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  • Moderate Portions Key to Overall Health

    Moderate Portions Key to Overall Health

    June 26, 2006

    By: Jean Johnson for Reflux1

    As so many people with acid reflux say, even one last bite can get them into big trouble. Severe reflux symptoms can mimic a heart attack or at the very least cause major burning and pain that brings an abrupt, decisive halt to dining fun.
    Take Action
    Tips to get portions under control

    Concentrate when eating. When we are concentrating on just the food, it gets boring to keep eating the same thing bite after bite. We automatically want to eat smaller portions.

    Use smaller plates so you won’t feel the need to put more on them.

    Use high-quality foods so that each bite will be a delicious, satisfying experience.

    Take reasonable bites and concentrate on tasting the food. Become a gourmet. Revolt against mindless eating.

    Experiment with spices and herbs instead of dosing everything with salt. Take your palate on an adventure.

    Spend the time, energy, and money it takes to access good food. Then quality, not quantity will inform your decisions when you are grocery shopping.

    Often physicians recommend that reflux patients eat smaller portions to keep from getting too full and putting too much pressure on the sphincter between the stomach and the lower esophagus. The esophageal sphincter normally keeps the contents of the stomach from escaping back into the esophagus where there is no protective lining against digestive acids, but too much food in the stomach can force it open.

    But why wait to get acid reflux to start controlling the portions we eat? Not only do studies show that obesity and being overweight predispose us to GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), portion control is also an important key to weight management. Indeed, since the overweight and obesity epidemic currently on a major romp through the Western world is by far more prevalent than reflux, this article will focus on how simply eating moderate portions can promote healthy weight.

    Moderate Portions, Not Diets

    “Do not diet,” the late Julia Child emphatically told Ms. Magazine in a 2003 interview. Skip counting calories, clattering around with every last measuring cup in the house, using artificial sweeteners, eating boring fat-free meals, and drinking those canned diet drinks that are marketed to take the place of sensible meals. Rather, said the free-thinking Child, “Eat a variety of high-quality food that is fresh, and limit your intake. Moderate your eating. It takes discipline.”

    The Arthritis Foundation – which is interested in helping people keep their weight down to spare the pressure put fragile joints – is right behind Child on the portion bandwagon and suggests paying attention to serving size quantities on packages. For example, a serving of Ben and Jerry’s is a half cup it is not, contrary to some ideas, the whole pint.

    An interesting wedge of room temperature cheese and fresh seasonal fruit from one’s own locale is clearly a superior choice for dessert. But on those occasions when nothing will do but decadence, the idea is go for what we want, just keep the portions firmly under wraps.

    Scoop out that half cup, enjoy every tantalizing spoonful, and when the dish is empty take yourself outside for walk around the block or whatever might help introduce enough time before you eat again to realize we all have to fight against the feeding frenzy.

    Portion Differences – the United States and France

    Americans in Philadelphia were served 25 percent larger portions at “fast-food outlets, pizzerias, ice cream parlors and a variety of ethnic restaurants” than their French counterparts in Paris, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, Paul Rozin, Ph.D., told after publishing the results of his study in a 2003 issue of the journal Psychological Science.

    “Many studies have shown that if food is moderately palatable, people tend to consume what is put in front of them and generally consume more when offered more food,” Rozin said. “Much discussion of the obesity epidemic in the U.S. has [been] on personal willpower, but our study shows that the environment also plays an important role and that people may be satisfied even if served less than they would normally eat.”

    In addition to eateries, Rozin’s team told that packaged foods also tended to be larger in the U.S. (at least with 14 out of the 17 items they compared).
    Take Action
    Summer experiment in portion control:

    Get some lettuce at the farmer’s market along with whatever else that is fresh and looks good – radishes, scallions, carrots early in the season, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers later on. Clean the lettuce and get it crisped up in the refrigerated.

    Then make up a salad with everything cut bite-sized, maybe scattering some raisins and toasted walnuts done up in some butter, nutmeg, and cayenne over the top. Dressings can range from olive oil and lemon juice to a blended concoction of yogurt, wine vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard and celery seeds.

    Toss and serve. Concentrate on each bite – each crunch of lettuce, the colors of the veggies, the spikes of acid that lift the flavors right out of the bowl. Have a nice drink to go along with – some wine, sparkling water or tomato juice. See if enjoying a polite bowlful isn’t entirely satisfying. The go on to the next moderate course. It’s a sure route to eating well and feeling well.

    “For example, a candy bar sold in Philadelphia was 41 percent larger than the same product in Paris, a soft drink was 52 percent larger, a hot dog was 63 percent larger, and a carton of yogurt was 82 percent larger,” said Rozin

    Portion Differences – Then and Now

    The Department of Health and Human Services in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has also looked at portion sizes, although instead of in terms of place, researchers considered time and went back into history a mere 20 years to see how things have changed.

    One of their first findings was on the matter of the innocent muffin. We all are familiar with the big high-hat muffins sitting with such presence in the glass case at the coffee shop. Bran, blueberry, apple spice: Certainly better choices than the Danish pastries or the French croissants, we think – or at least hope.

    Perhaps, but what the NIH team wants us to recall are those regular-sized muffins that came out of mothers’ and grandmothers’ kitchens. These days those battered tins are probably reserved for kids’ cupcakes if they get used at all.

    When women did do more of their own baking 20 years ago, according to the NIH, most muffins were 1.5 ounces and 210 calories, compared to the giant ones today that ring in at a plump 4 ounces, 500 calories.

    The message is clear even with the one example, but the NIH didn’t stop there in their investigations. From bagels (3-inch, 140 calorie ones then vs. 6-inch, 350 calorie ones now), to cheeseburgers in paradise (333 calories then, 590 now), to an average plate of spaghetti (then 500 calories, today 1,025 calories), and of course fries (2.4 ounces, 210 calories back in the 1980s and today at 6.9 ounces and 610 calories), we are stuffing it in big time these days.

    Alarming numbers, and all the more so when the NIH reminds us that the average woman needs only around 1,600 calories a day – or 500 plus at each meal. Double that intake, and voila, there we are shopping at the big size stores for something we might look half way decent in.

    Another part of the problem is that even as portions have increased, our activity has taken a comparable dive. Government teams say that although it takes a 160 pound person walking leisurely for an hour and 10 minutes to work off the extra 400 calories in super-sized French fries, what happens is that when we eat the gluttonous servings we become sluggish and all our best intentions to get up and work it off take a so-called hike. Tomorrow, we promise, through glazed eyes as we surf the channels with a remote control in hand.

    Manana Mentality No Friend to Changing Habits

    Start now, not tomorrow and be moderate in cultivating moderation. As Mark Twain wrote, “Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man [or woman], but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”

    Coaxed out a wobbly short step at a time. Pausing and considering the next time there’s an urge to double dip. Enough restraint, slowly but slowly, and not only will the confidence climb, the weight will drop as well.

    Last updated: 26-Jun-06


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