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to not 'get' portion control

(99 Posts)
thecatneuterer Mon 03-Feb-14 14:44:59

This is my first ever AIBU so I’m a bit scared.

So I was just eating an enormous bowl of porridge and I got to pondering the subject of portion control. Nearly every time I see discussions of weight loss/control on MN or on TV or wherever, portion control comes up as being essential. And I just don’t get it.

I understand what it is of course, I just don’t really understand the point of it. Surely if you eat a large quantity then it just means that you won’t be hungry again for much longer than if you’d only eaten a small amount, so you will eat less often. So the total quantity of food you eat in a day won’t be any greater.

I understand that eating a huge amount just before going to bed would be a bit silly, as you don’t feel hungry when asleep so you don’t need to ward off hunger for a long time then. And I totally understand that portion control should be exercised in relation to say doughnuts or chocolate cake, but with healthy meals then I don’t get why it really matters. And I can even imagine it would lead to more snacking on potentially unhealthy stuff.

Or is it that when portion control is encouraged the idea is that, even if you are really hungry after your small meal, you still need to wait until your next set mealtime before you eat? So in other words it really means that you should spend a certain number of hours a day being hungry? I can understand that would work. Is that really the aim of it?

So AIBU to think that if you only eat relatively healthy stuff, and you only eat when hungry, then portion control is pointless?

Drquin Mon 03-Feb-14 14:47:58

I like your logic :-)

I think know the problem is that some folk would have the larger portion at lunchtime, say ....... But still then have the larger evening meal.

MrsHappyBee Mon 03-Feb-14 14:49:05

Larger portions stretch your stomach so you then overeat to feel full.

WaffilyVersatile Mon 03-Feb-14 14:50:59

If you are able to eat only healthy stuff and you ONLY eat when and while you are hungry then yes it probably is pointless.. problem is that if you have a weight problem (and I do) then a lot of the time you are unable to feel that point at which the hunger is quenched.

When I was slim for example I might very well eat a big bowl of porridge, a sandwich at lunch and then not feel hungry again until the evening when I would have a smaller dinner than I would have had if the porridge portion had been smaller.. Problem now is that I don't seem to feel anything other than 1 (not hungry) or 10 (ravenous) on the hunger scale whereas I used to cruise along when slim at maybe a 4-6 7

Hope that makes sense blush

TheListingAttic Mon 03-Feb-14 14:51:03

Yes, I think it only works on the assumption that most people eat three meals a day, and if they keep those to reasonable size they'll be eating less than if they eat three feasts! I don't think the idea is that you can eat six snacks between your mini-breakfast and mini-lunch but if they're really small ones then you're doing 'portion control'!

thecatneuterer Mon 03-Feb-14 14:51:17

Ah MrsHappyBee, I hadn't thought of that. Good point

Thumbwitch Mon 03-Feb-14 14:53:55

Even healthy stuff contains calories - so the more you eat, the more calories you're taking in. You can still eat way over your "allotted" calorie intake in a day, just eating healthy food - and if you consistently do that, and don't do anything to burn off those calories, then you will probably put on weight.

squeakytoy Mon 03-Feb-14 14:54:00

portion control is important because your body doesnt need to overfill itself. It takes a certain amount of time for the brain to register that you are full up.. so if you keep shovelling food in until you feel stuffed, then by the time it all hits the bottom, you will feel uncomfortably full up..

UriGeller Mon 03-Feb-14 14:54:16

Is it because if your portions are bigger, your stomach gets stretched and used to being full from a large amount? I know the opposite is true, that if you eat very small portions, a 'normal' sized portion can be too much. If that's the case, a person who eats large portions consistently would need more and more to get that full feeling. Far more than is necessary.

ErrolTheDragon Mon 03-Feb-14 14:55:59

>Surely if you eat a large quantity then it just means that you won’t be hungry again for much longer than if you’d only eaten a small amount

Not really - the food doesn't just sit there till you need it like petrol in a fuel tank. If you don't use it all, some of it will get converted to fat.

thecatneuterer Mon 03-Feb-14 14:56:41

Yes I get that too squeakytoy, but if I do overdo it and feel stuffed, then it's even longer before I want to eat again, so I still end up not eating any more overall in a day.

I'm not trying to lose weight myself btw, I'm just pondering the subject out of idle academic interest.

MrsCakesPremonition Mon 03-Feb-14 14:58:01

Portion control also covers the need to make sure that your proportions of protein/carbs/veggies are balanced correctly.

thecatneuterer Mon 03-Feb-14 14:58:31

But Errol surely it does sit in your stomach stopping you feeling hungry until it's all been digested. And it will take longer for a lot of food to be digested than a small quantity.

I'm liking the 'stomach stretching' theories though ...

AMumInScotland Mon 03-Feb-14 15:02:08

The thing is, most people who are trying to lose weight don't just eat when they are hungry, and only enough to fill them up nicely, and adjust their other meals if they have had a larger lunch, say.

Lots of people put more food than they actually need on their plate, and then eat it because it is there, because they are enjoying it, because they were brought up not to 'waste' food, or because they have lost track of what 'hungry' and 'pleasantly full' feel like.

So, for them, the message to limit what they put on their plate (or buy, or cook) in the first place does actually affect how much they eat overall.

If they are following any decent sort of guidelines, they won't be 'really hungry' after their meal, because it will actually be enough for them. But they may not feel as full as they are used to being.

thecatneuterer Mon 03-Feb-14 15:04:21

Amuminscotland that makes sense. Very well explained. Thank you.

HandMini Mon 03-Feb-14 15:04:47

If you consistently put three spoonfuls of pasta on your plate (instead of the two that would fill you up) you create the habit of a larger plateful - we use visual judgement to work out how big a portion to serve ourselves and often clear our plates rather than eating to satiety.

We also get used the feeling of (over)fullness that three spoonfuls gives us, so that two doesn't feel like enough, even though it probably is.

The 5:2 diet has put my portion control into perspective. I regularly served myself too much and ate it. I didn't feel uncomfortably over full because I was used to it.

MrsHappyBee Mon 03-Feb-14 15:08:37

I read that a normal stomach is the size of your clenched fist, so you shouldn't eat more volume than that in one meal. But a fistful of chocolate wouldn't be good, choosing healthy foods is important too. I see what you mean about some foods taking a long time to digest, some things lie like lead in your stomach.

thecatneuterer Mon 03-Feb-14 15:10:07

handmini 2 spoonfuls of pasta! Heavens. Even three ladels full wouldn't be enough for me. The thing is that if I have a much smaller meal then in a couple of hours I'm hungry again. If I have a large meal then I'm not hungry for hours and hours.

Are you saying that you can sort of train yourself to be not hungry for hours and hours even after a meal with just two spoonfuls of pasta?

FairPhyllis Mon 03-Feb-14 15:19:45

It's something that mainly has effects over quite a long period of time though. The cumulative effect of having, say, only 100 calories a day more than your body actually needs is putting on 10.5 pounds a year. And 100 calories is not that much. It's only having one KitKat too many, or one slice of bread too many a day. It doesn't actually make you feel overfull.

And as everyone has said, your body adjusts very easily to eating slightly more than it needs and storing energy because it's a survival mechanism that got our ancestors through lean times.

Finally, people's perception of portion sizes is not very reliable, so it's easy to go slightly over what a normal portion is. This guy has done some fascinating research on how heavily we are influenced by visual cues as to what is a proper portion size - i.e. the feeling of fullness alone is not generally used by most people as a cue to stop eating.

ErrolTheDragon Mon 03-Feb-14 15:21:24

>But Errol surely it does sit in your stomach stopping you feeling hungry until it's all been digested. And it will take longer for a lot of food to be digested than a small quantity.

No - the stomach is only the first part of the digestive system. How long it takes to empty depends on what the food is, but generally less time than the time between meals.

thecatneuterer Mon 03-Feb-14 15:28:38

Errol, yes I know it's only part of the digestive system. But if you eat more food then it will be in your stomach for longer than if you eat less. So you will feel hungry quicker. Surely?

And FairPhyllis yes I totally get that it's very easy to eat more calories than you need, but I still don't understand how portion control really makes a difference to that. As I said before after a large bowl of porridge say I won't feel hungry for hours and so won't eat again for hours. After a small one I'll feel hungry and so eat again much sooner. The total amount I eat in a day doesn't really change.

I think Waffilyversatile made some good points too. I think that perhaps as someone who doesn't have a weight problem I perhaps can't quite appreciate some of the nuances of eating behaviour, and it's less straightforward than I'm obviously thinking.

MorrisZapp Mon 03-Feb-14 15:38:54

Ooh interesting. It's quite scary when you realise what a sensible portion really is. I think nutritionists are now saying that the meat/protein part of a meal should be no bigger than a pack of playing cards. Er, shit!

Also have you ever eaten an individual box of eg cornflakes at a breakfast buffet? Titchy! You need at least three boxes to touch the sides.

I'm doing my own style of 5.2 just now. I can't manage 500 cal fasts so just doing what I can. Hoping to train my appetite downwards!

Also weaning myself off milk chocolate onto dark, as you tend to eat smaller quantities of the dark stuff because its not as nice

MrsHappyBee Mon 03-Feb-14 15:46:34

MorrisZapp and a portion of cheese is the size of a matchbox, not cook's matches either, the little piece you get with an airline meal would be about right!

AMumInScotland Mon 03-Feb-14 15:47:39

It ought to be as straightforward as what you are describing, and you seem to be one of the lucky ones for whom it is that simple. But it is very hard to re-learn that when you have lost it along the way, which a lot of people have.

I was like you when I was single - my weight stayed pretty constant (at least my clothes stayed the same size and didn't get tighter, I didn't own any scales). I ate when I was hungry, stopped when I was full, had a snack at dinner time if I'd had a big lunch, and generally 'self-regulated' my food intake.

Then I got married and started cooking meals for both of us, and I'd be cooking a full meal 'because it's dinner time' and eating a plateful because it seemed wasteful not to, and planning meals at the start of the week instead of vaguely drifting into the shop on the way home and picking what I fancied at the time. Then I had a child, and again I was focused on 'mealtimes' and it was far more difficult to be spontaneous about what I ate and when.

And my weight went up. Not terribly, but some, and it's been creeping up ever since. I'm trying now to get back to recognising when I'm full, and not relying on outside influences, but it is slow progress!

thecatneuterer Mon 03-Feb-14 15:51:18

Yes exactly. So if you have these tiny portions then surely you're going to be hungry again quite soon? And so either put up with hunger or eat sooner than if you've had a larger meal.

Or is it that this stomach shrinking stuff is so effective that after a while you'll feel full after an individual box of cornflakes and won't feel hungry again until lunch 4 or 5 hours later? I just can't see it but would believe people if they told me it was indeed so ...

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