While every expert will tell you that the most effective way to manage your weight is through a combination of diet and exercise, most will also tell you that the exercise is futile if you do not get control over your eating habits. For example, it takes about 50 minutes of running to work off one Big Mac, so imagine how much running it would take to work off everything you eat throughout the day.
Changing what you eat and switching to healthier, low-fat foods can be a great way to manage your intake, but regardless of what you are eating, you should be making an effort to give yourself the right portion. It is also important to understand the difference between a portion, which is how much food you get, and a serving size, which is how much food you should get.
Many restaurants these days give people portions that are larger than the recommended serving size, as will the makers of many products you buy off the shelves. You may have noticed on many ready meals for example that they are listed as 2 servings, as is a 500ml bottle of soft drink, although most people will not share these items.
The easiest way to get a useful understanding of portion control is to teach yourself to recognise a proper portion visually. To begin, half of your plate should be vegetables as, although they have sugar and calories, they release energy gradually and slowly throughout the day, and won’t affect your weight as dramatically as junk food.
For the average adult, one portion of meat (including fish) should be roughly the size of your palm, and you should eat 1 or 2 servings a day. One serving of fruit is about the size of a tennis ball, and you should aim to eat up to 5 a day. One serving of cereal/pasta/rice is about the size of your clenched fist, and you should have one of these per meal. A portion of cheese is about the size of your thumb, and you should have up to 3 a day.
Controlling your portion sizes is one of the most effective ways to lose weight, especially when combined with other methods. As well as by exercising, you can help things move faster by switching some of the ingredients, like butter, cream, or cheese, for low-fat or healthy alternatives. To learn more about how you can control your portion sizes, but still feel full, see our tips on how to avoid overeating.