Just Say No to Portion Control

Many diets are based on portion control–the idea that you can enjoy your favorite foods in limited quantities. Unfortunately, there are several problems with this plan. For one thing, how many of us can consistently under-eat our favorite foods? If they contain sugar, salt, and added fat, they are engineered to compel us to keep coming back for more. Also, empty-calorie foods lead to withdrawal symptoms–stomach growling, headache, dizziness, irritability–which are mistaken as hunger, resulting in frequent feeding episodes. I guess portion control is a good idea if you don’t mind feeling “hungry” and crappy much of the time.

portionIcksnay Boosting Your Metabolism
Another idea proliferated by the diet industry is the belief that speeding up one’s metabolism is a good thing. What most people don’t realize, though, is that metabolism is roughly synonymous to aging. From this vantage, you may deduce that boosting your metabolism actually increases the rate at which you age! Think of your cells as tiny machines with limited lifespans–the faster they work, the more quickly they wear out. People with slow metabolisms actually have the survival and health advantage–IF they can attain and maintain a low, weight (BMI below 22.5). The only safe way to speed up calorie burn is, of course, through exercise. For instance, regular resistance training increases muscle mass, and since muscle burns more calories at rest than fat, your resting metabolic rate will increase safely.

Introducing High-Nutrient Eating
If media-hyped portion control and metabolism boosting are no good, then how is one to lose weight and keep it off for the long haul? Enter high-nutrient eating. High-nutrient foods are those that contain a high nutrient-per-calorie ratio. For instance, kale, collards, spinach, and bok choy top the list of the World’s Most Nutrient-rich Foods because they have a very high amount of nutrition (like phytochemicals and antioxidants) for every calorie of energy they supply. Also, vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and mushrooms contain a large amount of nutrients in comparison to their calorie content. If the nutritional research from the last several decades is correct, the more of these veggies you eat, the thinner and healthier you’ll be. I’m not talking about adding a cup of broccoli to your fast-food lunch. This is why many people don’t see significant results–they make insignificant changes in their SAD diets. If you want all the goodies a nutrient-rich diet style can offer, you must take the plunge! Take me, for instance. I’m 47 (as of yesterday), 5’6″, weigh 123 pounds, total cholesterol 140, fasting blood sugar 68, and I eat about four pounds of fresh produce (fruits and veggies) a day. Incidentally, most of my progenitors from at least the previous two generations had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar and died of heart disease.

Start Today
As a nutrition and weight loss coach, people often ask me what’s one thing they can do to improve their diets. Here’s what I saladtell them–eat a ginormous salad every day. Hey, I can see some of you rolling your eyes out there. You‘re thinking, “That won’t hold me over ‘til dinner,” or “I get sick of salads!” Well, let me give you some guidelines. First of all, by “ginormous” I mean, HUGE, as in a whole pound of raw veggies (that’s a lot). Make your salad so big people think you’re bringing it to share (assure them that you are not by aiming your fork tines at the thin skin on the back of their hand). Add to that one cup of unsalted beans, a small handful of raw nuts or seeds (1/2-1 ounce), and a dash of balsamic vinegar. If you can finish that off on your first try, I’m impressed! Oh, and make sure you chew each bite very thoroughly so as to minimize any potential unpleasant after effects of a very high fiber meal.

Regarding your worry that you’ll get sick of salads, I’m going to tell you something you won’t believe or like, but here goes: if a salad doesn’t sound good, that means you’re not hungry. Wait a while–maybe even a few hours–until you’re happy to eat a salad. Most Americans are constantly eating in response to withdrawal symptoms from their nutrient-poor diets. Wait until the headaches and irritability pass, and sooner or later, the salad will sound very good–and that’s how you’ll know you are truly hungry.


  1. Eat the Big Salad every day for lunch no matter what.
  2. If the Big Salad doesn’t sound good, you’re not hungry.

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