Portion Control is a Bitch

For the past three weeks, one of my dearest friends, M, and I have been following the Women’s Health Diet Challenge that’s supposed to shape your eating habits to be healthier.

I’ve been incredibly proud of our dedication: we’ve been recording every little thing we eat, including any late night snacks that we aren’t supposed to have, along with our exercise and how many drinks we consume. We encourage each other to meet our goals, like not eating sweets and running a certain amount of miles every week – and when one of us falls off the wagon… the other one helps them up…

…or you know, falls right down with them into a cave of red wine and brownies. Or tequila and cupcakes.

Though we’re only half-way through the cleanse, we’re both already seeing changes: losing weight, saving money (bringing your lunch and making it at home is so cheap!), running more and faster, and overall, just feeling slimmer. We’ve each had our own struggles but have pretty much kept to the diet, minus some exceptions that make sense with our lifestyle. (Girl’s night out must have some sort of wine! You can’t eat in every single night in New York City!) But the one thing that’s made the past few weeks so hard for me is portion control.

It’s a total bitch.

I never realized how much bigger my serving sizes were than the recommended amount – 1 cup of brown rice looks a lot different than the two cups the Chinese restaurants give you. And 25 almonds for a snack might seem like a lot, but if you grab a handful or two, you’re probably consuming 50 (and 500+ calories!). The first days of the challenge, I basically felt like I was starving to death because I was eating much less – but now, I noticed how much easier I feel full and satisfied compared to before.

N, my friend and the blogger behind Mrs. Healthy Ever After made an amazing transformation last year and lost weight by changing her eating habits. Since she’s my go-to person for making yummy, hearty but healthy meals, I asked her to give some awesome tips on how to manage portion control, make good choices and lose weight:

When I served my brother the same portion of pasta I had just served my then boyfriend (now husband), his eyes grew wide as if to say “Challenge accepted.” But half-way through, he gave up, groaning that I shouldn’t give him “Addison-sized” portions. It wasn’t until that moment did I realize I had inadvertently been trained horrible portion habits because of my garbage disposal man.

Once we got married, we vowed to get our eating habits under control, and thus, Mrs. Healthy Ever After was born. One of the first problems we tackled was portion control, and trust me when I say these really do work. Even my pasta guzzling husband agrees.

Plate size matters
We hear a lot about how half the battle of weight loss and health is psychological. It really is true. Plate sizes have grown exponentially over the years, making us think that we really need all that space for food. The truth is, most plates are more than double the size we need. If you put your food on a smaller plate, your brain will register it as a significant amount of food. However, if you put the same size food on a bigger plate, your brain will tell yourself that you are being deprived and need more. Reach for the smaller plates to help trick yourself into better habits. Half the time, my husband doesn’t even realize I’m using different sized plates.

Plan ahead proper portions
Buying individual sized, portion-controlled snacks can get pricey (and let’s be honest, who eats just one of those, right?). Save money by buying your snacks in bulk and researching portion size yourself. Separate them into little zip lock baggies (you can even get extra small baggies to go hand-in-hand with the psychology of tip #1). If you always have perfectly portioned snacks on hand, you’re not going to be tempted to eat the whole bag of pretzels—especially if you refuse to keep a whole bag in your house.

Do the Half-Plate trick
My husband really struggled with wanting to eat large portions of meat. For myself, as the Italian of the relationship, I was more carb driven and always wanted pasta or breads. When you have a meal that showcases something scrumptious but not necessarily healthy when eaten out of proportion, do the half-plate trick: fill half your plate with veggies. Have a separate bowl for salad when you’re eating pasta? Trying putting it on your plate next to your main course. Eating a steak dinner? Measure out your portions and place it alongside half a plate of grilled vegetables. Remember, you can never O.D. on veggies so take advantage!

Don’t trust restaurant portions
Very rarely do restaurants actually give you a human amount of food—in that, sometimes it’s even three times more than you should ever consume in a setting. If you don’t want to eat a “healthy” item on the menu or focus on a green salad, then opt to split your entrée in half. Most restaurants will even box the other half before serving you your meal if you ask. Two meals for the price of one? Yes please!

Educate yourself
How can you eat proper portions if you don’t actually know what they are? Many people struggle with either eating too much or too little. Both can be detrimental to your weight loss journey. Do your homework. Learn that 4 ounces of meat equals roughly the size of your palm or a deck of cards. Still struggling? Invest in a food scale and literally measure your food until you teach yourself the visual cues you need.

Don’t think you struggle with portion control?
Try the sure fire test that will open your eyes! Pour yourself a bowl of cereal without measuring it, serving yourself your typical portion. Afterward, actually measure it out. Chances are, you will have served yourself between two to four times the amount recommended.

Check out N’s awesome blog here

This Valentine’s Day, write a self-love letter to yourself and it’ll be published (anonymous or not) on Confessions of a Love Addict! And you enter yourself to win a prize pack of beauty products and a Home Goods gift card! Learn more here. Submit here.

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This is Me & This is What I Need

While I’ve always known New York is the city that never sleeps, I was somehow under the illusion that its inhabitants do. However, if the last two weeks are any indication of how my street-slicker life is turning out to be, then it looks like I may be learning to function on a few hours rest for the time I pen New York, NY on my return labels.

From the time the clock struck 7 am, letting me know it was time to greet the energy populating outside, until the moment I burst into my apartment, sat down my bag, and collapsed into bed – I was on the go. To and from work. Staying later to close the magazine and arriving early to ensure I crossed all my T’s and dotted all my I’s. Going to this happy hour and that gallery opening. Visiting people in Brooklyn and beyond. Entertaining out-of-town friends I hadn’t seen in ages. Freelancing. This breath-of-fresh-air of a blog that keeps me going, when nothing else does. Figuring out where my heart is, but keeping my mind in tow. New dates with new men. Even newer friends. Movies and networking, dining and wining, and of course, even more writing.

I’ve been waiting for my New York life to start feeling like an actual, functioning, and prospering existence that’s full of friends, outings, experiences, and thriving conversations – and I feel like I’m finally getting there. It’s taken some difficult days that sometimes may get the best of me, but through it all – I’ve never doubted that eventually, skyscrapers would seem more like home than mountaintops. New York has this effortlessway of renewing my spirit and reminding me that the opportunities for me are endless and attainable, if I just remember to keep one thing in check no matter how busy I get or who becomes a main character in my life. And that wildly complicated and perfectly simple thing…is me.

And while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my schedule being shaken and stirred – the thing that’s made the recipe a bit off is forgetting to take care of my own simple, day-to-day needs.

In my sudden influx of events and adventures, I noticed my mood gradually get worse. By the time Saturday evening rolled around and I had yet to really get a great night’s sleep, tidy up my apartment, or sit around in my sweatpants – I became flat-out bitchy. And along with my intolerableness, I started analyzing myself and worse, putting pressure and asking questions about what I was doing with my life. I started breaking out, which made me resort back to old ways of piling on way too much makeup. Thus, I started to feel less secure, not to mention with my busy schedule, the gym has been out of the question, so I was not feeling like my fit self, either. And when my apartment was merely used to shower and sleep for two weeks, the heap of dirty clothes kept growing, without an end in sight – leaving me with all of those garments we keep, but never want to wear. Admittedly, I may have worn the same pair of socks two days in a row and did all I could to keep that thought out of my mind throughout round-two.

Apart from doubting my appearance and feeling overall just plain exhausted, I also became paraded with worries about everything from my career, my finances to my dating life, and this space: Am I doing enough? Am I working to the best of my ability? Is my job happy with me? Am I going on enough dates? Should I even be going on dates at all? What if I fall in love with someone in the next few months – will that go against the recovery? Will I still be able to love myself in the middle of a full-fledged relationship? Am I there yet?  Do I even know where I’m going? Am I still on the right path with myself? Am I doing the right things? Making the right decisions? Am I saving enough money? Am I spending too much on going out and not enough preparing for my new apartment in May?

What the hell am I doing??

Like the infamous pile of spaghetti, all covered in cheese, once my meatball of confidence rolled off my sturdy table – all was lost. As much as I’m a girl who goes, I’m also a woman who needs alone time to collect my thoughts and find my personal center of clarity. I’ve discovered, in my most recent rampage, that when I forget about the basic necessities that keep me sane – sleeping, running, eating a huge bowl of cereal while watching trashy television in my fuzzy bathrobe – any bit of negativity in me bubbles its way up to the surface.

Until I took away my isolated liberty, I never realized how much I really cherished those hours of seclusion. The time when I’m only in the company of myself.

And so yesterday, instead of accepting an invite to dinner or heading out to mingle at a networking gala downtown, I left work on time and went to find the me I had lost in the last fourteen days. Running four miles was difficult, but it has never hurt so good or made my lungs feel clearer. I enjoyed a decaf espresso with my laundry and cleaning duties, and I caught up on the daily reads I had been neglecting. I soaked my feet and wore a face masque. I called my mom and then retired my phone for the evening. I replied to personal emails I had let pile up. I went invisible on Gchat and closed Facebook and ceased tweeting on Twitter.

I looked at myself in the mirror, saw all of the imperfections I had been focusing on for days – newly formed zits, hair that despareately needs to be trimmed, skin that’s paler than the leftover snow on the streets, and elbows severely thirsty for hydration. And instead of spewing out words of degradation and attempting to fix all that I thought was ugly or wrong, I stopped and made a decision.

A choice to believe that at whatever point my journey is at or approaching, or how many things I want to change or I’m unsure about – this is my life. This is my body. This is how I look. This is my apartment. This is my job. This is my savings accountant. This is my date for the evening. This is my blog. This is my city. This is my home. This is my exhaustion taking over. This is my spirit that will get me through. This is now. This is what it is. This, whatever this is at whatever moment this takes me to, is mine.

This is me and I have to decide what I need.

And while they may say it’s never too late to be the person you wanted to be, it’s also never too early to accept and listen to yourself. Or to realize that sometimes, the best thing you ever do…is absolutely nothing.