February 28, 2013

February Wrap Up: Portion Control Challenge

As the month comes to a close, I want to take a few minutes to reflect on what I got done in February – namely, how did my month-long portion control challenge go?

I certainly didn’t do a perfect job practicing portion control, particularly in Europe when faced with cheap and delicious bottles of wine everywhere we went. But alcohol aside, I think I’ve definitely redefined what a normal serving of food is for me. While many Americans travel abroad and believe that portions are too small (because of the ginormous platters we’re used to at U.S. restaurants), I found myself perfectly happy with the portion sizes abroad. In fact, my favorite food discovery of the trip was the bocadillos, or little sandwiches, in Spain – each one about the size of a half sandwich at a U.S. fast casual restaurant like Panera. Despite costing only 1-2 Euros each, one bocadillo was plenty to satisfy my hunger (especially when paired with some delicious wine), and the high-quality ingredients used made them totally satisfying from a taste perspective.

But the true test for me came on my final night in Europe, when I had just one night to get my fill of Italian food in Rome. After some wine at an enoteca and then a surprisingly good pasta dinner at a totally touristy Italian restaurant, we wandered over to Trevi Fountain – and saw several shops with gelato in the vicinity. One in particular seemed to have tons of locals, which I took as a good sign, so I selected that as my destination.

The choice was not just which of the dozens of flavors to order, but also what size of cup or cone to get. The smallest looked like they were meant to hold a single shot of espresso, but the cones/cups scaled from there all the way up to two kilo buckets that I assume were meant as takeout for a party. Though I kind of wanted to go for the two kilo container myself, I stuck with the smallest one I saw: the two Euro cup that was about half the size of your typical small cup at a place like Tasti-D-Lite.

As with most ice cream shops, they overstuffed the cup, so I definitely got more than the 1/4 cup of gelato that the cup was designed to hold. But when I finished the delicious treat, I discovered that as much as I thought I would want to order another and attempt to taste all the delicious flavors, I was actually perfectly replete. The smallest size had been just enough to let me enjoy a few bites of two different flavors (I chose Nutella and Creme Caramel), but not so much that I got sick of either one. Every bite was delicious, and there was honestly just no need to eat more when I knew that each subsequent bite wouldn’t be as great as those magical first bites.

I won’t be home to NYC until tomorrow night, and honestly am expecting to be a few pounds higher on the scale when I weigh myself on Saturday. I definitely indulged in some great food and drink while I was in Europe, and it will probably take a few days for my body to get back to its normal equilibrium. But regardless of what the scale says, I’m declaring my February challenge a success. Early in the month, I was seeing some positive changes in the mirror and on the scale, and I attribute that just as much to my focus on portion control as to my continued efforts to exercise every day.

As with exercise, though, right-sizing my portions is going to be an ongoing challenge – not something I do for a month and then forget. The point of these monthly challenges is really to establish a habit that will stick with me even after the month is up, and I am looking forward to continuing to explore ways to control my portions going forward. Stay tuned for a post next week about The Portion Plate, whose marketing team reached out to me to do a review and giveaway!


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