Bad News for Portion Control

This country is weight-obsessed. Despite our staggering rate of obesity, it seems like everyone is scrambling for ways to keep the weight off. And so enters the landslide of fad diets. Take portion control for example—ever heard of it?

The idea is you’ll lose weight by restricting the amount of food you eat. Sounds like a good idea—right? Although, if people were really capable of limiting how much they eat, then why do we have an obesity problem to begin with? Yeah, Dr. Fuhrman doesn’t buy this approach to maintaining a healthy bodyweight either. He talks about it in Eat to Live:
It is meaningless to compare foods by weight or portion size. Let me provide an example to explain why this is the case. Take one teaspoon of melted butter, which gets 100 percent of its calories from fat. If I take that teaspoon of butter and mix it in a glass of hot water, I can now say that it is 98 percent fat-free, by weight. One hundred percent of its calories are still from fat. It didn’t matter how much water or weight was added, did it?
Portion control sounds more like a clever marketing scheme than a legitimate weight-loss plan to me. Now, Dr. Fuhrman isn’t the only non-believer of portion control. A new study shows eating slower and in smaller portions is really nothing more than dietary busywork. Jeffrey Perkel of HealthDay News reports:
A team at Children's Hospital Boston gave 18 teens a fast-food meal comprising chicken nuggets, French fries and a cola delivered in one of three ways on three separate occasions: either as a single large serving; divided into four portions served at one time; or divided into four portions served every 15 minutes.


The authors found that the teens -- four males and 14 females, all of who were overweight -- ate the same amount of food (about 1,320 calories worth, nearly 50 percent of their daily energy requirement) regardless of how it was presented. Importantly, none of the subjects finished the meal they were given, suggesting they ate until they were full, not until they ran out of food.

"It didn't matter if we divided [the meal] into four smaller portions and gave it at the same time, or if we divided it into portions and distributed it at 15-minute intervals to slow down intake," said Cara Ebbeling, co-director of obesity research at the hospital. "They ate the same amount of total calories in each case. So, the conclusion is that portioning and eating rate did not affect calorie intake."
Talk about using people as guinea pigs. Did they have to use fast-food? Yuck! But the research does identify the critical flaw in this form of dieting. We’re a country of chronic overeaters. We simply eat way more than we should—clearly we lack will power—so how will reducing the amount of food we start with help us lose weight? Won’t we just seek out more food once we devour our tiny portions?

Again, Dr. Fuhrman isn’t buying it. In Eat to Live he points out that its not just about how much we put into our bodies, but also what we put into our bodies. Take a look:
If food’s weight were important, it would be easy to lose weight, we would just have to drink more water. The water would trigger the weight receptors in the digestive tract and our appetite would diminish. Unfortunately, this is not the way our body’s appetite—the brain center in the hypothalamus that controls food intake—is controlled. Bulk, calories, and nutrient fulfillment, not the weight of the food, turn off our appestat. Since the foods Americans consume are so calorie-rich, we have all been trying to diet by eating small portions of low-nutrient foods. We not only have to suffer hunger but also wind up with perverted cravings because we are nutrient-deficient to boot.
Dr. Fuhrman goes on to explain that giant portions of certain foods can actually contribute to weight-loss. Who would have thought? Eat more, lose weight. Back to Eat to Live:
We must consume a certain level of calories daily to feel satisfied. Now I ask you to completely rethink what you consider a typical portion size. To achieve superior health and a permanently thin physique, you should eat large portions of green foods. When considering any green plant food, remember to make the portion size huge by conventional standards. Eating large portions of these super healthy foods is the key to your success.
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Alysia - February 26, 2009 3:05 PM

i think your point of view over portion control is correct but only to a certain extent. how can you not agree that restaurant's these days are serving oversized portions and we as customers are eating whats infront of us.. portion control allows individuals to not only over eat but manage what their daily intake of food is..

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