Portion control ranks right up there with calorie counting as a well intentioned, but ultimately flawed, method of losing weight.
Now, don’t get me wrong. If you cut down on the amount of food you eat, you’re going to drop the pounds. And the more precise you are, the greater your chances of success.
With that said, why am I speaking out against such popular (and seemingly effective) methods?
The answer is simple: you cannot replace instinct for intellect… at least not in the long run. More specifically, hunger for math and willpower. And that’s exactly what portion control and calorie counting attempt to do. But in the end, hunger always beats willpower.
Of course, that doesn’t stop the medical community from advocating this way to lose weight. In fact, Los Angeles recently launched a portion control campaign, “Choose Less. Weigh Less” to make their residents more aware of what they eat. By doing so, they’re hoping people will actually consume fewer calories and shed the fat.
According to Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, “The goal of this campaign is to get people to start thinking about how much food they are consuming in each meal… If we can get people to think about that and start eating less, or ordering smaller portions, then we will be on the right track.”
Here is one of the campaign images used to persuade people to adopt healthier habits:
Now again, this is a well-meaning initiative but it just won’t work. And for a few reasons:
- When it comes to fast food, people really don’t care about calories. Furthermore, they’re smart enough to know that it’s both fattening and unhealthy. And again, they don’t care. They’re not going to consciously attempt to minimize the “damage done” by restricting portions.
- Fast food doesn’t become good for you by eating less of it. It’s still junk. As such, the campaign should encourage alternative food choices that are healthy. Not smaller quantities of unhealthy foods.
Which brings us back to the issue of instinct vs. intellect. When you’re eating the wrong foods but portioning to meet a certain calorie goal, you’re shooting yourself in the foot – not once but twice. Here’s why…
By eating the wrong foods, you’re depriving your body of much-needed vitamins and minerals. The natural response is hunger. Now, when you throw in a caloric deficit on top of that by decreasing your portions, you’re just exaggerating that hunger. And as mentioned at the beginning of this article, hunger will always beat willpower on a long enough timeline.
So, what’s the solution?
Simple: instead of consciously portioning the wrong foods, eat healthy, whole foods and let your natural hunger instinct tell you when to stop. Not your intellect. And at the end of the day, if you eat the right things most of the time, you can go out and enjoy your pizza, burger, submarine (or whatever your “poison” happens to be) without worrying about portion controls.
That’s right! You can eat to your heart’s content because when the next meal comes around, you’ll be back to your good habits. And that’s the way you both lose the weight and keep it off long term – not with calorie counting, portion controls, or any other willpower-dependent methods.
How ’bout THAT for a public health campaign?