In the Western World, it is not like before where our food supply was scarcer, and people were a lot more physically active. Today, high density high calorie food is cheap and readily available, and most people are sitting at a desk all day working from the office or home.
This presents a real problem because our natural instinct as human beings when food is available is to overconsume it. In fact, if you put food in front of any animal in the animal kingdom it will consume it.
We are wired to eat more than we need at the present time as a means of storing excess energy in the form of body fat, in order to defend against famine when food is not available.
Not only that, but these days people eat for reasons other than actual hunger such as stress, loneliness, boredom, and/or emotional eating.
Therefore, controlling our food portions purposefully when food is overabundant is an essential skillset that we need to develop. It requires some willpower, discipline, and self-restraint to go against our natural instincts.
Different diets go different ways about restricting food intake. Some diets restrict certain food groups, some diets restrict entire macro groups, and others restrict food portions. Studies have shown that diets which restrict portions instead of macros tend to have better dietary adherence .
Furthermore, those diets that restrict entire marcos or food groups operate under the presumption that you will automatically lower your food intake by eliminating those foods.
However, that is not always the case. For example, we’ve had individuals following a keto or a low carb diet plan discover that they were eating between 3,000-4,000 calories a day when they started tracking their caloric intake, because they though they had a free licence to eat as much fats as they wanted, since they were restricting their carb intake.
Some fatty foods such as nuts, and cheese are very easy to overconsume if you do not monitor and control your portion sizes. The same goes for ‘low fat’ options disguised as healthy treats, that are packed with sugar and calories.
Therefore, irrespective of the diet plan that you are following, we still recommend tracking your calories and portions sizes.
We often get asked by students and clients, is it necessary to weigh your foods when tracking calories or can you just eyeball your portions.
Generally, that depends on the client and their circumstances. For newbie clients, those that have never tracked before, we definitely recommend measuring their portions. It is important for newbies to measure their food portions in the beginning because they need to familiarize themselves with what 100g grams of chicken or 100g of rice looks like.
Once someone has spent a couple of months measuring their portions, and they have familiarized themselves with what food portions look like, they can revert to eyeballing their portion.
In reality though, it might take longer than a couple of months for someone to develop the discipline and instinct to effectively eyeball their portions. We just say a couple of months to our clients as not to overwhelm them. But during that time, they should at least get into the habit of measuring regularly – and that, is how you can count your calories, correctly!
- Dansinger ML, et a. Comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone diets for weight loss and heart disease risk reduction: a randomized trial. JAMA. 2005;293(1):43.