You exercise, eat the healthy foods, and yet the kilos on the scale remain the same. You eat the well balanced Indian meal of roti, subzi, cuchumber(salad), dal, chawal and dahi, without sweets or fried foods, giving the body ample nutrients that it requires for healthy functioning, and still feel that your efforts are going wasted. The primary reason for unsuccessful attempts at weight loss is the amount of food we eat and not the type of food.Known as portion control in weight loss lingo, there are several reasons people have a difficult time controlling proportions. Find out your portion distortion profile:

1. Awareness – you may just not understand what a portion, better known as serving size, is. The number of rotis you eat is easily countable but the amount of subzis and dals have to be counted as well. One katori each of subzi and cuchumber along with katori of dahi, rice and dal are sufficient for lunch. The katori should be a medium sized one. If you eat lunch at the office then these proportions should be easy to achieve, but when you are eating at home the prepared food is in a bowl in front of you and the tendency is to serve yourself more when something tastes good. It happens to the best of us.

Tip: Serve yourself in katoris and tell yourself that this is all you will be eating. Eat slowly. You should make your meal last for at least 20-25 minutes. After you finish what is on your plate then sit back and relax before you think you are hungry…remember it takes 20 minutes for us to feel full.

2. Snacker – The new trend in eating for weight loss(will not use the D word) is eating small meals often, made popular by Kareena Kapoor’s dietician, Rujuta Divekar. Eating often does keep your energy levels up and prevents overeating of main meals but the amount of your snacks is also important. Do your few almonds go to a few handfuls of almonds? How much is 200ml exactly?

Tip: Measure the snack and relish it. Do not stuff all the nuts or raisins in your mouth at once…make them last. One serving of fruit is one fruit of normal size – an apple, pear or banana, a bowl of papaya, strawberries, or musk melon. If milk is your snack then you should know that 200ml is the normal serving size. It is most likely much less that you may be used to drinking. Our coffee portions have gotten larger due to the large Café Coffee Day and Barista mugs. Larger mugs are now the trend in the market these days but go back to the original tea cups your grandparents used – that was the right size!

3. Mom to Be – Pregnancy is a wonderful time. It is perhaps one of the few times in your life that you are encouraged to eat. Your mom makes your favourite foods and you are oblige by being hungry all the time and you assume that the weight gained will come off naturally from breast feeding. Wrong! It is a myth that you will lose weight naturally from breast feeding. Although you are eating for two, do not think that you won’t have to work hard to lose weight after the baby is born. Breast feeding does not mean automatic weight loss or even weight control. All the calories you eat will add padding to your body – padding that will not come off so easily. Enjoy all the healthy foods you can during this time but do not think it is a license to eat all you want. Tip: Fill yourself with veggies and fruits and eat all the other goodies in smaller quantities.

4. Exerciser – Many people justify their meals or portions with the amount of exercise they do. This leads to larger portions of meals. Unless you are an athlete in training, your work out in the gym or hour long walk does not warrant extra food. Eating some lean protein (egg white, steamed channa) after lifting weights is recommended but for most moderate exercisers, there are no additional nutritional requirements. Also, if you feel you have done extra exercise for the day such as running 15 minutes extra, it still does not warrant that mithai. The calories in mithai are much more than 15 minutes of body movement. Tip: Eat a fruit or a glass of milk right after you work out so you will no overeat in the next meal. Workout extra for the pleasure of it and not for a reward of sweets.

5. Diet Changer – You used to have a diet of fast food. But then you realized that sustaining on chaat, samosas and chips are really not good for you. You have changed your ways and are eating subzi, roti, and dal chawal. This is a great first step but how these foods are made as well the quantity also plays in weight loss. If you are adding ghee to your rotis and eating katoris of dal with large quantities of chawal the weight will creep on. Portion control with healthy foods is just as important that with occasional treats such as sweets and farsan. Tip: Learn portion control. Three to four serving sizes of vegetables mean 3-4 medium sized katoris the vegetable. Our katoris are great for measuring so use them.

6. Eating in relation with family – Yes, your kids and husband eat more than you and still maintain their weights. Yet you are putting on weight although you eat the same or even less than they do and workout in the gym regularly. Unfortunately men have more muscle mass and burn more calories than women. Therefore they can eat the same amount of calories without weight gain. Children have naturally higher metabolism – remember when you were 16 and could lose weight by doing a few sit ups! As we age we need fewer calories, you could look on the bright side and say that our bodies become more efficient. As the lady of the house we pay attention to the needs of family members so know exactly how much they are eating. The amount you eat has to be the amount you need to get the proper nutrients and to feel satiated; this should not be measured against what the rest of the family is eating. Tip: Do not compare quantities of meals with other family members. Eat slowly at the dinner table. Have balanced meals without overeating.

The most common complaint about portion control is hunger. Initially you may feel hungry when you cut your portions to the correct amounts. This is not uncommon. It takes time to adjust to a new pattern. Be aware when you eat, and understand when your stomach is full. Enjoy every bite of food but keep it at bites, not bowls and although cliché, do live by the motto, “Eat to Live” – not the other way around!

Published in Pune Mirror, April 18, 2011