More often than not, when I first speak with my weight loss clients about their diet, I hear the same thing:
“I think my biggest problem is portion control. My diet is fine, I just eat too much”.
This is usually the first step dieters are inclined to make. The irony is that this is the last change they should be making.
The Paradox of Portion Control
This gravitation to portion control comes from the part of the brain that doesn’t want to change. This is the same part of the brain that loves the comfort zone and throws a temper tantrum like a spoiled 6-year-old when you try to change your life in a positive way.
Portion control seems like a way to hold on to the same lifestyle, while reaping the rewards of dietary change. Portion control is appealing because it doesn’t entail many changes–no different grocery list or budget, no need to learn how to cook new recipes, no new foods, no new nothin’. Nothing changes except you don’t eat as much.
This also shows just how unaware people are of their diets…it’s pretty hard to overeat when it comes to veggies.
You’re telling me you just loooooove spinach so much that you eat a caloric surplus of it every day? Riiiiiiiiight. If your diet had better foods, you wouldn’t need to control your portions.
Here’s the kicker: Preventing yourself from eating as much as you want on a regular basis requires the BIGGEST psychological transformation and should be implemented, if necessary, at the END of a weight loss program.
Why Portion Control is the Hardest Step
It is extremely difficult to stop eating something delicious when it is right in front of your face. Imagine you are full, yet want to eat more. You know you shouldn’t, though, because you want to lose weight. Even if you do manage to resist finishing your plate, you will feel deprived. That feeling of deprivation adds up over time. Every time you feel a little deprived a crack forms. Eventually the dam breaks, causing binging and yoyoing to commence.
If you are eating truly junky foods, you will need to stop eating well before you are full and satisfied in order to actually lose weight.
If you’re eating something like deep-fried chicken, it will be hard not to eat a ton of excess calories even if you stop before fullness. Stopping yourself from eating when you’re still hungry? With a tasty food that is hard to stop eating even when you are full? C’mon now. Whatchu think is gonna happen?
A weight loss plan should be mentally easy to ensure adherence and, consequently, success. Intentionally having the pear constantly dangled in front of you is the opposite of this notion.
Conclusion: What to do instead of Portion Control
For starters, don’t worry about portion control. Start with small substitutions. Add more veggies initially and once that becomes easy, begin to swap out problem foods.
Moderation comes a bit later. For now, it is all about controlling your surroundings to the best of your ability, to prevent the temptation in the first place. Do you find it impossible to stop yourself from eating the whole carton when there is ice cream in the house? Then stop buying it. In the beginning you want to remove the temptation altogether so you stick with the gameplan. Do what you can to make it EASY to stick to your plan.
Losing weight isn’t a test of your willpower. You should be stockpiling willpower so you have enough left to stay on plan when you can’t avoid tempting situations. The goal is to lose weight, not to judge your self worth by how much misery you can endure via deprivation. Make your weight loss plan simple and easy so it actually works.