If You Fudge, Only You Really Know

I’m all about portion control. Seriously. Even today, if I’m eating something measurable that I am not familiar with such as couscous or quinoa, 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.

It is important to remember that there is a difference between serving sizes and portion sizes. Sheah Rarback, a spokesperson for the ADA explains the difference:

“A serving is the amount recommended in consumer education materials such as the Food Guide Pyramid, while a portion is the amount of food you choose to eat at any one time–and that may be more or less than a serving.

I love the last part of that quote. “That may be more or less than a serving.”   I realized during my final weight loss odyssey that if I fudged on my portions, and ate more than one proper serving at a time, I was really hurting myself.  (Not so much with vegetables of course, but with other foods.)

The Little Decisions

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.

The Consequences

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 3 to 5-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

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  1. I try and measure everything but I definitely get complacent. Especially on days that I exercise a lot, I’ll grab handfuls of things and figure it’s just counting against the calories I burned. Measuring has helped me feel like I have control over what I eat. My food scale stays out all the time so there is never an excuse not to be aware of portion sizes.
    Jodi @ Jodi, Fat or Not recently posted…Whispers of the weekendMy Profile

  2. I try to weigh everything – sometimes it confuses me what is considered “one serving”, but I try to make sure I eat reasonably and do not cheat myself out of my success. Every now and tehn I will even find I am eating less than I thought, which is kind of nice. ^^
    Diandra recently posted…Friday check-in, once again – and some scienceMy Profile

  3. This is the main lesson that the book “Fast Food Nation” brought home to me when I first read it several years ago. Not only do our minds and eyes play tricks with us regarding portion size, the food industry has done some dirty work as well. Now don’t think I’m blaming the food industry – I’m the one with the fork in my hand! But thanks to advances (not the word I’d use) in growing techniques and our demands for more/larger/perceived value amounts of food, what was once a “medium” apple or banana is now equal to 2 or 3 serving sizes, yet we still count it as one. What was once a “regular” french fry is now a “large” and somewhere along the way, we were subtly offered the option of “supersize” or “value” size playing on our need to think we’re getting more for our money.

    You are right – the only way to always know for sure is to weigh and measure. But it’s worth it!
    Sharon recently posted…Through The Eyes Of AnotherMy Profile

  4. I once read a CDC statistic that quoted the average breakfast cereal portion poured as 4 times what is suggested on the box. What should have been 200 calories was taken by most Americans as over 800. And so it goes through the course of the day in our growing Republic.

    As for measuring, I don’t measure. I know instantly when I choose too much, as I know instantly when the portion is correct. I think most people also know this. After that, it’s all about choices…

  5. I think we all “treat/cheat” at times BUT the point as you make above is that when people fudge or get complacent with food, the weight WILL creep back on you. This is why so many lose but then regain. We have to be diligent with this. Not to say we can’t enjoy but if you do a little too much each day, it will be on you in a few months/
    Jody – Fit at 54 recently posted…Gratitude Monday, Enjoyment & OC HousewivesMy Profile

  6. For me portion control doesn’t work. I am not saying it’s not important because it totally is, but if I am hungry I am going to keep eating. And a 1/2 cup of frozen yogurt, please, I don’t think I’ve ever had that small of a portion.

    Everyone has to find what works for them and what works for me is eating lots of high quality food like big salads with a protein, adding egg whites to my oatmeal and having large veggie stir fry’s for dinner, I guess you could say I am a volume eater, I like to eat a lot. I forgo processed food where like you said the portion is so small, in favor of fruit a smoothie with lots of ice or nuts or veggies. And keeping sugar consumption very low is key for me.
    marie recently posted…CarnivalMy Profile

  7. Excellent post and my strategy almost all the time. I had a couple of free for all days this week where I did not measure or weigh all the food I consumed. I know better and my scale does too. :( I do not include vegetables like Brussels sprouts or asparagus but I do measure the olive oil I use to roast them.
    Caron recently posted…Continuing the Ready for Summer ChallengeMy Profile

  8. I’d say portion control is the main way that I control what I eat. That with low fat eating and exercise seems to be the most effective way of losing and maintaining weight from the most recent studies.

  9. Some things I always measure, like nuts. I don’t eat crackers or pretzels or the like, anymore, but when I did I was very aware of an actual serving size. Mostly, if I am eating on track, serving size is a non-issue. I eyeball and I eat reasonable amounts. Sometimes, like you, I will measure a new food just to see.
    Karen@WaistingTime recently posted…Snikiddy Snack Paddywhack GiveawayMy Profile

  10. I constantly have to remind myself that whatever I do (extra bites) or don’t do (like walk), I am only hurting myself. Awhile ago, hurting myself would not have mattered, because I was so unhappy with myself. But things are different now. I realized that I deserve at least as much care as I give my own family. I would not accept less for my children or pet, even!
    Jennifer recently posted…Fit Mommy UpdateMy Profile

  11. I am a measurer!!!! But even so, I do cheat sometimes…. :(
    me recently posted…MONDAYMy Profile

  12. You are so right about the difference between serving size and portion size. Weighing and measuring has become second nature to me now. I also have to be careful about sneaking in some extra bites here and there. They really add up. If I measure or weigh my portion, I am less likely to “fudge” or have a “little extra” later.
    E. Jane recently posted…Yes–I’m Going Private!My Profile

  13. So true! This is the key to eating appropriately imho. Something I’ve considered is getting a whole new set of dishes in smaller size. My plates are all white, mugs are over 8 oz., glasses over 12 oz. Thanks for the reminder, I’m going to shop for replacements!

  14. I got into the habit of measuring when I was tracking calories, but if I binged, then I’d get so upset with myself and not want to count those calories. Fact is, I knew I’d eaten too much, but didn’t have the compassion to view it objectively. A binge isn’t just having six or seven crackers instead of five, it’s having a whole box of crackers, plus cheese on each and every one. What I strive for is normalcy with food, which includes measuring most of the time, eyeballing once in a while, telling myself I can have more if I am still hungry, and understanding and acknowledging myself and my feelings regularly so I can avoid bingeing.
    KCLAnderson (Karen) recently posted…Laughing At What Has Been FoundMy Profile

    • Normalcy is the word for me as well. That and sustainability. If I can’t sustain it then what is the point? After all, like you, I want this to be for the long-term.

  15. My measuring cups are my serving spoons, every day.

    For some things we just leave a measuring cup in the container – dry oatmeal, frozen tart cherries come to mind.

    I am now to the point where it looks very odd to see someone use a spoon. I use the cups on almost everything I eat, even after all this time.

  16. I am pretty good at keeping what make and eat for myself measured properly. BUT I do tend to graze off what I fix my kids, I taste almost everything they eat and there have been a few weeks in my journey thus far where I have stalled or not lost as much as I should because of those “cheats”
    Christie recently posted…Solo-runner/shmo-low runner & Deep Sigh of ReliefMy Profile

  17. Unfortunately I do nibble and munch when cooking. I hate that I graze and I’ve tried to quit the habit. It’s hard.
    Lisa recently posted…Died and Gone To HeavenMy Profile

  18. A little bite of this and that DOES make a difference. I’m a committed to measuring and weighing food…I use my scale so much, I’ve depleted the battery…. Thanks as always for your wonderful posts Diane. Have a great week.

  19. Unless I am exercising vigorously, like I am right now, I am quite picky about serving sizes for all the reasons mentioned. Me and my food scale are good buddies ;)

    In situations like this where I know I am burning a fair number of calories, but not the exact number, I will eyeball my servings more or allow more food if I am hungry. I hasn’t been to my detriment, but like you, when I float to the top of my window it is time to take stock and adjust things to move my weight back downward.
    Taryl recently posted…169.8, but I’m doing a correction day, anywayMy Profile

  20. I try really hard to keep myself accountable. I track everything in my MyFitnessDiary app. I know that the better I am about sticking to my serving sizes (except for veggies, like you said. I love that about veggies!), the more successful I will be when I start the maintenance phase!

    Great post!
    Jamie recently posted…My Anniversary!My Profile

  21. Hey, great tips, i love it. i’m starting to track..but its sooo hard, thank u for sharing ur 158 lbs weight loss success story diane! your an inspiration!

    I just started a blog, and im also trying to lose a little bit of weight. its tough!! but love hearing urs. will keep on following!

    <3 Always, Jess
    you can check out mine! i'd love any tips for a new blogger

  22. Hi Diane, I love this post. If only we could cheat and get away with those nibbles and licks but we all know they add up and one lick begets another the next day. I am careful of what I graze on…if its low calorie I allow myself to eat more….if it is more calorie dense then I measure. Right now I am restricting a few things I seem to get carried away with, kinda putting it back in perspective and to get back to not taking it at liberty. To me, control is key to keeping the weight maintenance going smoothly.
    jeanette recently posted…Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Strips and Hauling For A CureMy Profile

  23. Kazsandra says:

    You know I can relate to you.. Actually, I gained more weight this week and I was a bit afraid I cannot get back my figure before.. I hope I can control what I’m eating now..
    Kazsandra recently posted…Stop Panic AttacksMy Profile

  24. This is definitely true – one need to monitor your portions and calories constantly and one can never stop doing this because you will gain or stall (like you say.)
    Love this post.

  25. I cheat. I am not proud of that! I have come to realize that I am a “closet eater” How silly is it to think that just because no one sees me eat it that it does not count somehow? I want to care what I eat just as much as I care what other people think about what I eat. How can I do that? Is it because I don’t love myself enough? Do you or did you deal with this issue?
    Jill recently posted…St CroixMy Profile

    • It is not silly at all – I used to do the same thing. Secret eating, closet eating, all of that. I don’t think it is because you don’t love yourself. For me, it was a combination of a habit and shame at what I was doing. I knew I shouldn’t be going through the drive-thru or eating whole bags of M&M’s so I would hide it from other people. It was honestly a hard habit to break. One thing I did was try to only eat when other people did – be it friends, co-workers, or family. That helped me a lot.

  26. Hi Diane,
    Great post, as usual. I’m not somebody who weight things and i should because it is typically why i’m overweight. One bite here and one bite there and oh one pound at the end of the week….thanks for sharing i’ll try to be careful!

  27. LovesCatsinCA says:

    Hi, Diane. So true. I have noticed that sometimes if my weight creeps up, that it IS portion sizes. Since my weight is up, I’ve started to be more vigilant about that. But the main thing is, that I got away from counting calories. Or more correctly, I got away from being strict about limiting calories. Basically, at my age, if I want to weigh what I want to weigh, I have to be disciplined and eat 1500-1600 calories a day and exercise 45-60 minutes a day, most days. And I started to feel kind of deprived eating like that for the past few years. So I’d end up eating 1700 calories one day and 1400 one day and 1900 calories one day–but the average was more like 1700-1800, not 1500-1600–putting on weight.

    I haven’t regained all of what I lost–but I’m at what was always my “setpoint” weight when younger–where my weight naturally gravitates if I just eat what I like and am not careful about food and exercise. Unfortunately, on a small frame, that setpoint is apparent. I stopped the gain– but since at my weight, the health issues I had with high blood pressure are not really threatening, but it’s less motivating.

    Other people: Any motivation secrets for those of us who have gained weight back but not a health threat? I was really diligent and managed to keep my weight at a decent level for several years until peri-menopause sent my moods and hormones and energy level into chaos. I realized I was eating for fatigue rather than for actual hunger recently since I haven’t slept well/much for months. So that will help modulate my excess calories a bit but I need some motivation to be more diligent at going from “average” to thin again… Thanks.

    • I know it’s just me answering, but one thing that motivates me is remembering how easy it can be to gain a few pounds and how hard it can be to lose those same pounds. Also, I think about how my clothes fit and how I feel about my appearance. Certainly esoteric considerations, but they do help me stay on top of calories/pounds, etc.

      The hormonal issue is about upon me as well. I know I too will have to be extra diligent with food, strength training and exercise as that approaches.

  28. It is definitely the lil’ nibbles here and there that cause me a problem – not meals or the type of food I eat. Being open and honest about them in my tracking helps a little, but I know once I leave school for the summer it’ll get better (dorms are small, meaning food is too easily in reach!!)
    Kaitie recently posted…Call Me GeorgiaMy Profile

  29. The food scale is a love hate relationship. I love what the discipline has given me and I hate when the food I really want to eat has reached it’s allotment on the scale. Sometimes I am on automatic and I just know my limit and let it go but sometimes I weigh what I get and then take an extra bite for me. Depending on the food, an extra bite can be 10 to 50 calories. They do add up, as you wrote so well in today’s post. Excellent reminder.

    I am currently testing and reviewing one of the on line food diaries (instead of the system I have used for so many years) and I am liking it. I am trying it for two months. If I see positive changes, I will switch permanently.

    People should also be aware that restaurants may post what they consider the info for a serving but each location seasons and serves in their own way and rarely ever weigh portions. You cannot assume your 4oz salmon is only 4 oz in a restaurant. I almost always find it is 6 to 8 oz. Same with chicken and lets just forget steak . . .
    Jane Cartelli recently posted…Weight Loss Via Vampire Method?My Profile

  30. Patrick Gomez says:

    This is a wonderful post.
    I try and eat healthy food with just the right proportion, but most of the times I just can’t control myself and cheat just the way you do.

    Patrick Gomez recently posted…how to seduce a womanMy Profile

  31. Absolutely true. It was simply portion control that allowed me to lose 35 lbs a couple of years back. When I started finding out how many calories I was *really* consuming, I was amazed. No, totally flabbergasted.

    And things aren’t exactly made easier by the fact that on packagings serving sizes are almost deliberately misleading. I had a frozen pizza here that stated as serving size half the pizza – who will try to saw a frozen pizza in half?
    Evilcyber recently posted…Does Sensa Weight Loss Work?My Profile