My mother used to go out for lunch with her friends every Wednesday. One day, the topic of dieting came up and her friend, Millie, who was always struggling with her weight, asked her how she stayed so slim
My mother said, “I don’t know. I’ve always been thin.”
Then Millie looked at her, almost accusingly, and said, “Peg, you’re just disciplined, that’s all. Look at your plate, you only ate half your sandwich! I wish I had your discipline.”
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What Millie didn’t know was that my mother almost always ate something before she went out to eat because she didn’t like to feel overly hungry when she ordered and waited for the food to arrive. By the time her food came, she could never eat the whole meal. She had spoiled her appetite.
I once did a seminar with chemical dependency coach Jeff VanVbnderen. We had lunch with the other team leaders at a wonderful Italian restaurant. I ate almost half a plate of seafood fettuccine and Jeff remarked, “Aren’t you going to finish that?” I told him I was full and he said, “So what? You are the only person I’ve ever seen voluntarily leave half a plate of seafood fettuccine on your plate—great seafood fettuccine!” But I just couldn’t eat any more—I’d had an English muffin two hours before lunch.
If your body satisfaction signals are the only guide to stop eating, does portion control factor into your recovery?
This program is based on biology and common sense. The trouble is that there is so much confusion and misinformation about food and eating that biology is ignored and common sense isn’t so common anymore. So, the buzzwords “portion control” have made their way into this book.
Many people, including professionals in the obesity research field, blame the large portions in restaurants and bakeries for the obesity epidemic in our country. If this is true, then everyone who goes out to eat should be fat. But they’re not. Many people just eat a part of the portion served them at a restaurant, and divide up the gigantic croissant from the bakery among two or three people. Why is this? Do they just have better willpower? And why do other people manage to eat the entire, overlarge servings and then have dessert, too? By now you should be able to answer these questions.
What to do about portion control? Satisfy your appetite with high quality food all day long every day. Never go to a restaurant overly hungry. If you are hungry before going to the restaurant, eat something light that will carry you through until the food actually appears on the table. Take something to drink or eat with you in case there is a delay while you are waiting to get in to the restaurant and you become very hungry. In this way, you accomplish some important goals. First, you will be able to order better-quality food. Second, you won’t be tempted to eat the entire basket of bread with butter before the meal comes—in fact, you will be able to skip it so you can enjoy the great food you ordered. Third, when your food does come, you will savor it and enjoy it instead of desperately wolfing it down because you feel you are going to pass out if you don’t. And fourth, you will be able to smile at the waitress who offers the dessert menu and say, “Thank you, I’m just too full.”
This is where portion control comes from—all the eating that came before. The only time a person in recovery can consciously limit her/his food portions is when they get stuck after they are off the feast or famine cycle but they have not experienced a decrease in their appetite. In this situation, they need to back off on their portions and eat a bit less, gradually adjusting their diet to accommodate their bodies’ need for less fuel.
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