When it comes to nutrition the phrase “too much of a good thing” really can apply. Increasingly people are finding it difficult to achieve their weight loss and fat loss goals, not because they are eating the wrong foods, but because they are eating too much of the right foods. While food quality is undoubtedly very important for overall health and well-being, food quantity is what will ultimately be the deciding factor for your physique.
We are all familiar with the calories in versus calories out idea. While this is indeed an over simplification of what can be a complex physiological process, it is essentially true. If you take in more calories than the body needs you will put on weight, if you take in less calories than it needs, you will loose weight. This is true whether these calories come entirely from junk food or from whole, good quality foods.
All too often we are completely in the dark about what constitutes a portion of a certain food. The best advice I can give regarding this is to get out your scales. The one in the kitchen, not the one in the bathroom! While I don’t think it is necessary for us to be weighing and measuring every piece of food we consume forever, I do think it is extremely worthwhile to do it for a week or two. When I first started weighing out my food, I was shocked to discover that in most cases, my portion was twice or even three times as big as I thought it was. This was especially true with dry carbs like pasta and rice. If you weigh out the rice once, and then use the same dish to measure it out in future, before long you should be able to eye-ball it with at least some degree of accuracy.
Measuring cups are also very handy tools. Again with the rice, I have learned that about 1/2 cup per person is a good guide, as distinct from half a giant coffee mug, which is the measure I would have used in the past. Measuring cups are very cheap and are well worth the investment.
In What are Macros Anyway? I discussed the guidelines for how much protein, fat and carbs we should be eating on a daily basis. In terms of portion size, a portion of protein will be about the size of your palm, a portion of carbs should be about a cupped handful and a portion of fat should be about the size of your thumb. Realistically, over eating protein isn’t usually a problem for people. It is much easier to over do it with carbohydrate and fat. There are lots of reasons for this, but the main one for carbohydrate over consumption is that the vast majority of the highly palatable foods we crave are very high in carbs. Think biscuits, cakes, chocolates, pastries etc. The problem with over consumption of fat is that, per gram, fat has over twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrate, meaning that even a small miscalculation can mean we veer off course for the day.
Even good fats are high in calories and it is very easy to overeat the likes of nuts for example. I am not saying that you need to count out the amount of almonds you are eating. However, it doesn’t take much effort to work out that if, for instance, the bag has 200g, that would mean it contains about 7 30g portions. So if when you grab a handful from the bag, you end up taking half of it, you know you have overdone it.
So called “healthy” and”guilt free” treats are something else to be careful with. While I never advocate feeling guilty about anything we eat, I feel that these tags can be a little misleading. Whether a treat food is made with agave nectar or with sugar, the calories still count. Healthier junk food is still junk food and as such should be an occasional thing, if we have any chance of reaching our goals.
The best defence you have against over eating is to be informed. Read labels and understand them. Weigh your food, at least until you feel confident that you recognise what the correct portion is. We don’t need to become completely neurotic about it, but it is important to get a handle on the amount we consume. Keep a food diary if you find it helpful. A lot of us can be guilty of mindless eating. The chicken nugget you take from your child’s plate counts. The sweet you take as you walk past Susan’s desk counts. The piece of cheese you eat as you make the sandwich counts. All calories count, and if you are struggling to lose weight or drop body fat you might find that all these mindless morsels are having more of an impact than you would think.
If you need help, get in touch xxx