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Great food portion battle

/ Source: Weekend Today

When I started counseling people on how to lose weight in the late 1980s, I heard many diet war stories. The same complaints came up over and over again: The food is boring. I feel hungry. I feel deprived. There are too many rules. The most common lament was: How can I possibly follow all these rules for the rest of my life? I saw firsthand that no matter how suc­cessful a strict diet is in the short term, it rarely works in the long run. At the same time as I was learning these stories of dieting failures from my clients, I started noticing something going on around me—the size of food was grow­ing. I noted the extra mound of pasta at dinner, the increase in the diameter of a pizza, the ballooning of bagels, the upward creep of all fast-food and restaurant portions. This change was pretty gradual, so most people didn’t pay attention. It wasn’t until recently, when the word “supersize” became part of the vernacular, almost a cliché to describe overgrown portions, that peo­ple started to realize what was happening to their food—and to their bodies.  Along with the supersize culture came a supersize America that has collec­tively gained weight at an unprecedented rate in the past few decades.

As I gathered more information about the growth of portion sizes for my Ph.D. at New York University, I knew that any weight-loss program had to take into account two things: (1) a realistic, personalized eating plan that works for life, and (2) an education in exactly how large portions had be­come, retraining perceptions. Instead of seeing just another muffin, I wanted my clients to see a huge muffin. And then smartsize it!

I developed this program because I didn’t think that the diets out there were realistic. Not only are they hard to follow, but they seem to ignore how large our foods have become. Look around you at the diet programs today— almost all of them are based on the idea that you have to cut certain foods, or even entire food groups, from your diet. They claim that it’s the carbs, the fat, or the sugars that are making you fat. The entire diet industry seems to focus on what we put in our mouths rather than how much of it we consume. They focus on which foods are good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, a “diet” food or a restricted food. This approach is at odds with how people really eat. It’s not the carbs or the fats that are making us gain weight. It’s not what we eat, it’s how much we eat. It’s portion size that is making us fat.

Did you know that a typical bagel today has almost the same calories and nutrient value as five slices of bread? You probably wouldn’t think twice about having a bagel on the run, but you would know you were overdoing it if you grabbed five slices of bread on the way to the office. Once you know what a bagel is “worth,” you’ll see your breakfast in a new way. You won’t need calorie charts, weights, scales, or calculators to understand what a healthy portion is. There’s no getting around it: In order to lose weight, you have to limit calories. But on this program, you won’t have to count them! What you’ll do is develop portion-size awareness. You’ll get a basic under­standing of what your body needs and how much of it you should be eating. Using simple visuals such as a deck of cards, a yo-yo, a baseball, and even your own hand, you’ll find out what a serving size is supposed to look like and how many servings you can eat per day from each food group. The visuals are easy to use: If your piece of salmon at dinner is about the size of three decks of cards, you’ve eaten all your meat and fish servings for the day. Armed with this awareness, you can go anywhere—out to dinner, an all-you-can-eat buffet, a cocktail party, or a home-cooked meal—and know exactly how much you’re eating. All you need to do is to smartsize instead of super­size.

With smartsizing, there are no rigid prescriptions, no “first week on, sec­ond week off ” foods—in fact, no restricted foods whatsoever. It’s all about awareness: portion-size awareness, nutrition awareness, and self-awareness. You can eat what you want as long as it fits into your own eating plan. The beauty of this program is that you can take it as far as you want; you can work the entire program, which includes detailed instructions on how to keep the Portion Teller Diary, tips and activities for downsizing your portions, and spe­cific strategies for dining out, shopping, and making your home more portion-friendly. Or you can choose instead to focus on a basic understand­ing of portion sizes and put portion control into action in your daily life, leav­ing a few bites on your plate at a restaurant, eating only half a sandwich, or switching from a large glass of orange juice to a fresh orange. If you make these changes and no others, you can lose between ten to twenty pounds in one year without even feeling the pinch of deprivation. Small, simple changes add up. I’ve watched it happen with my clients countless times, and I know we can make smartsizing work for you.

Smartsizing doesn’t promise a magic pill, instant weight loss, or overly dramatic results in the first few days. What it does offer is a time-tested, per­sonalized, and sane alternative to unhealthy crash diets with short-term re­sults. Smartsizing works. I’ve seen client after client—many who spent years on the up-and-down yo-yo diet-go-round—lose weight by smartsizing and keep it off for the long run, all the while eating foods they love. Nothing makes me happier than a client who says, “I never knew it was so easy. I don’t stress out about food anymore.” If you smartsize it, you won’t have to change your life, just your relationship to food. By the end of the book, I guarantee that you will never look at an oversized restaurant entrée, a humongous muf­fin, or a mound of pasta the same way again. Instead, you will see your food in terms of healthy portions. Again, the choice of exactly how much and what you eat will be up to you. The Portion Teller program gives you every­thing you need to make your own choices, eat the foods that you love, and still lose weight and keep it off. Welcome to diet liberation.

Excerpted from "The Portion Teller" by Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., R.D. Copyright © 2005 by Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., R.D.. Excerpted by permission of Morgan Road Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.