Today I’m sharing one of my favorite portion control tricks that involves just one simple rule. It is simple and effective!
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Gold-Standard Portion Control
I’ve written about this before, but the absolute best way to practice portion control for consistent weight loss is to calculate the calories you can eat each day for weight loss and then measure your portions using a digital food scale or measuring cups. You can keep track of the foods you eat using a free mobile app, like MyFitnessPal, to make sure you’re hitting your daily calorie target each day.
The reason this remains the gold-standard method of measuring portion control is because it is extremely accurate– you’re being very specific about which foods you’re eating and how much you’re eating, so the calorie estimate is as precise as possible.
But, the downside of counting calories is that it is often time-consuming and many of my patients get frustrated when they can’t be totally accurate (like when they’re at social events or restaurants). Also, some of my patients feel like their relationship with food gets more tumultuous when they are carefully counting every calorie.
So, some people find it helpful to approach portion control a little less precisely.
Being More Intuitive About Portion Control
For this reason, it can be helpful to know about other ways to succeed in practicing portion control without calorie counting.
The goal with these techniques is to help you practice portion control without having to be so specific about how many calories are in your food. You’re simply using smaller plates or measuring your food a bit more carefully as a way to eat less.
But, what happens when you’re away from home? This intuitive approach also has its limitations.
The Simplest of All Portion Control Tricks
There is one way to practice portion control that you can do anywhere, anytime! Better yet, it is intuitive, so it would be a suitable option for almost anyone.
All you have to do is follow one simple rule:
Eat 75% of the amount you normally would.
At meals and snacks, begin practicing eating about 25% less than what you typically would eat. This can be applied to any food– eat 3/4 of a sandwich, serve yourself a bit less (like a not-quite-full scoop instead of a heaping scoop), put less dressing on your lunch salad, etc.
Your estimate doesn’t have to be perfect, just aim for about 25% less, so you’re eating about 75% of the amount you normally would.
This strategy alone can be enough to get you into a calorie deficit that will lead to weight loss. Think of it this way: if you normally eat 2000 calories per day, this would help you get closer to 1500 calories per day, which is in the calorie deficit range for most people.
You can practice this anywhere, with any food, and around anyone. It is simple and effective!
Dr. Schulte’s Summary
Practicing portion control is one of the most science-backed strategies for weight loss progress (O’Neil et al., 2005; Schulte et al., 2020). While counting calories is the gold-standard way to practice portion control accurately, this can be overwhelming, time-consuming, or even triggering for some people. I encourage my patients to be aware of the simplest way to practice portion control intuitively: eating 75% of the amount they typically would. This straightforward and effective strategy can be enough to induce a calorie deficit for weight loss!
What are your thoughts about this strategy? Would you try it? Let me know in the comments!
O’neil, P. M., & Rieder, S. (2005). Utility and validity of the eating behavior inventory in clinical obesity research: a review of the literature. Obesity Reviews, 6(3), 209-216.
Schulte, E. M., Tuerk, P. W., Wadden, T. A., Garvey, W. T., Weiss, D., Hermayer, K. L., … & O’Neil, P. M. (2020). Changes in weight control behaviors and hedonic hunger in a commercial weight management program adapted for individuals with type 2 diabetes. International Journal of Obesity, 44(5), 990-998.
Disclaimer: all opinions are my own and are not affiliated with my employers. Please seek medical guidance before pursuing weight loss or making significant changes to the way you eat or your physical activity routine.