What Difference Did It Make?

I’m all about portion control. Seriously. Even today, if I’m eating something measurable you may just see me open my cabinet and bring out my measuring cups or counting the right number of whatever I’m eating. It’s that important to me. It’s also a strategy that I believe has helped me maintain my weight loss this long.

It’s really easy to fudge on portion sizes. Really easy.

One serving of whole crackers may officially be 5 crackers, but who knew if I ate six or seven. What difference does just a few extra make? 

One serving of a banana is a medium sized banana, not two gigantic ones. Who knew? What differences does one more make?

One serving of frozen yogurt is a half a cup. Who knew if I had two servings? What difference did it make?

Taken separately, it may not have made much of a difference at all. After all, 50 calories here or 70 calories there does not a diet plan ruin. But 50 calories four or five times a day can do some damage. It can do damage if you are maintaining like I am, or if you are losing.

Those extra 200 calories a day add up to 1,400 calories for the week. Unless you are exercising or moving a little bit more to compensate for those extra bites here and there your weight loss may stall or you may start to gain.

I’ve seen it happen to myself, and that’s exactly why I have a three to five pound weight range that I allow myself to float in. If the number on the scale hits my high mark, I immediately evaluate what I’ve been doing and determine what needs to change. Nine times out of ten it isn’t the exercise that’s the problem, but the little bites of food I eat while cooking, or the extra piece of bread as a snack.

As you are following your weight loss or weight maintenance eating plan, I’d really encourage you to look carefully at the serving sizes on the side of the box or with an online calculator. Often times weight loss stalling or regaining is about food quantity. I know it’s a pain to measure or count your food – but it really can make a difference in your long-term success.

How are you with eating the right serving size? Ever cheat like I do?  Diane

37 thoughts on “What Difference Did It Make?

  1. Yum Yucky says:

    Ritz crackers are a pre-dinner fav in this house. We all go beastly on them and then say, “uh oh, what just happened?” But I will NOT look at the food label. Because I’m pretty certain an entire sleeve of crackers per person is definitely just one serving size. Yes?

  2. vickie says:

    I thought about this very thing – measuring – yesterday as the oatmeal box was running low and the cottage cheese container was nearly empty.

    I don’t cheat myself either way – not enough or two much – both ‘cheating’.

    I measured both times, instead of assuming. And with one, there was too much and the other there was not quite enough. And there are always back up supplies of these staples that I use every day. So I was able to make the serving amounts ‘just right/fair’.

    I use a measuring cup like other people use a serving spoon, every time, even after all these years.

  3. Roxie says:

    I try not to eat anything so calorically-dense that it requires such rigorous portion control. That being said, here in Texas, I find myself at Tex-Mex restaurants quite often and I count out my chips right there in the restaurant. If I don’t, I can plow through a basket (or two) and then have dinner on top of that.

  4. Karen@WaistingTime says:

    Some times I measure and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I don’t because I know the serving size and can easily count out or eyeball, but I will admit that sometimes I don’t because I just want to fudge just a little bit on that serving size. This reminds me that I have been thinking my peanut butter serving seems to be growing a bit so the time may have come to pull out the measuring spoons again.

  5. Tara says:

    I measure EVERYTHING. Even though I’ve been doing this for a long time, I feel like portion control is where things can get the craziest the fastest.

    I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to eyeballing things – it’s too risky. The only place I allow myself freedom from the measuring is with vegtables. I figure an extra strip of red pepper or a thicker tomato slice is not going to make any kind of difference.

  6. South Beach Steve says:

    I don’t measure my food at all. In fact, I really couldn’t tell you how many calories are in anything I eat. I pay more attention to whether I am eating until full, overfull, or somewhere short of full. I realize the subjectivity in that and that it is prone to mistakes, but for me that is the only way I can make this thing something I can do for life.

  7. Mbini says:

    I did the food measuring in the past. I do it once in a while. But if anything stresses me with a diet, or weight loss, its food journaling. I just hate it. I do it for a week and its always too much work. But I convince myself my portions are in check.

    But when I know the portion size I stick with it. Like with oats I use my measuring cup. But anything not in my head, I have to be in a good mood to weigh. And I always think I am under-eating…LOL

  8. suzanne says:

    I have to admit i’m pretty obsessive about weighing and measuring. Not only would i give myself too much if i didn’t but there are times i wasn’t giving myself enough.

  9. Jody - Fit at 52 says:

    Diane, I am with you! I know a lot of people are into the IE these days but portion sizes can get out of control and also people just do not realize how much they are actually eating & how that translates to calories & then pounds. I am pretty careful about knowing the portion size & if I am eating a larger portion or not.

  10. Diane says:

    wow. I REALLY need to hear this. I think I’ve gained a few pounds exactly by not keeping track of my portion sizes. Thanks Diane. Your blog is always an inspiration and source of great information. 🙂

  11. Desert Agave says:

    I also have to measure pretty much everything. My measuring cups get a lot of use. The one thing I haven’t been measuring that I probably should is fruit. I eyeball out half a cup of raspberries in the morning, for example, and probably end up with closer to a cup of them.

  12. emergefit says:

    There is no doubt (in my mind) that portion size, not excess sugars and fats, is the primary reason we are in an obesity and diabetes crisis right now.

    This is where I take GREAT exception to our American culture right now — (collectively) we just want more and more and more. Look at the 64 ounce Big Gulp, Claim Jumper restaurants, all the casino buffets, and that most people view a pint of Ben and Jerry’s as a single serving.

    Despite food content (sugar and fat), if everyone just ate within the proper portion size, we would be a much healthier nation.

    Argue with me people, I dare you….

  13. Little Bee says:

    Oh yeah, portion sizes are still a big topic for me. The thought of measuring every time is a deterrent to even start cooking. I do remeasure periodically to readjust my intake. My biggest problem lies with packaged food; I suffer from the dreaded “once you pop you can’t stop” syndrome. Willpower just isn’t cutting it in my case, I cannot be alone with an open package so am dealing in alternative ways. (No fullsize packages at home, only eat that stuff outside the house or with friends, and if they want, they can take leftovers, otherwise the rest of the package contents get tossed.)

  14. Stacy says:

    I think I have shrunk my stomach enough that extra food is just not needed, so my portion sizes have automatically gone down. The one thing I need to stay away from is the wine (hard!). There seems to be an “off” switch for food control in my brain when I am drinking, and I tend to veer into snacking when I normally wouldn’t.

  15. Tish says:

    I do try to pay attention to portion sizes. I don’t measure and weigh every day, but every other week I’ll spot check things–especially my brown rice or whole wheat pasta–those are my servings that seem to grow. I also have the new WW metallic serving spoons that are measuring cups–these help. Because I eat the same thing for breakfast and for lunch every day, I have a pretty good handle on where my portion comes to in the pattern on my bowl. I don’t measure fruit or low-cal veggies, but try to listen to my sense of “full.”

  16. Ashley says:

    This is funny — I just wrote today about how it all adds up. I measure food/count serving sizes all the time — it’s the only way.

  17. 'Drea says:

    I try my best to stick the serving size and I count out things. One of my friends even jokes that I’m Rainman.

    I was reading Prevention this morning and they were highlighting these plates with built in guides for serving sizes and it’s always a surprise to how a modest a serving can be…

    I do *cheat* at times but I try to make that the exception.

  18. Andrea@WellnessNotes says:

    So true! Portion size is so important! I don’t always get my measuring cups out, but I always put whatever I’m eating in a serving dish (the smaller the dish the better, as whatever I’m eating will look like more) and pay attention to the serving size. And once in a while I will double check and measure, etc.

  19. Leah says:

    This is something I’m still working on and I find so important to weight loss. It is amazing just how small a portion really is sometimes and yet I can be satisfied with that portion.

    Yes, I’ve cheated like you. Thus losing slower than others.

  20. Colleen says:

    For me, I have been able to lose weight and keep it off for a time when I have been very, very focused on hunger/satisfaction signals. BUT, I am not there right now. And haven’t been for a few years now…the only way that I can keep on track is to weigh & measure my foods, then plug them into a calorie/nutrition tracker online. I get into my biggest trouble with calories in beer & wine – just no portion control ability, and calories rack up very quickly. That also leads to more eating when defenses are down. And when having that type of beverage, it’s when you’re hanging out with friends or alone-time with hubby, so it feels like a “party” as Andrea mentioned. That’s when I’m not counting, but I am going to have to do it or I will not continue making progress. Thank you, Diane, for the reminders to count!

  21. Julia says:

    I was thinking just last night that I need to start weighing and measuring my food again as I’m sure my portions have grown unintentionally which is probably the reason I am hovering around the same weight for the last for months – even to much of good foods is too much.

  22. Sandi says:

    It’s so easy to eat more than one portion. Cherries have been a real problem for me this year. I know I’m not doing as much damage as I would with processed food, but I can easily over do it. I like your suggestion about keeping a 3-5 pound weight range to float in and if it hits the high end it’s time to tighten up on portions. That’s what I’ve been doing too, and it works well.

  23. Cynthia (It All Changes) says:

    Oh I definitely cheat here and there. But I try not to do it on things that are huge in calories and not too often in one day. I know they add up. I used to be what I called a “fudger”. Sure I only ate 5 crackers when in fact I had had 10…2 servings instead of one. That looked like a cup of cereal when in fact it was a cup and a half.

    Now about every 2 weeks I go back and measure to remind myself what a real serving is and I use smaller plates and bowls…it totally helps.

  24. kwithme says:

    I periodically measure. I have established meals for breakfast and lunch so I will spot check just to make sure that I don’t stray. Another thing I do is use smaller plates and bowls. It works for me. If my measured servings fill up the bowl, it is easier to eyeball and not go over.

  25. Hope says:

    I think measuring has helped me immensely on my journey, and I also continue to measure today.

    I don’t trust myself enough to eyeball my food, because I fudge a little more when there are no measuring cups around. 🙂

  26. Pam says:

    I am sure that the closer I get to my goal weight that this will become a more important factor for me, but right now, its not as crucial.
    Its nice to know that you do still measure and I know its only one of the reasons for your continued successes.

  27. Alissa says:

    You make a really good point here. I need to be more careful about my serving sizes. I try to use measuring cups and weigh my food whenever possible, but I probably try to fudge a little bit somtimes- which might harm me!

  28. Christine says:

    I’ve weighed and measured for so long that I’m pretty good at guesstimating. But at least once a week I bust out the measuring cups and the scale and double-check, just to keep me honest. You’re absolutely right that 50 calories here and there won’t break you, but over the course of a week or two, it can totally keep you from losing weight (or maintaining your weight). Great post.

  29. Shira says:

    Hi Diane. Everything is about portion control! for example, learning that a chicken breast should be the size of my fist, and not command an entire plate as it often does in these “super-sized” serving times was eye opening. When it comes to sweets, I’ve learned not to open the box of chocolate at all because there is no way I can stop at just one. Wish I felt the same about kale, but I’m working on it.

  30. Lori (Finding Radiance) says:

    I weigh my food all the time (except fruit and veggies pretty much). My eyeballs like big portions and I would have a huge heaping tablespoon of peanut butter if left to my own devices and call it 2 tsp. I like the accuracy of weighing food.

    I know some people think this is obsessive, but I was really curious about my frozen yogurt serving, so I packed the scale on one trip to see what the medium size was. Turns out it was 2 portions worth of yogurt, so instead of being about 90 calories, it is 180. I still eat that size, but I know the calorie count now and feel comfortable with that.

  31. Fran says:

    Definitely cheat sometimes!

    Funny that you’ve written about this now as I have been thinking about portion size the past couple of days. My portions have gotten bigger the past few months, include a secret snacking here and there and surprise: gained!

    I’m going to follow a 4 week plan next Friday. It isn’t a diet but a healthy eating plan with measures of how much you can eat. Need to refocus on portion sizes and this will help me do that.

  32. LovesCatsinCA says:

    Hi, Diane. I own up to “cheating” on how big my portion sizes are too sometimes… Fourteen pieces instead of 12. Or the “that’s whole pieces, these little broken pieces won’t count.” Funny how the mind likes to trick us even though the body will reveal those caloric extras….

    An interesting thing I’ve noticed, though, is that when I DO own up to eating way too much of a salty/chippy something (even if reduced calorie/”baked”, the calories add up if you eat multiple servings) or diving into something chocolate for craving rather than flavor, I can figure out I’m about to have my cycle. I’m in my mid 40s and have never had children, so it’s a little less regular nowadays. My body actually tells me when this happens. So rather than it being a negative thing, I shift it to a positive (and I’m talking eating two ounces of something rather than one ounce for a day or two, not a longterm increase in snacking.) Oh, how interesting–my body is telling me through my cravings that I’m shifting hormonally, I need to check my cupboards and go to the drugstore if necessary… thank you body for the warning!

    I don’t measure everything all the time, but like you, I have a weight range. If I hit the upper limit of that 3 pound range, I am more careful about how big my actual portion sizes are. (If someone thinks 3 pounds is a small range, my normal fluctuation is a pound and a half other than that time of the month and I’m a petite, five feet tall person. Someone tall will have a bigger fluctuation.)

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