It’s time to start a new year of my Small Steps series. You can read about the philosophy and strategies of the series here.
If you started the series mid-way through the year last year, continue to build upon your fitness journey throughout the early months of this year.
If you completed the entire series last year, congratulations! You are well on your way to a lifestyle that supports strength, health, balance, stamina, energy and overall feelings of well being. Use the Small Steps posts at the start of each month to serve as gentle reminders of the keys to fitness and recommit to those healthy habits, particularly the ones that are most challenging for you.
If you’re new to Small Steps, welcome! Join in and follow the path to a fit and happier life. January’s Small Step is portion control.
- Meals: Proteins and grains should each take up 1/4 of your plate leaving the other half for produce.
- Adhere to suggested serving sizes: Cereals, dressings, dairy, condiments and anything else that’s poured or scooped out of a container should be consumed at the recommended serving size.
- Actually measure: This will take a bit of time investment on the front end. In short order, you’ll know exactly how much cereal and milk to pour into your bowl or dressing to put on your salad to constitute the appropriate serving size.
- Audit yourself: Even though you’ll get the hang of accurately eye-balling serving sizes, it’s human nature to cheat up over time. In addition, it’s common for food companies to fiddle with serving sizes and for there to be varying suggestions among similar products. For example, some of my favorite cold cereal brands have serving sizes that range from 1/2 cup to 1 cup. For both of these reasons, it’s important to get into the habit of double-checking labels and regularly measuring out portions.
- Snacks & Beverages: Portion control isn’t only for meals. Follow the above steps 1-3 with snacks and drinks too. And never eat directly from the container.
- Treats: Pastries, Desserts & Alcohol: We have a tendency to binge on high calorie foods because we rationalize that we’re doomed whether we eat two cookies or half the box. The truth is, a treat here or there won’t erase all the good you’ve done, but a whole container could. The better way to look at it is to accept that treats are part of your diet, not apart from it. They should be consumed, enjoyed and savored in the correct portions. In reality, if you allow yourself small indulgences when you crave them, you actually crave them less often.
The Extras: Sometimes controlling portions is less about the concrete and more about the intangibles, like the attitudes, habits and sub-conscious elements we bring with us to the table. So, here are some tricks of the trade to help you outsmart those psychological factors that sometimes sabotage our portion-control efforts:
- Water Bottle: Always have one with you. Often we think we’re hungry when we’re actually dehydrated.
- Smaller Plate: Using one gives you the visual illusion that you’re eating more than you actually are.
- Distraction-Free: Eat sitting at a table with no electronic devices (that includes TV) or reading material.
- Eat Slowly: Focus on tasting and enjoying your food.
- Smarter Seconds: Second portions of produce are okay, avoid taking another portion of meats or starches.
- Strategize: Plan and shop for meals in advance.
- Purge: Rid your pantry and office of high-calorie, low-nutrition food .
- Doggie-Bag Dining: Choose one of the following options when dining out: order from the small plates menu; split a full entrée with a dining partner; immediately after it’s served, cut your entrée in half and ask your server to box one portion to bring home.
There you have it, the first Small Step to take control of your health in 2017! Join the movement and share your success stories, tips and questions along the way. We’ll all benefit from shared experiences and knowledge.