Overlooked Key to Weight Control


Last month I was talking about the obesity problem this country is having with a girl friend who has known me since we were teenagers. She brought up something that she and I both feel may be crucial to our cultural weight problem. It’s a simple and profound difference between me and my family and many (most) other families we know. Without ever thinking about it or recognizing it for what it is, I was well trained in appropriate portion size and then trained my kids the same way.

This may have originally come about through having to portion out everything so the food we had would last for a week since we only shopped once a week. This may have continued because with five children I made menus and went by them carefully to make sure everyone had three well balanced meals each day on a tight budget. It was also the ‘norm’ in our family – and almost no one is overweight in four (or five or more) generations.

What does this mean? Ice cream was a once in a while treat and was served in a small dessert bowl, not a cereal bowl. Our meal was placed on the dinner plate with room to spare and was colorful to look at. There was a small portion of meat, one (ice cream scoop size) potato/rice/pasta, a green veggie and a yellow/red/orange veggie. A second helping was half the size of the first helping and usually only my father had one unless we had all been working hard out in the yard/garden/fields. There was also always homemade bread on the table without much butter. We had dessert every night however a 10″ deep dish pie was divided into 10 pieces and lasted two days. Or there was 2 cookies and a piece of fruit.

Breakfast depended on how active you would be that day and juice was served in a 6 oz. glass. Usually the only sugar at breakfast was in the jam for toast or a teaspoon on the cereal that had no sugar in it otherwise. Here’s a simple experiment: have three meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) with no sugar in any of them. What would you eat?

There was no sense of not having enough at any meal however we never had ‘free feeding’ at any time of day or night. We almost never bought pre-made snacks. Our snacks were a sandwich, an apple, crackers, carrots, dried fruit, cheese, or celery with peanut butter. That meant one apple, a handful of nuts, fruit, berries, a couple of crackers,  OR one or two sticks of celery.

Apparently as people became more affluent and less active, the portion size increased and the calorie count did too. This may sound odd, however I think if people spent the same amount on food as they do now and just bought everything organic, they would loose weight. Why? You get less food for the same money and we need to eat less. Another benefit is that we need to support sustainable practices and eat better food! This is a win-win situation.

So if you feel heavy and over weight, never mind a new diet book! Instead just measure out each portion, reduce the dish size, and use the best food money can buy. Make menus and a shopping list, stop letting the family graze in the pantry at will, and have everyone help with dinner. Kids can start making one dinner a week by age 6 with a little bit of help. All of this means being more conscious, more aware of course, but our very lives depend on it. This is the first time the present generation will die younger than their parents do if we don’t learn better habits.

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