Research has shown that portion control may be the most  effective form of dieting when you take into account longevity and sustained weight loss and management.  The reason, according to Dr. Everett Logue et al. in Obesity ( may be that portion control is an easier behavioral target than planned exercise.  Although increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables may be the easiest way to change behaviorally, it does not appear to be as effective in long term weight reduction.

Okay, so all I have to do is eat a little less, and move a little more.  Well, it’s not that simple.  If you’ve tried portion control in the past like I have, you might be rolling your eyes.  Actually, 36% of women in the Illinois Women’s Health Registry are currently using portion control to lose weight, while only 20% are trying exercise.   So how can we make portion control work for us?  The important thing to understand is that portion sizes are often FAR LESS than we think they are.  In fact, research has shown that Americans typically underestimate their caloric intake by as much as 25%.  So if I think I’m only eating 1600 Calories (a typical weight loss goal), I might actually be eating 2,000.  It’s also important to know that women and men of similar height and weight do NOT have the same caloric needs.   Metabolism in women works differently; men generally have a higher Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the rate at which our bodies break down calories.  In other words, we don’t need to eat as much as our male counterparts…sorry ladies, but try leaving that second helping to him.

So what is the correct portion size?  Well we are probably all familiar with the serving size values:

1 cup green and leafy vegetables or ½ cup mashed potatoes for the veggies
½ - 1 cup of fruit or 1 oz dried fruit
½ cup rice, 1 cup (cooked) pasta, or a bagel for the grains
3 oz chicken, beef or fish for protein
1 cookie or a ½ cup ice cream for the sweets

But what do these sizes actually look like?  Well, sadly, a lot less than we’d like to think.  Here’s the run down:

Portions Table

For more portion size tips, see this cool tool at

Even though portion control can be an effective weight loss method, it is still important to keep an active lifestyle and exercise regularly for a healthy weight AND a healthy heart!  Happy and Mindful Eating!



Thanks Dr. Hekier, I guess it's like mom always said, slow down when you eat! I know that I often fall into the trap of not eating much during the day and then ingesting anything and everything as quickly as possible when I get home.

As a weight loss surgeon performing the Lap Band surgery, I enthusiastically agree with the "portion control" method. It is vital to realize that the brain's satiety centers generally are not stimulated until 30 minutes after having a meal. Therefore it is easy to overeat if one eats too quickly. So slow down, and eat smaller portions. You may find that you are not as hungry as you think you might be after a small portion.

That is a disappointingly small serving size, I'm a little frightened to actually count the calories I eat in a day, but I know I should. Thanks for that link, Michelle!

Those are extremely small servings... I wonder how portion works in the long run. For a fact i know that cutting down on what you eat will allow you to lose a bit of weight, but after a while you hit a plateau because your body's metabolism adjusts to it. I think, in the end, it will depend on the person's body type. ------------------------ Kelly Life is meant to be enjoyed... be fit... be healthy!

I want to thank you for your inspiring blog. I only hope more women take up the challenge to live healthier and longer. Womenshealth.northeast is brilliant, My only hope your readers take in only half of what you write about and take the effort and action. GO GIRLS Rebecca Mills

I was actually looking at the calorie count of some fast food places. It is disgusting the amount of calories they feed you at these fast food places. Another good way to help lose weight is to drink water before, during, and after you eat. It helps to make you full and increases your metabolism.

Very good post Michelle. I agree with the comment posted by Candace Tingen. But we can eat food by dividing it part wise. Means to say, food which we eat heavily in onetime can be divided into small parts and can be taken in acceptable intervals.

I think that the idea of portion control works oly to a degree and then mainly with people who have such will power that they probably don't have a weight problem to start with. We need, as Dr. Hekier says, to slow down the process of eating. One way to do this is to go back to have multi couse meeals that lead with soup, then salad. I also believe that we need to focus and building our meals with a greater amount of super foods which have a great deal to do with controlling weight and an even greater deal to maintaining healthy bodies that have the energy to keep up active lives.

Very nice post, will bookmark this site. I agree today's woman facing ever pressure on their weight issues. I also keep a blog on woman's weight management issues at Will come by for more on your blog posts. Liz,

Understanding portion sizes was one of the hardest things that I had to control when I first started losing weight. I would always look at my plate and think, "I am so going to be hungry later..." As I got used to the smaller portions, I realized that I didn't need to be eating that much anyways. Thanks for the great reminder!

I'm a big believer in smaller and more often portions. My biggest problem used to be my plate had to be full :) But i learned to start listening to my brain telling me I was full instead of thinking 'I can't leave any' lol. Eat smaller and often and this will keep your metabolism going at a more constant rate which will help you burn fat. And of course exercise is a must too :)

Wow! I hadn't really thought of this like this. It is so much more natural to just eat less than to go on a rigourous exercise routine. I am all about natural and healthy. It's hard to keep them separated sometimes. Thanks.

Great article! I think Americans are so used to a quick fix these days from microwaves to tanning beds, we are always wanting results fast! However, our bodies are not designed for a yo-yo diet lifestyle. We were designed to have balance and live a life of self-control. Therefore, eating healthy and exercising should become a part of your everyday routine. At first it may be difficult, but eventually it'll become natural and you'll make healthy decisions easily. You just have to re-train your mind, which can be a difficult thing to do if you're not motivated. Awesome article! Kayla Chandler

Many of us are looking for the fastest way lose weight. Losing weight has become one of the most researched topics on the internet in the past few years. Everyone wants to be in perfect shape and stay fit. The major goal should not be to get skinny but it should be to get healthy. Having too much body fat is the sign of unhealthiness which most of us are suffering from. This article talks about the basics of losing weight so that it makes it easier for you to achieve your goal. With this in mind you should be on your way to quickly lose weight.

I know people who take this literally and damaged their health. I think the title is inapropriate. It should sound something like: Eat with moderation and exercise more.

MOST DIETS ARE FOR IDIOTS Over the years I have read so many claims about weight loss that really I should be an expert but as i specialise in other medical ailments then I have only touched on weight loss. Companies spensd millions on all types of claims for their products and yes many of them do work, for a period of time" but you will eventually get bored or uninterested with the same regime, plus a lot of these diets can get expensive. Believe me the more I think about it the easier the answer becomes. THERE IS ONLY ONE ANSWER. Basically eat less calories than your body needs to maintain your present weight and do MORE EXERCISE. Think about it before you critisize the simplicity of what I am saying. No matter what diet you are on is the above not really the simple truth. The way you do it is not complicated. Weigh yourself. Work out how many calories you need to stay at that weight and eat less. The way you eat less is not rocket science. One of 2 things, smaller portions and smaller plates - easy. Now regarding exercise. Even if you are the fattest person on earth START doing some exercise today (even if it is just to walk across the room. Gradually increase it (as long as it is more than you were doing before you started. Now it is simply a case of a monthly check. Assuming that you have lost weight then you will in turn then need less calories to maintain the new weight so reduce it again. Repeat until you reach your proper weight and size. Dont waste any more money on crazy diets its not necessary

I believe that food portioning works well enough, however weight loss surgery is what can really help the obese person lose the weight quickly and permanently and food portion control to be used in conjunction with the weight loss surgery.

I'm absolutely agree, that you should control the size of portion. But for effective weight loss this is not the only factor you should control. Another factor is a number of meals per day. If you want to know more, please, visit my website. There you'll find free and effective tips for easy weight loss.

Well I think that today the eating problem is a litle deeper. For Ex. To some degree, phsicologic problems like depresion can carry a person to eat more than they should, and this is only a small possible cause. But anyway we must always remember that is critical to always keep a balance between what we eat (quality and quantity) and exercise.

I have battled my weight for most of my adult life. For the past I have been aware that my portion sizes are to large but that unfulfilled emptiness after I try to cut back is just awful. After 18 months of researching I have decided on weight loss surgery. (next week) I believe that will help me control portions and with some walking I believe I can beat this breast.

I lost a lot of weight by purchasing myself a calorie book. I noted all the common low calorie foods and worked my way round that way. Although I wasn't getting all the necessary nutrients and felt mostly hungry, I did actually lose weight very quickly..

Exercise is the most important thing in the world especially in conjunction with a supplement and nutrition plan

This is an article I am going to forward to my clients. I am a counselor on weight loss and nutrition and everyone thinks that a few pills or a body cleanse, along with lemon tea and a quickie diet will take care of their problems. Retraining the brain to break habits and regain control is the only long term method that works. Kudos to you for a very fine article. Portion control is one of the most difficult things to get across, along with small meals five times a day and exercise.

Although controllin portion size relative to 'objects' is a good rule of thumb it makes a lot more sense to get a 'gram' scales that will give you a more detailed amount of weight Vs calories. On a balanced diet it helps to know 'initially' how exact your food is weighting in relative to Nutrional content too.

The problem with eating less and moving more is that you end up hungry all day. It sure would be better if your eat less but do it throughout the day, like 6 times. That should give you the energy to do more.

One of the main reasons women overeat is due to emotional eating. Learning other ways to meet your needs will help with portion control in a natural way.

My daughter recently lost a good amount of weight by simply looking at each eating decision she made..and making a better one. Add to that some portion control and at least a small amount of exercise (like walking around campus) and weight loss is not that difficult. Good information in the post about portion size!

The best thing that has worked for me is to eat smaller meals throughout the day. It is hard because I never feel very full, but I guess that's the point right? When I do it for awhile I realize how much less food I really need to survive. It's amazing. It's the emotional eating that really gets me.

Great article! Instead of looking for quick fixes, we should eat a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, keep physically active, and try to live a stress free life! It's an active process but well worth the effort to a healthier you!

A good way to maintain effective portion control is by having 60% of your meal with salads and fresh greens. So for example you could have a big bowl of lettuce, celery, tomatoes, spinach, peppers etc. This is really effective because these types of foods are filled with nutrients and essential vitamins. This means that your body will be satisfied because it has all the essential nutrients needed for the body. One of the reasons your still hungry after a meal is because the foods your eating aren't giving what your body needs - this resorts to the body craving more nutrients. Also have more meals with smaler portions - this increases your metabolism and also keeps your energy sustained throughout the day!

I have some friends who have had stomach surgery so they are forced to eat less and loose weight. The side effects are horrible. The above suggestions seem to be a more balanced approach. Reducing the size of your dinner plate and no seconds also adds to the discipline. Thank you for the informative blog and especially the "Portion Size Plate link." The visuals are very helpful. Laura H.

While understanding portion control is important,if one cannot resist the temptation to over eat they will continue to struggle with their weight. Lasting weight loss can only be achieved when one understands temptation, how it affects them and learns how to limit the power temptation has over them.