Richard G. Petty, MD

He That Enjoys His Portion

Having grown up at a time and in a culture where it was expected that everyone would finish every morsel of food on his plate, it was quite a shock to come to the United States and to be confronted by mountains of food. During my first few months I dutifully consumed everything on my plate and soon noticed the effect on my waistline. But it brought home to me the power of social and cultural factors in eating.

Though each of us is responsible for how much we eat, research suggests that cultural and social norms can make it hard for us to choose appropriate portion sizes. The November 2007 issue of Harvard Women’s Health Watch has published an interesting article about the way in which misperceptions about portions can affect calorie intake.

A first point is that many of us tend to treat portions as equivalent to nutritional servings. A serving is a specific quantity of food designated on the basis of nutritional need. However, a portion–the amount you actually get on your plate, in the package, or at the counter–is often much larger. Many of us do not always read the Nutrition Facts label, and may find ourselves eating two or three servings’ worth. Studies suggest that we might be satisfied with smaller portions if larger ones were not so easily available. Other research has shown that the more plentiful the food, the more we eat. I know form my own experience that both of those are true.

The Harvard Women’s Health Watch offers some advice for “keeping portions in proportion:”

  • Train your eye: Measure out servings – not portions – of the food you commonly eat so you know what a single serving looks like
  • Change your tableware: Use a smaller bowl or a mug for cereal and a smaller plate at dinner
  • Control portions at home: To discourage second helpings, serve food in the kitchen and take it to the table on plates
  • Eat at regular intervals throughout the day: Do not wait until you are hungry, since you are then more likely to overindulge at the next meal
  • Control portions while eating out: Avoid buffets and salad bars. Instead of a dinner, order a low-fat appetizer and a large salad with dressing on the side

These are all simple and straightforward pieces of advice that will be familiar to anyone working in the weight and metabolism field.

On another occasion I shall give you a few more of my own tips, including “Perimeter shopping”

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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