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from a really average woman who lost 100 lbs.
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Tuesday, January 28, 2003  

Scales and Cups and Spoons

So, it’s important to remember that I’m about a million years old. Or at least I’m old enough to recall what dieting looked like in the Paleolithic Era. What dieting was like before nutrition labels existed.

In those days, dieting meant buying a bigger purse. You needed a really large purse so that you could carry around the dieter’s laboratory that included a tiny kitchen scale, and measuring cups and spoons, your own dressings and seasonings and artificial sweeteners. Baggies of carrots and celery, your own special bread (sliced very thinly so you could have two pieces). Dieting was inconvenient, and the cardinal rule was: you must weigh and measure everything before you may put it in your mouth.

And you know what? It worked.

It worked just great, until you became annoyed with or too embarrassed by all the paraphernalia. Or perhaps developed a scoliosis from the weight of your bigger purse.

Of course, we’re talking about the old Weight Watchers here. The WW people have done a marvelous job reinventing and reinventing their program over the years in response to nutritional discoveries and the patience, or lack of it, of the general population. They change as fast as any gigantic, global corporation is capable of changing. The constant effort is to make dieting both more effective and more convenient for the average overweight person.

Today at WW, there’s more emphasis on using the labels than the scales and spoons. Today visual cues and comparisons are emphasized over weights and measures to help people understand portions. You know, an ounce of cheese is about the same mass as your first finger. A 3-oz. serving of meat would just cover the palm of your hand, etc. Or there are picture books that give you an idea of the calories, and carb/fat/protein values of familiar foods.

Personally, I don’t think the images always work. What works, ultimately, for me, are the scales and the spoons, and experience.

Now, I have been a chronic dieter. That’s not a good thing to be, by the way. But I am a product of my generation, and so I grew up learning to count my food. Like my sisters and brothers in dieting I am able to calculate the caloric/protein/fat/carb value of a meal at 20 paces. Or by glancing over a recipe. And I get pretty close. Really reasonably close.

You know what? I’m a whole lot more accurate in my counting when I’m not hungry.

When I’m hungry and standing over the steaming or glistening or sizzling food, my counting and reasoning faculties are, uh, diminished.

Was that one finger for an ounce of cheese? Or two? Whose finger? Some fingers are bigger than others… What about Shaq’s fingers? Now there’s an ounce I could love… I reason this out while shaving harmless additional slivers off the block of cheese and popping them into my face.

Or the tuna steak arrives at my table in the nice restaurant, and it’s so gorgeous, that I hardly notice it’s about a 12-ounce steak, instead of the 4 ounces I had planned for.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we all start carrying around scales and spoons again. But I do recommend that you have these things out on the counter in your kitchen to run spot-checks on your imagination. Get a scale that will give you readings to the half-ounce. Really weigh out the cheese for a while until you gain a clear experience and understanding and “feel” for what an ounce looks like. Or a half a cup of rice. Or four ounces of tuna.

Do you really understand what a teaspoon of butter looks like?

Watch for portion creep, folks, especially right now, when we’re indoors, and it’s cold out, it’s so easy to have the extra mouthful, the additional sliver or two, the three or four chips more.

Ultimately, it’s about the calories. I swear,


Portions Compared with Household Items
IVillage Portion Distortion Quiz
Manly Men Talking about Man Portions

posted by Julie |
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