the 1970s there was a local childrens’ TV show in Cleveland called Captain Penny, and one of  his things was to make sure kids ate all their dinner).

Here is another example. On Saturday mornings I like to sit on the couch and watch some TV. I will pour myself a bowl of cereal, add milk, and head downstairs. In recent years, this has been the bowl I have used:

green bowl pic

That one is filled with Kellog’s Frosted Flakes. I looked up the nutrition information for Kellog’s Frosted Flakes (btw, Their Greeeaaat!). I learned that a portion has 0 fat, 26g of carbohydrates, 1 gram of protein and 1 gram of fiber. Add in a half cup of 2% milk, and you get a nice, 5 point breakfast. It would look something like this (without the milk)

small bowl pic

The portion size on the package is ¾ of a cup of cereal. The green bowl above has 4.5 cups of cereal in it, or 6 times the portion on the package. Assuming I put in a couple of cups of milk and you now have a 22 point, diet busting breakfast. (Did I mention that I sometimes refill the bowl if the TV show isn’t done yet?)

After one week I am certainly no expert on weight loss, or on portion control. I know I have much to learn. And, it is going to take a long time until my brain automatically sees a healthy portion and only encourages me to eat that amount.