Portion Distortion

July 16, 2019
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The other day, I saw a fact sheet that blew my mind. It compared portion sizes today against those in the 1980s, and, wow! What a difference!!

Check this out:

  • A turkey sandwich in the 1980s came in at 320 calories... now it's 820.
  • A slice of pizza was 500 calories... now it's 850.
  • Small fries were 210... now they're 610.

Obviously, those examples are for junk/fast food. But studies also show that for other foods, 'marketplace' portion sizes—the size you see on nutrition labels, in restaurants, etc.—are often 6 or more times larger than the recommended portion sizes! That's HUGE, and it adds up to a lot of extra food your body doesn't need.

The thing that's so troubling is that we get used to these larger portions and think they're actually normal. Your body doesn't see it that way, though.

Here's what happens when you overeat:

  • Your stomach expands, pushing against your other organs, leading to discomfort.
  • You might feel tired and sluggish, and your clothes might feel tight.
  • Your organs have to work harder, secreting extra hormones and enzymes to break down the food.
  • Your stomach has to produce hydrochloric acid, which can back up into your esophagus and cause heartburn, especially if you've eaten fatty foods.
  • Your stomach can also produce gas, making you feel even more full and uncomfortable.
  • As your metabolism speeds up to try to burn those extra calories, you might feel hot and sweaty.
  • Over time, you can gain excess body fat, upping your risk of heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.
  • Your body's digestive enzymes—which are required to break down food—can run in short supply, slowing your digestive system.
  • Your body's clock can get turned around, interfering with your sleep and hunger cycles.

If you've lost touch with proper portion sizes, the good news is you have a built-in portion guide—it's called your hand.

Portion Size Guide:

  • Fruits and veggies: 1 fist
  • Salad: 2 fists
  • Protein: 1 palm
  • Fats: 1 thumb
  • Starchy carbs/grains: a handful

If you've been eating big portions for a while (maybe even most of your life), it can take a little while to get used to the normal portion sizes, but it's so worth it because of how much better you will feel. Many people report having more energy, better sleep, and even stronger workouts when they adjust their portion sizes.

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