But It's Just One Slice!
Photo credit: Brocha
Photo credit: Brocha
(This was supposed to be a back-from-vacation, well-researched, educational post incorporating the latest breaking health and fitness news available on the web! Instead, it’s a post about pizza and peanut butter. Sorry—we got delayed on the last leg of our trip and spent a couple extra days without internet. Good for the soul! Not so good for the blogging. But we're back home now--thanks for your patience!)
I’ve know I’ve written about Portion Control before. But the subject intrigues me: controlling the size of our meals and snacks seems like it should be simple and straightforward. But it’s not! Instead it’s a complex psychological battle. How does the sensible part of our brain remain in control when the childish, greedy part of us always wants “more, more, more?”
(And note: by "portion control," I don’t mean limiting one's intake of healthy food when one is actually hungry. I’m not a fan of any diet, eating plan, or lifestyle that requires ignoring true hunger signals on an ongoing basis. The kind of “portion control” I’m referring to is the kind that’s meant to combat the consumption of unholy amounts of food simply because it tastes good.)
Of course one tactic in the portion control battle is the use of logic, reason, and self-discipline. Which works great when I'm feeling all logical, reasonable, and self-disciplined. That occasionally happens, I swear! But most of the time? I need to resort to Stealth and Trickery.
What is A Serving Size?
Years ago, when I was actively dieting (though I didn't call it that--I called it going on a "thing" because I didn't like the word diet), portion control was psychologically simpler. I knew what kind of foods I should eat and what I should avoid; I knew how many calories I could eat per day; I looked up the calorie counts of everything I ate; I weighed and measured and tallied and kept a detailed food diary. It worked! I lost weight. But it was tedious and restrictive and a royal pain in the ass.
Now I don't weigh and measure and tally anymore--but I would really like to keep those sneaky pounds from creeping back on as the years go by. So I have to try to keep to "reasonable" serving sizes, despite being quite greedy when it comes to tasty food. How do I manage to feel like I've gotten "enough" without totally scarfing up everything in the kitchen? It's tricky!
In the previous portion control post, I noted that it helps than I'm an idiot. I'm as easy to fool as a toddler when it comes to portion size. So by employing simple tricks like changing from a short fat glass to a tall skinny one, or using a smaller plate or bowl, I can believe I'm actually eating more than I am. Hooray for stupidity!
But it's an ongoing battle, and I continue to find new challenges and dumb-ass solutions. My latest battles, as the title suggests, involve pizza and peanut butter sandwiches. (Also cereal and dinners at friends’ houses). I’m hoping some of you have tips for other foods and situations too—unless of course you are all driven solely by logic and reason and self-discipline?
Pizza is Easy—At Home!
Pizza is a great example of what a nitwit I am. I have discovered I can be satisfied with much less pizza if I first fill 90% of my plate with salad, and then take a single piece of reasonably healthy whole wheat pizza and cut that single slice into 3 or 4 skinny, skinny, slices.
By doing this, I now miraculously have more pizza!
(This necessitates starting with a regular sized slice, not a giant one like the cute kid above is holding--or it sort of defeats the portion control goal).
And I know the pizza slicing trick works, at least for me. Because when I am in a social setting, I generally do not make an ass of myself by dissecting my pizza into tiny pieces. Instead I end up eating several full-sized slices of pizza. One slice, no matter how big, is just not "enough."
Don’t Invite Me Over to Your House
Speaking of social situations… why am I totally unable to limit myself to a reasonable portion of food when someone else cooks dinner for me? Of course it’s nice to be polite and make sure my hosts know how much I appreciate their efforts. But I could do that by eating a normal amount of food and expressing my pleasure about the food with words.
For some reason though, words feel inadequate! I seem to believe it requires second or third or fourth helpings to get the sincerity of my message across.
So I am trying to train myself to take smaller initial portions, since I know darn well I will be heaping more on my plate as soon as I can. I say "trying" because, well, I'm not all that good at it yet.
Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Lately I’ve resurrected a childhood favorite: the peanut butter sandwich. (As a kid, I had peanut butter and jelly; now I seem to prefer my peanut butter with honey and banana slices. And sometimes I use almond butter instead of peanut butter. But it’s essentially the same deliciousness.) This is a source of great pleasure, but also involves major Portion Control Angst!
Here’s the problem: Take two slices of whole wheat bread, enough peanut butter, honey, and bananas for a proper, proportionate filling; a big glass of milk (mandatory), plus the rest of the banana (because every meal needs to have at least one fruit or vegetable) and it all adds up to more calories than I need to eat at one sitting. (Unless I’ve just hiked 20 miles. Which I rarely have done by lunchtime on a typical weekday.)
So I need to make this meal smaller. But wait a minute... I can't! I used to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a big glass of milk as an after-school snack when I was a kid. And then I’d go on to finish dinner without a problem. So how could it be possible I don't get a whole sandwich for an entire meal as an adult? I'm entitled to one! A whole sandwich is the “official” serving size, everyone knows that.
I seem to by physically unable to fix half a peanut butter sandwich. I may intend to when I get out the bread, but after I take out the first slice something mysterious happens and all of sudden the second slice is out there too and peanut butter is being smeared liberally and the little honey bear is drizzling honey and there are banana slices everywhere. I have no control over the peanut butter sandwich situation.
But finally, a solution occurred to me: I go ahead and take out two slices of bread, but I cut off the crusts, generously. This cuts down the size of the sandwich, but it still makes it seem like a whole sandwich. Less surface area means less peanut butter, honey, bananas, and milk to wash it down with. But I haven't had to compromise with a measly half-sandwich.
The final Dumb Trick involves cereal. Have you ever noticed how small the recommended serving size of cereal looks in a bowl? If you don't measure it out, it's easy to eat two or three serving sizes and still feel like you're not getting "enough."
The obvious solution is to use a smaller bowl. But here's another technique that's weirdly effective: do you put fruit on your cereal? If so, put the fruit in first, then sprinkle cereal on top. Magically, it takes much less cereal to feel like a "full" bowl when the fruit sits underneath rather than on top!
Is anyone else this easy to fool? Got any good tricks for making less food "feel" like more?