The Portion Control Conundrum

Hey weight watchers and fat busters! Whenever I hear somebody wanting to lose fat, a simple picture of the possible solution comes to my mind as shown in the picture below. It shows three things that one must do on a fat loss journey to be successful. Eat less, make healthy food choices and avoid gluten, processed foods etc. Who doesn’t know this?

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 4.24.37 PM

In today’s article, I will be focusing on only one of these solutions, which I think is a well-known fact but the least understood. Eating less!! In the nutritionist lingo, we call it  portion control.

          Ever wondered about the intent behind this very important diet mantra? The eating less mantra! Let’s first understand that clearly. You might follow any diet with any name under the sun, but at the heart of this diet is ENERGY BALANCE. Don’t consume energy that you cannot spend. Hence food is nothing but a source of energy to let you do YOUR daily chores effectively and optimally. So why does one almost always consume more than one needs? Before we get into that, let me reiterate something folks! Any diet you know of or follow currently in order to maintain your body fat percent is a carbohydrate restricted diet. It lowers the amount of energy you consume by reducing the amount of carbs eaten e.g. roti, rice, bread etc. Why reduce carbs? There are many reasons for this. However, for now let me point out one and that is that throughout the world humans consume more carbs than any other macronutrient in their day to day diets. 70-80% of our diets are just carbs! Eating 100 gm of carbs takes 10 mins and includes 2 rotis and one serving of rice-dal, while eating 80-100 gm of protein (which is the range of recommended dietary allowance per day for most adults) needs one to consume at least 400gm of meat/500 gm cottage cheese/16 eggs/1-liter milk IN ONE DAY. Sounds impossible isn’t it?

          There are few reasons for why it’s easy to eat more carbs. The most significant reason of all is that carbs have the same chemical composition as that of sugar! Carbs consumed in any form is equal to consumption of sugar. Many studies have shown and I quote one here, published in June 2013 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, proved there’s truth behind the belief that food can be addictive.

“Brain imaging reveals that after eating highly processed carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, rice, baked goods and other starches, the same pleasure centers of the brain light up as when a person takes drugs such as cocaine and heroin. In both cases, dopamine levels, which trigger happiness and feelings of reward, spike and then deplete, thus fueling addiction.”

          Portion control is therefore difficult because most of us don’t even know that we are addicted to our rice, roti and bread. Test it! Try going without rice or roti for a week.

      However, a fat loss journey must begin with portion control and a little self awareness goes a long way. The simple chart I have shown below shows you the equivalent amount of sugar you will be consuming if you ate the given quantities of these items. Normally, I strongly recommend my clients to quit carbs totally in the same manner as quitting drinking or smoking! But it’s not easy for all of us and so to begin with, look at this chart and reduce your portions to not more than 10 teaspoons of sugar ‘a day’ and gradually lower it further. Just this little start will show you results in less than a month. You will not only begin losing fat, but also feel more energetic and get better sleep.

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 4.01.43 PMP.S: This chart is ONLY meant to help you do portion control by showing you the equivalent amount of sugar consumed per item. It is not meant to advise on whether or not rice or wheat should be eaten at all. That aspect will be covered in a separate article which will cover the quality of foods to eat and their impact on fat accumulation. 

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