The folks at Washington Hospital Center are jumping all over my a#$ -- even they are telling me I need to lose weight. I received in the mail a beautiful packet of information -- the main enclosure was something titled "Weigh to Lose: The Power of Portions and the Vital Vegetable." Included in the information were a bookmark (always useful for me), a folder which, when opened, becomes a placemat that shows portion sizes of starches, vegetables, proteins, etc. on a plate, and a booklet of information about a contest a local television channel and Washington Hospital Center hosted. The contest is over, but when I checked out their website, I found that the winner, Jenny, was a SAHM of FIVE children. The dietician's description of Jenny's diet very much resembled mine, and my problems. She said:
Jenny was already consuming a very healthy diet when she started the contest. Approximately one month before the contest began she started eating more vegetables and whole grain foods. Her eating issues were related to the amount of food she was ingesting. She would often eat seconds at mealtimes and she would pick and snack throughout the day.... Her meal plan is designed to help her eat in a more structured manner.
I think that is pretty much where I am too -- I try to eat whole grains when I can, and I'm not a fiend for chips, candy, etc. But I do pick at things (even healthy things) during the day and I also tend to consume larger portions than are necessary.
I think the portion size problem may have started out as a side effect to all the restaurant eating we did when I was pregnant with Chickadee #2 -- I was exhausted all the time from running around after the small toddler Chickadee #1 was at the time and my husband was working at night in a very high-stress job. He was stressed and didn't want to deal with the process of cooking, eating, and consuming food at home, and he is a stress eater who turns to pizza for comfort. So, he would suggest going out and I would agree -- I didn't want to cook and clean up either. Everyone knows that restaurant food is cooked with lots of added fat, sugar, and salt (thanks Dr. Kessler). And some restaurants (like The Cheesecake Factory) are notorious for huge portions (I once ordered a salad there that I had for dinner at the restaurant and lunch and dinner the next day!!).
Even when portion sizes are not screaming "I am a behemoth!" to you, they are larger than what you'd make at home. Take pasta, for example. A serving size of pasta is one cup, with one half cup of sauce. At our local Italian restaurant, the penne with sausage comes on an oval plate and includes at least 2 cups of penne, a whole link of sausage, sliced, and about a cup of sauce. Looking at this portion, it doesn't seem unreasonable. It seems an appropriate portion for the $11.95 price. But, if you actually measured it, you would find that, instead of consuming 4 WW points worth of pasta, you had just consumed 8, and instead of consuming 2 points of sauce, you had eaten at least 4 -- not to mention the sausage. This doesn't even account for the salad at the beginning of the meal or the "free" bread that they bring to the table with olive oil for dipping. Your "reasonable" meal probably cost you at least 15 points, which is huge proportion of the daily points you get.
The solution to this problem seems obvious -- do not eat out. Under any circumstances. That's quite hard to do in my family, for one reason and another. My husband comes from a family culture of eating out, which I do not. I actually cannot remember ever eating out with my parents (aside from vacation or road trips) when I was small. In contrast, my husband grew up with a mother who worked night shift and a father who worked swing shift -- this crazy schedule and the exhaustion it engendered made eating out the obvious choice for his family. In times of stress (and who doesn't have stress when you have preschoolers?), we have tended to follow my husband's family pattern -- to eat out or call for takeaway. Every time we have a budget discussion, we target out restaurant budget as the one area we agree to cut. Every month, we spend money on eating out. It takes discipline and planning not to do that. That has to be our next goal.