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Dr. Terry Simpson

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Some say it all started in a movie theater—the idea of portion control, that is. Add a little bit extra, charge more, and people will think they are getting a bargain and buy it. Then it moved to the icon of American foods.

Fast food and portion control

When Ray Kroc bought a small hamburger joint called McDonald’s he held the view that if patrons wanted more French fries they would simply order more. One if his employees had worked in the movie theaters and began to experiment with increasing portions, for a few cents more. McDonald’s made more money, sold more products, and the patrons thought they were getting a better deal. By the way, you aren’t—the fast food restaurants are still making money. It costs them a few cents for every dime you spend.

Penn State portion control study

cartoon man eating large food portion on a large platePenn State provided lunches to 75 people: a sandwich, some potato chips, a chocolate mint, and water. The subjects had to eat the potato chips and the mint but could eat as much of the sandwich as they wanted.

The researchers varied the sizes and calorie counts of four sandwich sizes from six inches (668 calories) to 12 inches (1,337 calories). After eating, no matter what the size of the sandwich, the people felt just as full. Yet, the sandwich sizes were varied in length and calories.

How much do you eat at a setting? What is an adequate portion of food? Do you rely on someone else to determine the portion? If you eat less, can you be satisfied?

When we sit down with a plate of food before us we have a portion that is determined for us, and we eat that food, and we are satisfied. If we pile the plate with food, chances are we will finish that food. But there is no doubt, the larger the portion, the more you will eat and you will continue to eat until that food is gone. Once it is gone, you will be satisfied.

Plate or Platter?

A very good friend of mine loved the plates of the 1920s and would always stop at any antique store to buy the pattern known as Fiesta. These brightly colored plates were popular then and have made a bit of a comeback. So one day I was in an older Oregon seaside town and stopped in an antique store and asked if they had any of this dinnerware. It turned out that they did, and so I thought I would buy her some plates. When the salesperson showed me the plates I asked, “Wait, these are salad plates. Don’t you have any dinner plates?”

The sales clerk replied that these were indeed dinner plates. What we use now for dinner plates are more like the “platters” that were used to serve an entire family. Your portion size is sometimes dictated by the size of the plates you use. So, lesson learned—smaller portion, smaller plates—then you don’t feel deprived.

One of my favorite infomercials was about a “portion control” diet. I like portion control diets so I watched this. They were selling a small plate, something like a TV dinner plate, which had markings on it, and on these markings you put your food. Why someone would want to pay twenty bucks for that is beyond me, but if you call now you can get one free with a purchase. Anyway, portion control is one of the keys to weight loss success for weight loss surgery patients as well as non-weight loss surgery patients. Knowing the size of what you eat, and keeping to that, is essential.

Alcohol is a source of calories

Cartoon lady drinking alcoholAlcohol has calories. It is amusing to see the proliferation of low carbohydrate beer and other alcoholic beverages. It is not the carbohydrate in beer that causes weight gain, it is the alcohol.

In fact alcohol, on a per gram basis, is higher in calories than protein or carbohydrates. Alcohol is 7 calories per gram where protein and carbohydrates are 4 calories per gram.

The essential difference is that alcohol is absorbed very quickly into the body. In fact, alcohol is absorbed faster than high-index carbohydrates. One beer a day will add ten pounds in a year—as will one and a half ounces of vodka or a glass of wine. For weight loss, there is no doubt that reducing alcohol to something that is enjoyed occasionally will quickly reduce calories.

Alcoholics, who consume alcohol alone as their source of calories, are often thin—this is simply because the consumption of alcohol alone is insufficient for weight gain. But this is a poor source of food and deadly.

Alcohol is often overlooked as a source of weight gain, but it is one of the more common sources. The evening cocktail, the glass or two of wine with dinner, or the beer or two a night can easily be eliminated. Instead, substitute them with a walk to provide a far healthier lifestyle.

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