When it comes to weight loss, there are countless hacks and tricks that you can put into practice to make your journey better and more efficient - and portion control is one of them!
Losing weight and keeping it off can be a tough battle, but it’s not impossible. Regular physical activity is key, but a lot of it also has to do with what you eat, and how much. We’ve become accustomed to measuring our serving sizes by how hungry we feel at the moment and then finishing everything that’s on our plates even if we’re already full, but this is mistake #1 when you’re trying to lose weight!
This doesn’t mean that you just need to eat less, instead, it’s about understanding your portion sizes and how much you should actually be eating to meet your needs. Portion control helps you manage your meals in a way that’s effective for you and your goals without going to extremes, either eating too much or too little.
But, what exactly is portion control? And how can you implement it? We’re going to tell you everything you need to know about it so you can start making healthier eating choices for your goals, so keep reading!
What is portion control?
The basic rule of weight loss is that, in order to achieve it, you need to be in a calorie deficit in which you eat fewer calories than you burn - and portion control helps you achieve that.
Just like the name suggests, it involves controlling your food portions and keeping an eye on their sizes, because you don’t want to be eating way more calories than you should for your goals. Calories are not your enemy, in fact, your body needs them for energy to be able to get through the day, but too many of them may cause a calorie surplus in which the calories that didn’t get burned get stored in your body as fat. And if your goal is weight loss, this isn’t ideal!
Now, we know that the words “portion control” might sound strict and intimidating, but it’s all about being aware of how much you put on your plate and choosing the right amount of macronutrients for your meals. This will ensure that you’re getting the nutrients that you need to keep your body healthy and satiated without overeating, which could seriously hinder your weight loss efforts. And portion control isn’t only for weight loss! It’s a useful tool that anyone with any fitness or health goal can use to lead a healthier lifestyle.
Eating has more to do with quality than quantity. Yes, you need to eat enough to stay healthy, but bigger sizes don’t necessarily mean more nutrients. If you have enough high-quality protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats in your diet, you’ll be able to eat less while still getting all the nutrients that you need and lose fat in the process. With time, you’ll get familiar with your ideal portion sizes and portion control will be something that you put into practice without even thinking about it. All in all, this is a great way of taking care of your body while you work to lose weight instead of following strict diets that are not sustainable in the long run!
How to portion control for weight loss
Getting started with portion control isn’t complicated, you just need some guidance to improve your eating habits!
Here are a few tips to get you started with portion control so you can start seeing healthy progress in your weight loss journey:
Calculate your macros
Calculating your macros is the best way to understand your portions and measure how much you should be eating based on your body and lifestyle! If you want to start practicing portion control, knowing how much protein, carbs, fats, and calories should go into your daily meals will make a huge impact on your weight loss journey. This is because all bodies are different and they require different amounts of each macro to be healthy, which is why following a general rule of thumb isn’t always the best option.
To calculate your macros and calories, you can go to the Fit With Iulia Macro Calculator and answer a few questions about yourself, such as your age, height, activity level, and body type - and make sure to select weight loss as your goal! Our macro calculator will then give you your exact macro results and the total number of calories that you should eat in a day. After calculating your macros, you can start tracking them as well as counting your calories. This will help you measure your food portions more accurately, which takes us to the next point…
Measure your food and section your plate
A big part of portion control is making sure that you’re eating the proper portions for you, and you can achieve this by using food scales as well as measuring cups and spoons to make sure you’re eating the amount of food that you need instead of just winging it and risking a high-calorie meal. If you’ve already calculated your macros, doing this will be much easier because you’ll have a better understanding of what you should be eating each day, so you’ll be able to plan your meals accordingly. Measuring your food is highly effective when picking nutrient-rich foods that will support your weight loss efforts instead of empty-calorie foods filled with complex carbs and unhealthy fats.
Another good idea to make sure that you’re having a healthy meal is sectioning your plate into portions so you have a good amount of each macro on it. Here’s a general rule of thumb:
- Half of the plate should be good high-quality protein, such as meat, poultry, fish, or eggs
- A quarter of the plate should contain fruits and/or vegetables
- The remaining quarter should be complex carbs, such as whole grains
- Add a small serving (around 1/2 tablespoon) of healthy fats, such as olive oil
The actual quantities may vary depending on your specific needs, but this is a great way to section your plates when you’re just starting and need a little bit of help with your portions!
Take it slow
When you’re not familiar with your portions yet, you need to rely on your body to tell you when you’re already full. The problem with this is that a lot of people tend to eat quickly, either because they’re distracted or because they picked up the not-so-healthy habit when they were younger. Regardless, eating too quickly may cause you to overeat because your body won’t be able to keep up with the food until you’re already too full to function. When you’re eating and you start reaching the point of satiety, your stomach sends signals to your brain to let it know that you can stop eating, which is why eating slowly is the best way to keep your portions controlled.
The food isn’t going anywhere, so practice mindful eating by taking your time to savor each bite, chew thoroughly, and truly enjoy your food, allowing your body to fill up and let you know when’s a good time to stop. You can also put down your fork or spoon after each bite, instead of holding it in your hand at all times, to slow down the process a little bit more. This way, you’ll avoid overeating and consuming more calories in a day, which could result in weight gain instead of weight loss.
Read nutrition labels
Portion control has a lot to do with what you put on your plate, not just how much. Like we previously mentioned, a good meal doesn’t need to be huge, it just needs to be rich and nutritious enough for your body.
Knowing how much of each macronutrient is in your food is a huge step towards weight loss, and you can begin to understand this better by reading the nutrition labels on the products that you buy. When you read a nutrition label, you can see what each serving contains. But beware! Serving size and portion size is not the same thing.
Serving size is a specific amount of food used to better indicate how many calories, nutrients, minerals, and other components are in your food. Portion size is specific to each person, and it depends on your weight, activity level, age, and other factors. But by checking the serving sizes on the nutrition label of your foods you’ll have a better understanding of how much of each food you need to meet your nutritional needs.
Use smaller plates
One of the biggest mistakes we make when serving our food is filling up the plate just because there’s room for more food. Unknowingly, we’re eating way more food than we actually need because we don’t notice how big the portions are, and we always try to finish everything that’s on the plate, creating a disastrous combination for your weight loss efforts.
By using smaller plates, you can control your portions more easily without even thinking about it because you won’t feel the need to fill every space with food. Instead, you’ll be choosing an appropriate amount of food that will actually leave you satiated instead of completely full. A smart way to do this is by hiding the bigger plates and leaving only the smaller ones front and center for easy grabbing, so you can build a habit of eating on small plates instead of big ones!
Sometimes the problem comes when dining out because portion sizes are usually out of your control. Restaurant portions can be up to 2.5 times bigger than the standard, and you might feel compelled to finish everything because you want to leave the plate clean, and also because you paid for it. So, to reduce the risk of overeating, try asking for half a portion, or splitting your food with someone else! You can also check the kids’ menu to see if anything interests you. But whatever you end up choosing, don’t feel pressured to finish everything on the plate. You can always ask for a to-go box and enjoy the rest of your meal at home later or the next day!
Serve the food before sitting down
Along with using smaller plates to eat, another thing you can do for portion control is serve the food before you sit down to eat. Placing a lot of options on the table and then sitting down and choosing what you want to eat can lead you to eat more than you need to. Your stomach might start feeling full, but your eyes will tell you something different if you have more food in front of you, so try to avoid this by preparing your plate beforehand! Make sure to get everything that you need and then put away anything that you won’t be eating, so it’s not just sitting there on the counter looking at you.
Fighting off temptations for sure isn’t easy, but you can make it more manageable by leaving everything else out of sight when you sit down with your plate. You can then focus on finishing your plate, and if you’re still hungry when you finish then you can just get up and grab some more. This will help you get used to eating to satiate yourself instead of eating just to eat, and with time you’ll be able to get the portions right without the need to go for seconds.
Avoid eating straight from the bag
It doesn’t matter if it’s a snack filled with empty calories or a healthy snack like some trail mix, eating straight from the bag is never good if you’re trying to lose weight!
By grabbing your food directly from the bag or box, you won’t be able to control your portions, making it harder for you to estimate your calorie intake and you’ll most likely eat way more than you should. This usually happens when snacking, because we like to snack while doing other stuff, such as watching TV or talking to someone over the phone, but mindless eating can lead to overeating, which can then lead to weight gain.
There’s one easy fix for this: pre-portioning your snacks! Instead of keeping the bags stocked in your pantry, pre-portion them into small containers or resealable bags that you can later grab for a quick snack, either at home or to-go when you’re in a rush. If you choose to keep the bags, try your best to serve yourself a portion on a small plate or container instead of just reaching for the whole bag to avoid overeating!
Drink some water first
You should be drinking enough water every day to keep your system healthy and functioning, but water before a meal is especially great for you because it helps your body satiate thirst disguised as hunger. By staying hydrated, you’ll be able to differentiate between these two states more easily, allowing you to better measure the portions for your next meal because you won’t feel as hungry. Try to drink a glass of water up to 30 minutes before each meal to make sure your thirst is taken care of, this way you’ll be directly supporting your weight loss efforts by having a better understanding of your hunger levels and eating accordingly.
Drinking water throughout the day will also help you stay satiated and prevent sudden cravings, so make sure you always have your bottle of water with you wherever you go!
And there you have it! Accidental overeating can be a serious problem, and it’s a big obstacle if you’re trying to lose weight or to maintain a healthy weight, which is why practicing portion control can be such a game-changer for your goals.
Just remember that it’s all about quality, not quantity, so don’t deprive yourself of food and instead follow our tips so you can lose weight sustainably while staying healthy long-term!
Need something to make it easier to track your macros and calorie intake?
Look no further than the Fit With Iulia app! The app offers a Kitchen feature in which you can keep track of the foods that you eat, as well as plan your meals and get new ideas. Additionally, Iulia plans new goal-focused workouts each week to help you get better and more effective results in your fitness journey! You can try your first workout for free by downloading the Fit With Iulia app, choosing a goal, and starting your first workout with Iulia – no subscription required!