The average American consumes 3,770 calories per day, more than any other nationality! More than one third are obese, and at elevated risk for hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. They are figuratively digging their graves with their teeth. Casket makers have obligingly begun to supersize their product, too.
How did things get so out of balance?
Since the 1970s, portion sizes have continued growing at take-out restaurants, and people have responded by increasing the calories of home-cooked meals. However, the change has been gradual enough that it has gone largely unnoticed. Consequently, most people have become desensitized to accurate portion sizing, and younger people often have lived entirely in an age of bloated entrees. As a result, most people fail miserably at estimating the caloric content of their foods and their daily intake.
The results are catastrophic — rapid weight gain, an epidemic of insulin resistance, and unbearable strain on the health care system. We have been initiated into a culture of thoughtless consumption and eating as a substitute for unmet emotional needs, and in the bargain we’ve become fat and sick.
How do we get back on track once and for all?
The simple answer is portion control, but the devil is in the details. Overeating can become habitual and, over time, the habit becomes more difficult to break. However, you can learn good habits just as easily, and be on your way to a more healthy body composition. For at least one month, you will need to engage in these behaviors:
- You will need to measure out precisely the amounts of each food you eat, whether in cups, tablespoons, grams, or some other appropriate unit. First, research what “one portion” looks like from a nutritionist’s point of view, and measure accordingly.
- You should purchase a digital postage scale and use it to weigh out your foods; use the results to calculate calories.
- You should purchase portion control plates, or a portion control divider to measure out the right amounts of food for a standard plate.
- You should use smaller plates, which will make your food portions look larger (yes, you can “trick” your brain). As a rule of thumb, half your plate should be covered with vegetables, and the other half should be divided equally between lean protein and starches.
What happens at the end of the month?
You should continue to use portion control dividers or implement the rule of plate apportionment in the future. You do not have to weigh food long term, but you do have to be honest about the actual amounts you are consuming. That’s non-negotiable!
If you want your “sacrifices” to have greater impact, remember to always:
- Chew your calories, don’t drink them. And chew slowly!
- Skip the soda, and drink water instead.
- Eat only until you are 80% full, and then stop.
- Walk an hour each day at a brisk pace.
- Eat minimally processed foods exclusively.
- Keep glycemic load low.
And remember, the next time someone puts a mountain of food in front of you, you’re under no obligation to clean your plate. You cannot expect others to choose what’s best for you. That is your responsibility alone.