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03/30/2010

We Eat Two or Three Times the Amount We Should

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I used to be regimented with counting calories and still keep a keen eye on the nutrition labels on prepared foods.  Since food labeling is required for most prepared foods here in the US, it is easy for me to do a quick glance at the nutrition information when I am at the grocery store, or on the menu itself at a restaurant.  But what really kick-started the changes in my food choices towards a healthier lifestyle, was when I began to understand the reality behind portions and serving sizes.

Case in point, look at this container of potato chips.  It's one of those 100-calorie packs and honestly, there are only about 12 chips in the container.  This is a true ONE serving of chips.  Yet how many of us would easily down an entire small bag of chips, about 300 calories per packet, in one sitting?  300 calories weighted against 2000 calories (recommended daily calories intake for a woman not looking to lose weight) means that we have allocated 300 of that 2000 calories, on a bag of chips.  This is not even including the 500-calorie wrap, and 100-calorie soda that you just had in one meal alone.  If you add up the total calories one could potentially consume in excess of 2000 per day, and know that *3500 excess calories equals 1 pound of weight gain, you can imagine how that quickly adds up to that 10 pounds or 15 pounds over time. 

Prior to this realization, most of the meals I used to consume were in the serving sizes of 2 or 3 servings.  Once I realize what a true serving was, it made sense as to why I was 50 pounds overweight despite being very active and engaged in sports activities.  To turn this whale around, I started out by cutting down the foods I ate by half.  This was just a starting point for me, and an easy starting point at that since I did not have to make much of a change in the types of food I ate but I just had to focus on halving everything on my plate and setting it aside.  So I still enjoyed my favorite curries and chocolates but would either reduce the portion or the frequency of when I would eat them.  Slowly, the pounds came off and this is without exercise!  I was motivated with this small "win" and began making other healthy changes to my life,

  • I started replacing my work lunch with a salad or a meal that was 400-calories or less. This took a lot of discipline for me because I work in a part of town where we are within walking distance to restaurants and I tended to forget to pack a lunch.
  • I became more conscious of my after-8pm snacking habit (which tended to happen around 11:30pm when I would still be up working late).  So I am in the process of weaning myself off it.  I have to admit, most nights I do ok but some nights, I really am physically hungry since it has been 6 hours since my last meal - so I allow myself a 100-calorie snack of some form.
  • The next thing I would like to do is to get some exercise into my routine - I am not sure how to make this happen at this point since every minute of my day is literally accounted for but I am thinking of moving some of my activities around to make time for it.
My challenges are resisting sweet pastries and chocolates (can I get a witness?)  - I am quite attached to these and so I use them as my mini-rewards for when I have a really good day keeping to my goals. (Works for kids and adults alike!) 

The initial weeks going into each major change are difficult and require a lot of discipline.  Did I mention that I am also a stress-eater?  I had to address that head-on first through prayer and by looking for healthier alternatives when any craving hits, so as not to let those feelings of guilt and frustration pull me towards a place where I feel that this is a negative experience.  Still, if I am having a DEFCON 1 week, a small slice chocolate mousse cake does more good than harm.

The good news is that through those trying weeks, my body begins to get used to the smaller portions or change in food choices, and my brain seems to stop sending those signals to eat-eat-eat, indulge-indulge-indulge.  I am actually unable to eat the same serving sizes I used to be able to as I start to feel full sooner.  I also do not feel deprived since I still eat what I usually would have eat, but I am in better control of how much I eat, and how often I eat them.  I am well-aware that this is not in line with any of the popular weight-loss concepts out now but the math of portion-control just adds up (or subtracts) for me.    

While not indulging in French macarons or Italian cannolis, Grace Hester multi-tasks as a full-time working mom of two, owner of an etsy store, and blogs about it all at Tale of the Multi-Tasking, Craft-and-Design-Loving, Mother-of-Two, Singaporean-Living-in-US, Corporate-Working Mom Named Grace Hester.

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