Freedom from Emotional Eating, Food & Weight Obsession

One Portion Size Fits All?

“Hunger and satiation are the guides to natural body weight…to feeding oneself with integrity.”  ~Carol Bloom

If the “experts” are to be believed, for dinner, the majority of us need a piece of chicken the size of a deck of cards, a tennis ball worth of rice with some dice sized butter, and a salad (as much as you can eat) with a ping pong ball scoop of dressing (preferably lo-cal or no-cal). For a select few, an extra tennis ball of rice may be permitted.

How is it that we we’ve come to believe that some guy in a white lab coat in Wisconsin can determine what and how much we need to eat on any given day? Why do we accept that one tennis ball worth of carbs is the “right” amount? Or that, if we eat four cookies when the label says a “serving” size is two cookies, we’ve eaten more than we “should”? So while we know that “one-size-fits-all” clothing does not really fit all, why do we accept the one-size-fits-all portion control approach to eating?

That “guy in Wisconsin” wearing the white lab coat is making a lot of money simply because we’ve gotten away from trusting ourselves to know how much food our bodies need.

As reformed dietitians who long ago surrendered our plastic food models, we suggest that you, too, throw out the old food models and images that have previously informed you of the “correct” amount to eat. Sure, it’s helpful to know that a deck of cards is approximately equal to three ounces of chicken, and in many cases, provides an adequate amount of protein for a meal. But the value of portion sizes ends there.

Seriously. Think about it. What’s the difference between “portion control” and “dieting” anyway? Both are about control. Both are based on someone else’s predetermined ideas about how much we should eat (whether these amounts are enough to meet our needs or not). And we know what often happens if we eat more than our allotted portions because we’re hungry, or just because we’re feeling rebellious about that guy in Wisconsin: we’re off and running with the feel-bad-about-myself, off-the-diet, longing-to-feel-better-about-myself, back-on-the-diet-cycle once again. 

But if we stop relying on labels and that guy in Wisconsin to tell us about proper portions, how will we know how much to eat? The research on intuitive eating clearly shows that we are able to determine how much food we need. So if we can risk reconnecting with and responding to our body’s hunger and fullness signals, we can begin to rebuild body trust. Bolstered by body trust, we’ll find it is easy to bypass the one-portion-size-fits-all bandwagon. And eating with attunement, we’ll confidently feed ourselves the “right” portion.

Tip: At one meal today, after eating in an attuned way, nonjudgmentally notice if your protein portion was bigger, smaller, or the same size as a deck of cards.

Affirming Statement: “I tune in and eat just the right amount.”


Nutrition therapists Amy Tuttle, RD, LCSW and Karin Kratina, RD, PhD provide no-diet articles and resources including “Stay Attuned: The E-zine for Nourishing Connections” at their Nourishing Connections website.

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About Ellen Shuman

Ellen on the phone

I have worked in the Wellness Field for 30 years. I created an Emotional Eating & Binge Eating Disorder Recovery Program way before most people knew BED was an eating disorder, NOT a “willpower” issue. Personally, I suffered for years before finding answers and the help I needed and deserved! I became a Coach in 1997 to help others who were still suffering as I had. I love being a Coach!


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