"Portion Distortion" is a great term used to describe how we perceive a large amount of food as a single serving. This will lead some people to say "I don't eat that much," when in fact, they're eating 5 servings. This could also be called denial, something I was an expert in, but that is another blog posting.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has a great website that tracks how serving sizes have exploded in size over the last 20 years.
Portion size is a huge issue for me. Obviously, having gotten my weight up to 577 pounds, I ate way too much. But how much is "too much?" How do you decide? Through my own experiences, I have come to the following conclusions about portion sizes:
1.) I never trust my own eyes when it comes to portion sizes. I long ago came to the conclusion that my mind wants to keep me as heavy as possible. Sometimes, I will look at a plateful of food and think "that is a huge amount of food." Other times, I look at the *exact* same portion and think "that isn't very much."
That perception, what I think in my mind as being the appropriate amount of food, is never right. So I have learned not to trust it.
2.) Measure, measure, measure. People who want to lose weight need to invest in 3 things: a measuring cup/spoon set, a food scale and a note pad. Measure and write it down. If you're trying to lose weight, never, ever, ever, ever trust your eye or mind when it comes to portion size. It cannot be trusted. You cannot guess. You cannot eat what looks "about right." To do so is to become a victim of Portion Distortion.
3.) Use smaller plates. This seems simple, but I have found it very effective. Think about it: if you put your dinner on an 8" plate, it's going to look like a lot more food than if you put that same exact amount of food on a 12" plate. You will mindlessly fill your plate to capacity. Why should the size of the plate dictate how much you eat? That, my friends, is insanity.
4.) Stay out of the restaurants. Portion Distortion is out of control at restaurants. The plates are huge. When you add up the chips/salsa, the bread, the appetizer, the soda, the salad, the entree, the dessert....restaurant meals are multiple thousands of calories. I believe it is next to impossible to lose weight and keep it off if you eat in restaurants. I am sure it could be done, but I couldn't do it. Think about it: if somebody was going to give you everything you wanted without any limits, how are you going to keep track of it? That is what a restaurant is. Consider the endless refills of soda that are several hundred calories per serving.
5.) Read labels. They're there, and people mostly ignore them. But look closely. How many servings are in the package you are eating out of? How on Earth do you eat an entire bag of chips that totals over 1,000 calories and fit that into a 2,400 calorie a day diet? You can't. Read the labels...it will open your eyes.
If you don't know how much you're eating, put it down and run away!