Here’s the dilemma.
We know diets don’t work.
Sure, they’ll help you lose weight in the short term. But they won’t help you keep it off for good.
The cycle goes like this: You limit what & how much you eat, you feel deprived, you eventually give in, go overboard and regain all the weight you lost.
So, how do you reach a healthy weight that you can maintain permanently, without “going on a diet?”
Well, besides eating well-balanced meals full of healthful ingredients, you need to eat the right amounts.
That’s where it gets tricky.
How to reduce portions without going overboard
You know you need to reduce your portions, but you don’t want to cut them by too much. Otherwise, you’ll end up feeling deprived and back in that never-ending diet cycle!
There are all kinds of tips that can help you reduce portions like: using smaller dishes & utensils, portioning out your servings rather than eating straight out of the package, filling up on vegetables and staying hydrated.
Those are all great, but they don’t necessarily help you figure out what the right portion size for your body is.
Here’s what we’ve found works best:
1) Plan out what you’ll eat in advance AND
2) Practice listening to your body’s fullness cues.
Learning what it feels like to eat a proper portion is a skill that takes time to develop.
Since most of us are used to restaurant-sized servings (which are 2-3x larger than a recommended portion), don’t expect this to happen overnight.
Plan Your Meals & Snacks
The first step is to have a meal plan and follow it as written for several weeks. This will give you a good baseline and help you recognize what a proper portion looks & feels like.
The easiest way to do this is to purchase a meal plan designed by a nutritionist, like our Healthy Eating at Trader Joe’s Seasonal Meal Plans. Letting the nutritionist do the work will save you the time & energy it takes to figure out your portions.
But, if you prefer to create your own, you’ll want to design your plan using recommended portion sizes. To do that:
Follow the steps in this “handy” portion guide.
For packaged items not covered in the above portion guide – check the food label for number of servings per package and then add one serving to your plan.
Listen to Internal Cues
Now that you have a baseline, the next step is to adjust the portions for your individual needs. Every body is unique and we all have different fuel requirements, so you may need slightly larger or smaller portions.
This is the part that takes plenty of practice and patience. But we guarantee you, if you do the work, it will be well worth it.
The first step is to eat slowly and without distractions. We know this isn’t always practical, but try to do it whenever possible. Think of the next few weeks as a scientific experiment while you figure out your correct portions.
Chew your food well. Put your fork or spoon down between bites. Swallow your food before you pick up the next bite. And most importantly, savor and enjoy your food.
By slowing down, you’ll be more aware of how full you’re getting. When you notice you’re 80% full, you’re done. You’ve eaten the right amount for your body. If there’s food left on your plate, wrap it up and save it for later.
Continue to practice, and eventually it will feel natural to stop eating when you’ve reached 80% capacity.
Of course there may be times, especially during celebrations or social situations, when you go overboard.
We’re all human, and it happens.
But the beauty is that you’ll recognize more quickly when you’ve overeaten, and you’ll get back on track sooner because you’ve taken the time to develop this skill.
And the best part is that you can start your science experiment at your next meal and start practicing right away!