Not Served by Servings

So back to the Goddess in training weight management stuff, let me just say that I don’t think we’re at all served by servings. I mean, when we go to a restaurant, we can see that the portions are ridiculously large, and hopefully we can ask for a box and not have to eat it all. But here’s the thing that makes me kind of crazy, and my mom reminded me of this recently.

See, Mom’s doctor told her she should try to stay around 1200 calories. Which is what I try to do. We’re 5’2″–or at least, I am and she used to be. She’s a bit shorter these days. So my mom says that she’s trying, but by the time she adds up everything she’s supposed to have, it’s hard to keep it under 1200. Meaning that by the time she adds up the calories from all the servings of dairy, fruits and vegetables, proteins, and cereals she’s allegedly supposed to have, sometimes she’s over, and there’s certainly not anything left over for something she wants.

Okay, so here’s what makes me crazy. We’re on 1200 calories, right? A big, 6’2″ guy like my husband can easily take in 2000 calories. That’s what all the nutrition information is based on. His needs. So…why would I assume that a serving size for him is the same as a serving size for me? I’m absolutely not a nutritionist, but I’m just going, if we have different calorie needs, why should I assume we need the same nutrition? If he needs a cup of something to make a serving, maybe MY serving should be a little more than half of that.

Which is basically what I said to my mom and she was like, oh, I never thought of that.

So I’m just feeling like this whole nutrition info on the package that was supposed to be helpful could be a little more helpful. I mean, could they include another column for a 1200 or 1500 calorie diet? I don’t even really care which one, I just think it would be a huge service to all of us short women out here who deserve quick package reference as much as the men (who often don’t bother to look) do. I mean, 2000 calories? Really? In what world is that a reasonable average?

So here I am on 1200 calories. Anything I’m going to snack on I’m going to want to break down into 100 calorie portions. If all I ate all day was 100 calorie snack things, I could have 12 day. Ever notice how many things are 140-160 calories per serving? 12 x 150 = 1800.

Eating the whole portion on individually packaged items or going by the serving size printed on a larger package would have me over by 4200 calories at the end of the week. Which would gain me over a pound a week. Six pounds in 5 weeks. How easy would it be to put on an extra 10-15 pounds each year just by eating from a portion standard made for people several inches taller with much higher metabolisms? How many of us have done it?

Now, if you’re doing all your math, you can figure this out and not go over. The thing is, we don’t want to do the math. For many of us, measuring, journalling, and mathmatizing the food has us thinking about food all the time, which is not a recipe for not eating as much. What has worked for me has been learning to eyeball things better, learning to be satisfied with 100 calorie servings. Saving up what seems like just little bits of calories here and there matters when you’ve only got 1200 to start. (Note: I set a goal of 1200 so I have plenty of room for error and actually consume between 1200-1500 calories.)

Since this is hardly a dieting site, I’ll take this time when I’m already babbling about weight loss stuff to add something else that’s helped me. I used to eat until I was “full” and call it “satisfied.” I retrained my brained to define satisfied as no longer hungry. If I’ve finished what I pretty much know I’m supposed to eat, I can take a moment to actually think and ask myself, am I hungry? Not, am I full? The answer is probably no, because I’ve already eaten what my body needs and what it can process. So I tell myself that I’m satisfied and can stop. That doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a process. But it’s how I can be satisfied, genuinely, with less while I sit with others as they continue to eat more, like my husband who needs to eat more because he’s a big man who physically labors.

Meanwhile, “full” means something else to me now. In my head, the concept of being full is like being stuffed. Overeating has much more negative connotations in my head. It’s not something that’s like, Oops! I overate and now I’m ugh. It’s more like a, why would I do that to myself? Why would I put food in my mouth to the point where it causes me physical discomfort? Isn’t that kind of like getting falling down drunk in public? That’s not cool.

I mean, no, really. Because when people keep eating just because something is delicious, how is that really different from continuing to drink because you like the way it makes you feel? How is that bloated, overstuffed feeling you get from eating too much so different from the way you get sick from drinking too much? So when I’m out and there’s delicious food on my plate, it’s not really so hard for me to convince myself that I don’t want to engage in public food drunkenness.

So I hope I don’t have to say that none of this is intended to make anyone feel bad about the way they eat. I say this stuff because I used to eat as much as my much larger husband. Because I used to eat until I couldn’t hold anymore and think THAT was the signal to stop. I trained myself, in a lot of ways, to NEED way more food than I actually needed. So what I’m trying to share with you is changes I made in my thinking that helped me train myself back out of that.

I don’t consider myself a dieter. Like many people, I came out of my high metabolism teens and just kept eating, going into college with a lot more social eating, got married young and allowed my eating to habits grow more like my husband’s. This is the first time in my life I’ve stopped to really think about what I’ve been doing and to learn what I really need.

It is damned nice to be able to run across my house to attend to a disaster without danger of tripping over my own thighs rubbing together.

 

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Not Served by Servings

  1. I need to start paying attention to what I eat. Portion size is my main problem, and as you say full is different to not hungry.
    I used to live in thet gym. 2 hours a day twice a day 6 days a week, then I got married, had three kids and now can’t afford a gym, not right now at least. The problem was I didn’t adjust my diet to my new low(er) intensive lifestyle. I need to lose like 20kg’s if I am honest with myself, but my aim is 10…. I’ll start tomorrow… I mean now.

    Interesting ppost Susan. The whole science of nutrition I find fascinating. I used to love counting what I ate, diarising it and creating different traing schedules for myself and my friends to follow.

  2. Amy

    YOU MEAN THOSE TINY PORTION SIZES AREN’T EVEN FOR MY SIZE??? Oh thanks for that. That’s JUST what I needed after a lazy, hot summer of not doing our daily walks!

    I never had so idea SO many women had body image issues. Once I started reading blogs I saw just about every single girl had at least one post where they lamented their size (one way or, infuriatingly, the other) – including me – and like one in 15 were flat out DEDICATED to surviving eating disorders. WTF. Terrible what society and airbrushers and marketers has done to us all.

  3. Do you know, I have been working in the medical field for all of my adult life and never once has anyone else suggested that portion size might need to be related to body size or total caloric intake. What a concept! Brilliant!

    Since I, too, and a woman all of 5’2″ in height, this is information that I will ‘digest’ 🙂

  4. Really good points here. And the analogy of overeating being like falling-down-drunk in public hits home a little too closely. I’ve been doing better lately, but that image may just keep me from going back to it!

  5. Hey Susan. Even though I’m not a short woman, I can understand where youre coming from. My Tuesday post this week, “Uncomfortable Comfort Food” is my story of being food drunk last weekend and asking for strategies to combat doing it again. It struck a cord, and I’ve had tons of comments. I never looked at it that way, but I will going forward, which I hope will help me. I’m also going to pass this along to my wife (4′-11″) and my daughter (5′-0 1/2″ yes, she counts that 1/2″). Thanks.

  6. @Alex- There’s a lot of stuff you can do at home. It’s hard when you’ve got little kids, especially at first, because they’re so energetic and overwhelming it can literally be exhausting just keeping track of them, even if you don’t move around much. So the first step is just to start moving. Good luck!

    @Amy- Sorry about that! Where I live now, I’m not sure I’d really consider this a body image issue. To me that implies seeing something that’s not there, but most people I see in the region I live in now are actually overweight. Now a whole lot of those people are probably in better physical shape than I am and I’m not about to challenge anyone to a race when I’ve let me own stuff go to the point where I have trouble walking uphill. I just know that since I got my weight down to a healthier place, it’s a lot easier for me to try to address the exercise side of it. I’m about to be 40. Short of an airbrush, I don’t think there’s anything that can be done to make this body bikini material, and I’m totally fine with that. For me it’s more about getting the weight under control now, because it’s only going to get harder, and arthritis runs in my family.

    @Lynette- Really? Well, I haven’t even played a doctor on TV, so maybe you shouldn’t listen to me. I have a friend who, when we were neighbors and spent a lot of time together, was a size 1 or 0. And it wasn’t that she was ever so skinny and you wanted to give her a cheeseburger–she was very petite, fine boned, and looked healthy that way. She seemed to be almost incapable of overeating. When she was done, she was done. She never kept going because something was delicious, she never ate until it hurt, I think because overeating was just that uncomfortable for her. One thing I noticed when I ate at her house, was that she served these incredibly small portions. It wasn’t that she was stingy or ridiculously weight conscious, it’s just that these portions that looked to me like 2 tablespoons (probly wasn’t, but it looked like it!) were what she was comfortable eating. In retrospect, when I started thinking about this stuff, those portions seemed proportionate to her stature.

    @Jennifer- I hope it helps and glad you didn’t find it offensive. I wrote this post last week, and had second thoughts including that part. These are issues that are really hard for some people to be objective about. It wasn’t my intention to insult anyone, and after I wrote it I started to think I might hurt someone’s feelings. I hope not. I meant to come back and remove that part from the post, but of course it flew out of my head and I didn’t remember until this morning when it was already out there. I mean, it helps my discipline, but we all know my inner voice isn’t afraid to get tough with me.

  7. Awesome post! I love your analogy of overeating to public drunkenness. I love love love good, tasty food and there are a ton of good restaurants where I live that serve just that–thick creamy sauces and amazing pasta dishes, and desserts–oh the desserts…it’s all just, high caloric yummy goodness. I end up eating a ton of it because its good, not because I am actually hungry; then I feel yucky and just blah afterwards because I am so stuffed. From now on I am going to think about that analogy when I eat! One other tip I’ve found helpful of late–going to the local public market. Buying fresh carrots and squash and other fresh food from local farmers forces me to cook with it (and freeze any leftovers I can for later in the season!). Sadly, my market is closing for the season in a few weeks. It’s gonna be a long winter : (

  8. charitykountz

    I threw out the nutrition guides a long time ago. It never made sense to me and neither did BMI. A BMI index has always put me at slightly obese – I’m 5’6 and 160 pounds. I’ve got hips, a really nice butt (per my husband) and average sized chest. I’m not a dainty wallflower but I’m not unhealthy. And that’s after I lost 20 lbs last year.

    My ideal weight per BMI/nutritionists: a scrawny 135! I don’t even think I weighed that in high school and I was almost solid muscle! Science unfortunately can’t factor in every individual so you have to make the choices that you feel are right for your body. Moderation is important, make sure you get a good amount of protein, fruits and vegetables and not too much of the unhealthy stuff like oil, fats, sugars, and carbs.

    A year ago I cut out 90% of my carbs (bread, pasta, rice, etc), fast food (90%) and soda (90%). I still eat some stuff that’s not good for me but it’s a much smaller percentage and I find I don’t miss any of it. Tonight’s dinner was grilled chicken and a side of peaches with some iced tea. Simple and very satisfying. Also healthy and low in calories. I’m full, content, and might even have a small bowl of ice cream later as a treat. I’ve kept the weight off for a year and if I pushed myself I could probably lose another five pounds. But as long as I’m healthy, that’s all I care about. You should too. 🙂

    • Charity, thanks for your comment. Yes, exactly. Since writing this post nine months ago, I actually have lost more weight and really haven’t had any trouble keeping it off. (My “ideal BMI is allegedly 3 pounds away. Whatever.) I haven’t been this size since right around college and, when I started making the changes, I never thought I’d see these sizes again at my age. What surprises me most is how much I DON’T MISS IT. That’s the part I wish people could believe because I think the deprivation thinking makes things hard for a lot of people. They don’t want to feel like they’re missing out, giving up, whatever. They tend to think in these terms rather than treating themselves to wellness and different good foods. Now that that crack is out of my system, I think about foods I used to crave and I’m like, meh or even ew. And now that my diet is so much healthier and stopping when I’m done is natural for me, I don’t even sweat the numbers anymore.

      • charitykountz

        When I think of all the horrible fast food I used to eat it kinda makes my stomach queasy. Every once in a while I might grab a burger out but not very often – probably average once every few months. I’d much rather grab some of the food from my fridge. Since I work from home, 90% of the time that’s more convenient anyway.

  9. Brilliant post. I am short and unable to exercise so weight issues and food intake are a huge issue for me right now. I have tried so many times to try and make my portions smaller, and I will keep trying. Your analogy of food drunkeness will definitely help though I am pleased to know that I can’t remember having that feeling in quite a while 🙂

    • Since writing this post, I have seen some compelling information about how addictive–in an honest, physical sense–many of today’s processed foods really are. So not only are we being served huge portions and more calories than we can safely ingest, we keep going, craving more, and it’s not from a complete lack of discipline or anything. On top of that, so many of those calories aren’t pulling their nutritional weight so many of us are overweight and suffering from various forms of malnutrition. Which is pretty damned horrible. What does your body do when it’s craving nutrients? Acts hungry. If you’re not already trying to eat more natural, whole foods and cut back on processed and prepared things, that change might also help. It can be more expensive in terms of both time and money, but you’re worth it. Good luck!

      • Thanks for the response. I have started trying to eat healthier (mainly by adding more fruit and vegetables into my diet), unfortunately I still have quite a lot of difficulty with this because of my disability. I have M.E. and have difficulty walking from one end of the room to the other, and end up in extreme pain and exhaustion from doing really simple things so I am unable to prepare foods from scratch (I am trying to find ways around this such as preparing a little at a time but that would mean that the only thing I could do that day would be to make dinner as I need to rest often) and don’t have any income to buy healthier foods as they tend to be more expensive (except those which take a long time to prepare – you see the problem). I am not going to give up but I know it is a long uphill battle and so have to take it one day at a time.

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