“Portion control” is a strategy I come across more and more frequently in the health literature as a means of losing and controlling weight. But does it actually work? One theory against this approach suggests that eating less tricks the body into interpreting this as a sign of starvation and a need to conserve energy by reducing the metabolic rate. This causes the body to burn even less energy and hence a vicious cycle is created of supply vs. demand for food that hinders weight loss.
In support of the theory is the notion that the majority of us eat far more than we need. A contributory factor for this may lie in the fact that it apparently takes the brain 20 minutes after we’ve eaten to recognise that we are indeed full. However, by this time, many of us have already over eaten. We’ve got used to this full feeling such that as soon as the first hunger pangs set in we automatically reach out for yet more food. A friend of mine, recognising the importance of portion control recently embarked on a healthy eating and fitness programme and was both surprised and deflated about how little food she could eat that would not interfere with her weight management plans. To her, this was not sustainable and the warning bells indicating failure were ringing loud and clear.
The stomach incidentally, is on average the size of an orange and comparatively small to the size of the average dinner plate. A plausible solution might be to eat a small amount of food, equivalent to the size of an orange and wait for 20 minutes before deciding whether we need seconds to reach satiety. This, according to Alix Avery, the designer of the Full Stop Bowl, could help us reduce our expanding waistlines without actually dieting. Alix’s stomach sized and shaped bowl is designed to hold just the right amount of food, without the need for weighing. Just fill the stomach shaped “well” of the bowl with whatever meal you fancy and that’s your portion control sorted.
But again, to answer the question – will it work? At the very least, it will raise our awareness of exactly how much we are eating. That’s no bad thing as let’s be honest, most of us kid ourselves about the truth or are in blissful ignorance. We still need to be mindful that we are what we eat. An orange-sized portion of desert or chips will have us reaching for our next meal far sooner than if we fill the bowl with vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, pulses, whole grains and moderate amounts of lean meat, fish and dairy. Just as many of us have grown accustomed to eating plenty, it may be possible that by eating foods that keep us fuller for longer, we can re-train our bodies and our minds over time about how much food to expect. Plus, ignoring hunger every now and then is surely not harmful and can provide us with a much needed safety net for indulging when we need?
To conclude then, size does matter, as I’ve said before, but so does quality. If like me, you think the Full Stop Bowl is not sufficiently attractive to adorn your dinner table, try using a side plate instead of the dinner sized version if you need the visual prompt for portion control. A less practical solution would be to try eating every meal with chopsticks – each meal will definitely take at least 20 minutes!
Happy healthy eating.