Portion Size Matters

It may surprise you to learn that portion size matters a lot in maintaining a healthy, slim and fit body depending on your level of physical activity each day.

portion sizeWell, the play on words in the title to this piece might have raised a few smiles but the message that it sends is pretty serious. That's the size of meal portions should be measured to satisfy your body's needs and not your perceived level of hunger.

What happens to a lot of people is they get used to eating large meals and it becomes the norm for them. They get into the habit of believing that large meals are the right way to satisfy their hunger.

The reality is that eating so much food only causes weight gain because the body doesn't really need so much food and so the excess is stored as fat.

What is the Right Portion Size?

The size that is right for you will depend on your size, whether you are a man or a woman, your general daily activity levels and to some extent your age. Here's an example:

Take a man working at a physical job such as a bricklayer during the day but who sits in front of the TV all evening once he comes home from work. He will still need in excess of 2500 to 3500 calories per day to enable him to do his day's work and that will mean he can eat larger meals and not gain weight. Even so, he is better off eating several smaller meals throughout the day to keep his energy levels up, while only eating a small meal in the evening.

You can usually tell the difference between men that work at a manual job and eat big meals and those that eat smaller ones. The big eaters still manage to gain weight and have the tell-tale pot belly despite their physical workload.

Another example is a woman who works in an office during the day and sits in front of the TV all evening until she goes to bed. She will not need more than 1500 calories per day and with very low activity levels, can probably get away with as little as 1000 calories. This means eating several very small meals throughout the day to prevent weight gain and do something to help keep metabolism levels high enough.

Are All Calories Equal?

No they are not! If a person eats the right portion sizes for their needs, but those portions are made up of processed meals, bread and sweet desserts, they are going to gain far more stored fat than someone eating the same size meals made up completely of wholesome, fresh foods.

For one thing, processed foods are generally high in trans fats, high GI carbs and additives, which combine to slow down the metabolism, retard digestive efficiency and result in greater levels of fat being stored in less active people. On the other hand, fresh vegetables, lean meat or fish and fresh fruit help to boost metabolism, resulting in less fat being stored.

How Can You Stop Eating Large Meals?

drink waterThe best way to stop yourself from eating large meals is firstly to put less food on your plate! That might sound pretty obvious, but it's surprising just how many people load on an extra slice of meat, some more potatoes or an extra spoonful of rice and other bulky or starchy foods without realizing it.

Psychologically, it's more hassle to get up and get more food once you've cleaned your plate than to have the extra already there. With more food on the plate, the temptation is to eat it regardless of whether you feel full or not.

Another way to make the change to smaller portions is to drink a glass of plain water before each meal. This adds bulk to the stomach and causes the "I'm Full" signal to be sent to the brain much sooner than if you hadn't drank any water beforehand. It also helps you feel full for longer after eating a smaller meal.

The result of eating smaller meals is of course less fat being stored in the body. This is a highly desirable condition because it means you will remain slimmer and look better, while actually having more energy to engage in extra activities.