I hear again and again this desire for portion control:
‘I don’t know how much a normal person should eat.’
‘If I could just get a handle on portion control I’d be fine.’
‘I’m eating whatever I want – but the quantities are too big.’
If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you’ll know how I love to examine language. So let’s split this theme into two concepts: portion, and control.
What’s a portion for a normal person?
No doubt you’ll have seen a gazillion articles and infographics on ‘healthy’ portions for ‘normal’ people.
Labels on foods are full of it! They tell you half a bar is a portion. Or a packet is a ‘family-sized portion.’ You get ‘sharing portions,’ ‘healthy’ portions, ‘snack’ portions and ‘bite sized’ portions;’ ‘super-size’ portions and ‘waist watcher’s’ portions.
Here’s a question for you:
Does anyone apart from you, know how much a portion is for your body?
Does anyone, apart from you, know how hungry you are?
How much activity you’ve done?
When you last ate?
What you last ate?
What your body needs for whatever reason, right now?
Maybe your body is deficient in some nutrient, and needs loads of beetroot, or nuts, or chocolate to meet that need!
How can anyone other than your body know how much you need to eat?
Perhaps your body needs more protein – because you’ve been working out and need it for repair.
Perhaps you’ve been ill and need to build up your strength again.
No doctor. No nutritionist. No healer. No psychic. No osteopath or chiropractor. No dietician.
Not your husband, or your wife, or your sister, or your mother or your father – however well meaning they might be.
They do not know.
Only YOU can know how much you need.
Because you will rebel. Either your body will rebel, because it’s not getting enough, or it’s getting too much, or it’s not getting the thing it needs; or your mind will rebel because it doesn’t like to be bossed around.
Ugh, and what’s a ‘normal’ person anyway??????????
The whole thing about control
Really! It’s not the solution! So many people I speak to every day, believe that control is the solution – not just controlling their portions, but controlling themselves!
The thing is, controlling is about a power struggle: it’s a battle of wills between you and, um you! Who will win? No one! You will lose. Martha Beck has a fabulous description of the two parts of ourselves that are battling: there’s the Dictator – aka the Diet Police – telling you you have to eat this, in these portions; or not after this time in the day, or not before this time; you can’t eat that; you have to exercise – for this period of time, over this many days… on and on it goes – there’s no end to the orders from the inner Dictator. Then there’s your Wild Child – the part of you that has a tantrum and doesn’t wanna! She wants what she wants! Now! She wants to go wild – do exactly as she pleases, when she pleases.
And she does.
Until she gets tired of it, or until the Dictator’s voice looms loud enough to ‘rein you in’ to better ‘portion control.’
There is another way, that isn’t about portion control
The only kind of portion control you need is one that comes in the moment, from a dialogue between you and your body.
It starts with you remembering that you have choices. Nothing is off limits. Anything you can access is a food choice (provided it’s edible :)). Remind yourself that there are no good or bad foods.
Then ask yourself:
- Are you hungry, dear Body?
- How hungry are you? (meal-hungry or snack-hungry is a basic distinction)
- What do you need to be satisfied, dear Body? (Something hot, warm or cold? Crunchy, chewy or smooth? Savoury or sweet? Raw or cooked etc.)
- How much will satisfy this level of hunger?
You serve yourself that much and you start to eat.
Half way through, you check in:
- How are you doing, dear Body? Still hungry? Still enjoying the taste?
- How satisfied are you now?
And you keep going, until you feel satisfied and you’re no longer hungry; you’ve enjoyed what you’ve eaten whatever it was.
And if you notice you’re a little too full or way too full – then:
- Oops, sorry dear Body – I overstepped and forgot to listen. We’ll try again next time; thanks for being patient and forgiving!
No need for portions decided upon by other people. No need for willfull control.
Need help from an expert?
If you’ve had enough of being on and off a diet, feeling ashamed of your body and how you eat, binge eating or emotional overeating — you’ve come to the right place.
I’ll help you discover how to let go of all the food rules, trust your own body and reclaim your innate worthiness — so you can live your life unapologetically and focus on what really matters to you.