Portion Control, Marathons and a Stick of Gum

gum

I’ve acquired a bad habit as of late.  I LOVE to graze while I’m cooking dinner.  I’ve also been known to have a glass of wine while cooking dinner.  I love doing this so much, that occasionally I’m full by the time dinner is ready.  This is no fun, because then I don’t get to eat the recipe I’ve spent the better part of the past hour working on.  And, I get to sit at the table empty-plated and watch my family chow.  No fun either.

Portion control has been on my mind a lot lately, and not only because of my recent grazing tendencies.  If you run marathons, you know that you can actually gain weight during training, as well as after the race.  Marathoners need to properly fuel themselves during training by increasing calorie intake, but often portions can get out of control during the process.  What’s more, it’s very easy to keep eating the marathon-training portions after the race–even after the training and calorie burn have dramatically decreased.  I’m on a quest to make sure that I’m still not consuming marathon-portion meals, months after I’ve finished my long-distance training.

One way I’m tackling this is by doing what I make clients do–record everything I eat to find potential problems.  I’ve been using the phone app, myfitnesspal.  I’m not a calorie-counter by nature, but I figure it can’t hurt to try it out.  And for the most part, results have been helpful in helping me to keep calories in check.  Updates on the specifics of this in a future post…

As for the grazing-while-cooking problem, I think I’ve solved it with a stick of gum.  I chew half a stick while cooking, and the other half while cleaning up to prevent nibbling on my kids’ leftovers (Moms, you know what I’m talking about, right?!?)  This simple dinnertime ritual has helped tremendously, and now I always keep a pack of gum stashed away in the kitchen.  I’ve tried this while making my son’s chocolate chip birthday cake, and that also did the trick.

Portion control can be a tricky thing.  It requires listening to your body’s hunger signals over powerful emotional and social cues that bombard us every day.  It comes easier to some than others.  If you’re fighting “portion distortion,” it may help by first figuring out what triggers your overeating, and then coming up with coping mechanisms to turn to instead.  A stick of gum may not work for everyone;  The key is finding what tactics work for you, and using them consistently.

Some general suggestions to avoid overeating?  1) Go for quality.  Choose less-processed  foods.  The closer to nature,the better.  Typically these foods have more fiber, keep you fuller longer, and give you the most health benefits for the number of calories.  2)  Eat slowly and deliberately.  3) Don’t keep trigger foods in the house.  Have leftover birthday cake?  Stick it in the freezer!  4)  Don’t deprive yourself all day.  You’re much more prone to binge later.  5)  Opt for a smaller plate.  Studies show this works!

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