People ask me some variation of this question quite often:
“Do I just need portion control in order to lose weight?”
And the short answer is yes- Essentially, you need to eat less than you burn to lose weight. Of course, you want to eat mostly nutritious foods that will keep you full and give you the nutrients you need, but in the end it’s all about the portion sizes.
Our American culture has gone CRAZY with portion sizes! Years ago, a small-sized soda at a restaurant (16 ounces) was gigantic. Nowadays, a “small” is now 21 ounces and a “medium” is the 32-ounce. Assuming you drink a non-diet soda, you’re essentially drinking an entire meal’s worth of calories.
And that’s just the drinks! Plate sizes are HUGE. And restaurants fill them to the brim. And most of us were probably trained to clean our plates so we don’t waste food. You can see why, as a whole, we seem to be gaining weight and don’t understand why.
When it comes to portion control, especially in places you have control over your food, using a smaller plate is one of the easier ways to eat less.
Why does using a smaller plate help with portion control?
I’ll use myself as an example.
One of my weaknesses is buffets. I know what you’re thinking. But there’s something about being able to go pick out whatever I want, as much as I want, that just makes me so happy.
Have you noticed that the plates they give you are HUGE? I can load that sucker up with nachos, bourbon chicken, and fish; and still have room for more. No space gets left empty.
However- let’s say that I just want some of the rice and bourbon chicken from Golden Corral. If I grab one of those huge plates, I’m gonna end up filling that thing. But if instead I take one of the smaller salad/soup bowls, I can fill up that bowl with less food but it still looks like a ton.
In the second example, I’m eating less calories because I had less space to fill!
What does eating from a smaller plate look like?
Let’s take a look at this Chicken Parmesan I made awhile ago. In this first picture I used my largest dinner plate, which honestly made me a little sad to look at. See how much empty space there is? That’s not gonna leave me satisfied.
But in the second picture, I put the same amount of food on my medium-sized plate- and look at the difference. Every inch is covered, which makes my eyes- and now stomach- happy.
Which one looks more filling to you?
Can you lose weight by eating smaller portions?
The basic formula for weight loss is calories in vs. calories out. If you eat less than you burn, you’ll lose weight.
So let’s say you eat from a large plate for dinner 7 days a week. Because you fill your plate, you eat about 800 calories for dinner.
But if you change to a medium plate and put less food on it, we’ll say you eat only 500 calories instead.
- 800 calories X 7 days = 5,600 calories per week
- 500 calories X 7 days = 3,500 calories
- Difference: 2,100 calories, or about 1/2 a pound per week
Of course, this is an overly-simplified version, but you get the idea. Your diet should consist of mostly whole foods, which are full of nutrients and no extra fillers. You can read more about WHAT should be on your plate by reading my post about how to eat healthy at every meal.
How much should I be eating to lose weight?
The best calculator I’ve found (and the one I was trained on as a Nutrition Coach) is this TDEE calculator. It stands for Total Daily Energy Expenditure, which is how many calories you burn every day. I feel like it’s pretty accurate; it tells you how much you burn, and how many calories you need to eat to lose, maintain, or gain weight.
I use this calculator with my clients just to give them an idea of how much they should be eating. You don’t necessarily need to count calories to lose weight, but this will at least give you a number to work towards.
Does this make sense? Honestly, it’s one of the easiest and quickest wins when it comes to starting your weight loss journey or just eating less in general. Try putting your dinners on smaller plates for a whole week and see how you feel!
I go more into depth on exercise in my NEW course, Weight Loss Kickstart! Originally a group program, I modified it into a self-paced course (and at a lower price, too!) so you can take your time with it and learn the healthy habits that come with weight loss.
Want more like this? Check out the other posts in my Healthy Habits, Healthy Life series!
Jaime is a Nutrition Coach and professional writer. She enjoys cooking easy meals, running, and learning more about food.
Jaime specializes in helping women with ADHD learn to meal plan and cook healthier meals without getting overwhelmed.