Believe it or not, there are influences all around you that convince you to eat more than you should. From the size of the scoops in the ice cream commercial, to the size of the bowl used for your cereal, we all are constantly receiving cues that guide us toward choosing to consume more food and drink that we might otherwise like, and chances are high it’s affecting our fitness goals.
Take, for instance, the number of times you’ve seen a commercial for potato chips – how often are chips poured into a bowl or onto a plate to serve one person? No, instead, we see someone plop down onto a seemingly-comfortable couch, bag in hand, ready to melt into the cushions with orange-stained fingertips. If you’re not careful, you could find yourself feeling like the best way to enjoy that bag is in the bag… and eventually devouring it whole.
Or, what about the size of those cookies you’re baking? Suppose you decide to bake some cookies at home, instead of going out to get them. (I know, I know, but some people like to have a cookie every now and again.) A glance at a commercial for cookie dough might have you believing a cookie should be big, fat, and wider than the palm of your hand. As delicious as that may seem, to enjoy all of that with just one cookie, you wind up actually eating enough dough for three cookies all in that one you thought you were getting away with.
And what about burgers? If you take a look at a commercial for a burger of any kind, what do you see? A giant, towering, golden brown bun, a little bit of lettuce and a slice of tomato – probably two of the most important parts of the burger, by the way – and almost three quarters of a pound of meat. Whereas the average portion size for a piece of meat is somewhere around six ounces, the size in that ad is usually double that, weighing in at around 12 ounces.
Don’t even get me started on cereal. I just…let’s put it like this – the recommended portion size on the side of the box? Less than a measured cup. I know you’re eating more than that.
Lots of research has been done to shine a light on how marketing is engineered to encourage us to consume more of a product – its primary goal is to compel you to consume it all, all so that you’ll rush back out and buy more of it. It’s not conspiracy – it’s bad business. Some people pick up on the marketing and others don’t, but what matters most is that we take a long, hard look at whether or not the messaging is affecting our ability to achieve our fitness goals.
In whatever we consume, we must be mindful about it – not just doing things because they feel comfortable to us, but ensuring that they don’t inadvertently set us back on our goals.
Separate out your portions and pack the rest away before eating your share. Think critically about what snacks are for – a little bite, not a meal – and make sure your sizes reflect that. Think through your food needs, compare them to what’s in front of you – should you really eat the entire burger? – and decide whether or not your portion is too large. In a super-sized society, a little bit of forethought goes a long way. As I always say, your body will thank you for it!
Erika Nicole Kendall is the writer behind the award-winning blog, A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss, where she chronicles her journey of going from 330lb couch potato to certified personal trainer, nutritionist, and all-around fitness dynamo. Ask her your health and fitness-related questions on twitter at @bgg2wl.