There have been many emails from readers asking about portion control – and more specifically whether or not to actually take it into account when trying to live a healthier lifestyle. And while I think portion control is important to health it is not important in the conventional ways and needn’t be consciously controlled when sitting down to eat.
Our bodies have several hormones which work to control our appetite and tell us when to eat. The three most important are Insulin, Gherlin and Leptin.
Insulin is a storage hormone which also satiates and controls appetite – when it drops too low we get hungry and when it rises we shuttle food into muscle and fat stores and most importantly feel satisfied and stop eating. Gherlin is a hormone which stimulates hunger and is released when we must eat, once levels rise we feel fullness and stop eating. Which is considered a counterpart to Leptin which works similarly but is slightly more complex in that it controls your metabolism and appetite – basically to control bodyweight.
When we put on weight our fat cells release leptin which makes us fuller quicker and more active (in order to shed weight) and when our body feels it needs to gain weight leptin levels in the blood stream drop making us hungry and inactive (causing weight gain in muscle and fat)
So hopefully that gives a little understanding of the hormones which control appetite. This leads to the theory that portion control and appetite should be something that is controlled subconsciously and naturally rather than something you must force yourself to do.
It is never healthy to deprive yourself and limit portions rather follow a few simple rules.
– Eat Real Food. When eating real unadulterated food hunger and appetite signals are much more efficient. As a rule of thumb the less processed the food you eat the quicker your fullness signals will kick in and you will stop eating. For instance it would be far easier to eat 1000 calories of cake that it would be to eat 1000 calories of potatoes and meat. So this isn’t to say your diet should be purely unrefined foods but you will find that if the main bulk of it is portion control won’t be an issue.
– Listen to Signals. Our stomach and body is normally pretty good at telling us when to stop eating. If you feel a fullness or lack of desire when eating it is normally time to stop, being more conscious of this feeling can be a key factor when it comes to portion control. Try to eat slower and things should take care of themselves – the feeling of fullness normally occurs at the top of your stomach and a lack of desire is usually simply looking at your plate of food and it not looking so tasty.
– Drink Water with/after big meals. I find that especially after a big meal (lunch or dinner mainly) it is easy to mistake thirst for hunger. Having a big glass of water or herbal tea can easily trigger a feeling of fullness and remind you that food is undigested…. This is not always the case though so beware of over hydration.
More often than not portion control is something easy to fix and not an issue to control with will power and force but rather by listening to your body and the signals it gives when eating.
Essentially when you are hungry eat and listen to signals like desire for food – if you look at something and your body craves it chances are you are hungry and need to eat. On the other hand you could look at the same piece of food just after eating a big meal and you would have zero desire for it. Makes sense….
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