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The simplest diet secret: Eat less to weigh less!

May 31, 2010 11:19 IST

If you control your portions at mealtimes, you're bound to lose weight -- it's a principle that cannot fail. But how much is enough? Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

Most of us attempt to lose weight by forcing a self-imposed blanket ban on incriminating foods. But sooner or later, as our patience wears thin and resolve crumbles, we go for these very foods with a vengeance. The result is that we are back where we started -- or even worse.

Another, better, option would be to follow a path of moderation -- where we continue to eat all foods, but in an amount where they are not harmful. Portion control essentially involves knowing how to select servings of each food item, so that the overall calories consumed are not in excess. It is about combining different types of foods in controlled portions so that the overall balance is not tipped.

These are a few practical tips on implementing effective portion control:

  • Cut it by half: You can cut the calories of your favorite foods by 50 percent without changing anything about them by eating only half the portion. For example, if you usually eat a toasted cheese sandwich, eat only half of it. If you are still hungry, eat some fruit, which -- because it contains fibre and takes longer to eat and digest -- will help you feel satisfied with far fewer calories. Eating at a slower pace will also help you feel full when you've actually eaten much less.
  • Avoid upsizing: Resist all offers to supersize an order, however tempting the offer. In fact, steer clear of all 'meal deal' offers altogether. If you must, have a salad accompany your order.
  • Buy small: We all occasionally succumb to the temptation of snacks like wafers or chips. But the key is not to overdo it. One way you can do so is by buying only smaller-sized packages. If you buy budget bags, then simply ration out the stock into smaller zip bags and store. This way you'll always know how much you are eating and avoid over-eating.
  • Store less: If you store a lot of food within easy reach, you are bound to keep helping yourself to it. Therefore, one way to help yourself eat less is to store only one individual serving of each food at a time where you can easily get at it. If there's more, you can store that separately and keep it strictly out of bounds. Follow this whether you are storing leftovers or fresh supplies.
  • Visualise portions: Mentally associate acceptable food portions to everyday objects you are familiar with to help you remember not to exceed your limit. For instance, a slice of cake could be the size of a deck of cards, a serving of cheese, the size of a matchbox and a cup of rice or pasta, the size of a tennis ball.
  • Start with salads: Eating salads before lunch or dinner is one way to keep from overeating. The fibre in the veggies will satiate you without adding to your calories and help you eat less of the other dishes.
  • Ban seconds: Discourage seconds at the table. Following a system where food is served away from the dining table will help. It takes about 20 minutes to feel satiated so giving yourself a 'breather' will help you realise you are not hungry any longer.
  • Indulge occasionally: Treating yourself to 'forbidden' foods once in a while will keep you from feeling deprived, which can induce uncontrolled binging.

These few general rules will help too:

  • Set realistic goals to control portions: If you set very high standards you are likely to fail and get dejected. It helps to fix goals you know you can achieve.
  • Involve a helpful person: Take a close friend or family member into confidence. The involvement of a third party will keep you from succumbing to temptation and keep you on track.
  • Keep a journal: Recording your eating habits in a journal will help you to set and achieve your goals more systematically.
  • Celebrate success: Remember to celebrate successful achievement of any weightloss related goals. This will keep you mentally and emotionally ticking.
Sushila Sharangdhar is your online health buddy, helping you to manage your health better with its various services such as expert blogs, ask the expert, health resources and health networking.