the size of your portion does matter after all

ooh-err missus…

don’t worry, I’m not really about to launch into “carry-on” movie mode! the “portion” mentioned above refers to my snacking habits. in particular, the quantity of nuts, seeds and dried fruit consumed in between meals.

it all started so well

quite some time ago, I got into the habit of having a mid-morning and a mid-afternoon snack. to start with this would be a banana, with yoghurt, nuts and seeds being added to the morning snack.

this went well for a while, and on average I was buying raw walnuts, raw almonds and a tub of seeds/pine nuts every couple of weeks.

weight continued to be lost, without ever getting that nagging feeling of hunger between meals.

as the session times increased, so did the snacking

as my training started to build up, incorporating longer sessions to help build stamina (which will be needed to run a marathon of course), I noticed I was getting hungry.

so I added dates and dried cranberries into the mix – just to add a bit of fibrous bulk and a bit of variety. it worked, the hunger pangs were eased.

however… the snacking started to get out of hand. with a 500g bag of dates in my desk drawer, it was all too easy to dip in and have “just one or two” dates here and there. of course, “just a couple” of nuts and cranberries found their way into this developing habit, and I was soon having to restock the supplies once a week instead of every fortnight!

the penny still didn’t drop though

I assumed that the snacking was fine, that I was eating “healthy” stuff, and it was just a sign that my body had greater energy needs and I was providing for those needs in a healthy and nutritious way.

at the same time I hit a weight plateau, and was trying to figure out what was causing it. the snacking was never even considered as a “suspect” though. the habit was building up quietly on the side, cloaked by the “healthy” aspect of the food consumed.

eventually I came to my senses

I was wandering down to the supermarket to buy more nuts, dried fruit etc. when it danwed on me that it had been less than a week since making this trip last. half a kilo of dates, 200g of cranberries, 200g of walnuts, 200g of almonds – all gone in 4 days!

it was at that point I thought that maybe things had got out of hand – all nuts are quite fatty, dried fruit has a fair bit of sugar and I was now pigging out on this stuff!

so I decided that I needed to work out how much I should be eating, and find a way to stick to that limit.

weighed, measured, and found to be wanting

I looked at the amount of food that I had bought for snacks and figured that it really was enough to last me 4 weeks (20 working days). on that simple basis I did some quick calculations of how much of each ingredient I should be consuming each day, and proceeded to weigh those amounts out using portable digital scales. using the information from the packaging, I also worked out the number of kcals that would be in each portion.

to be honest, I was expecting a slight reduction in the amount being eaten, but when I weighed things out I got a bit of a shock.

turns out that I was probably eating 3 or possibly even 4 times the amount that I had arbitrarily decided was a “good” daily amount.

for a brief moment I wondered whetehr I was just being a little too restrictive, and could actually increase the amounts a bit. a quick check of the kcals quickly set me straight.

sometimes it pays to count the calories

while I don’t generally go for calorie counting – on this occasion it was actually quite illuminating.

the quantity of dried fruit, nuts and seeds that I had decided to allow myself, based on making what I had bought last for 4 weeks, had a total of about 375 kcals.

so by dropping from my previous snacking levels, I would be reducing my intake by at least 750 kcals, if not more.

when you consider that a 5km jog only burns 500 or so kcals, it soon becomes clear that my snacks were easily cancelling out my exercise efforts in calorific terms.

so it was no surprise that I had hit a plateau on the weight front!

the secret – portion control and awareness

I’ve started a new regime where I put a day’s worth of nuts and dried fruit into a plastic tub, and then allow myself to nibble from that at any time. the only rule is that when it’s gone, it’s gone.

knowing that I am going to feel hungry later in the day helps me keep some control early on, so I don’t just gobble them all up before lunchtime.

being a little more mindful about this also helps me to pay attention to my water consumption – thirst and hunger are easily confused.

one week into this new regime and things are going well – by “grazing” through the day, and keeping the water consumption steady and consistent, I haven’t experienced hunger pangs even though I have kept up the training schedule.

the reduction in calorie intake seems to be paying off, with 2kg of the weight gained at Christmas gone.

that’s fantastic, and it didn’t take much more than a bit more attention and a bit of tweaking.

it just goes to show how easy it is for these things to shift over the line between “good” and “bad”, and the value of just being aware of that possibility.

by maintaining that awareness you can make small, painless adjustments early on. rather that than, say, 20 years of getting it wrong and then having to make massive, more painful, adjustments!


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