When it comes to some things, it’s hard to not operate on auto-pilot. One of those things is… portion control.

Portion control is an important part of converting to clean eating, because if you’ve lived a processed food diet, chances are your perceptions of appropriate portion sizes are skewed.We create a system for ourselves that translates into simplifying everyday processes. We’re humans. We like easy… and that’s okay, but we have to know when “easy” isn’t doing us any favors. “Ease” and “portion control” don’t go together very well.

You have to think about it in terms of how one idea leads to another. You might be used to “requiring more food” to be full. You might automatically put a certain amount of food on your plate because you know it requires approximately this much to fill you up. Because you know you put enough food on the plate to fill you up, you might not even think about being full while you eat. You eat to clean your plate… only to groan loudly after it’s all clean and say “Wow, I’m really stuffed.”

Don’t do that.

The reality is, the “stuffed” feeling is not ideal. We got that from commercials (of course they want us to eat up ALL of their product… because that means we have to go back and buy more) and marketing that glamorizes that belly-filled feeling. It’s smart… just not smart for us. We have to be way more clever than that.

When you are first converting to clean eating, every decision you make involving food has to be conscious. You have to be aware. So everything from the piece of peppermint you had after breakfast to the taste-testing you did while cooking dinner, they all have to conscious. You have to know that food is going into your mouth. You also have to know how much you’re giving yourself.

Having said that… let’s talk about the best way to game the system: Your plate.

I’m willing to bet it’s huge. You know how I know this? Because mine are huge. Massive, even. My plates were a gift to me from a dear friend, and though they’re a gorgeous set – complete with tea cups, saucers, bowls and ginormous plates – they’re killin’ me.

When we make our plates, we literally work to fill the plate. Show me someone who is comfortable with making their plate and having only half of it filled, and I’ll show you someone who either (a) is using plates that they didn’t buy or (b) is extremely conscious of their portion sizes (even though they may not admit that part to you.) It’s just a fact of life.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s a point where you no longer have to worry about portion sizes because this, like the old habits, does start to solidify itself as a new habit. But you still have to go through the growing pains. For now, that includes the basics.

One of the best ways to address this is by starting with the very things you use every day in your kitchen… and that’s your silverware, your glasses, your plates and your bowls.

Remember this quote:

Once [a processed food] meets your saliva and enters your body, it breaks right back down to the goo… with no fiber inside to help push it out. It essentially deflates inside of your system, making it easier to consume more calories because you’re “not full yet.” Couple all of this with the fact that it takes approximately 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal from your digestive system that you’re “full,” and you start to see why a food that breaks down this quickly is a recipe for disaster – a breaded chicken breast on wheat bread breaks down much more slowly than a chicken patty sandwich on white bread, takes longer to chew (buying you time until that 20 minute mark… see why that 30 bites was important?), takes longer to digest (thus leaving you feeling fulfilled longer), and keeps you from overindulging.

Excerpted from: Avoiding That Starving Feeling | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

If it takes 20 minutes to feel filled, then why not use things to slow down the process?

Do you use gigantic spoons whenever you get ready to eat? If so, you’re only speeding up the eating process. Take your time – that includes using a smaller spoon, taking smaller bites and chewing and enjoying the flavor. (Of course, this means getting food that actually has flavor worth savoring, not something that merely has “sweet” or “creamy” going for it. I don’t know about you, but I swallowed those cereals down fast… partly because they had no flavor. Just a lot of “sweet” that fueled my sugar addiction.)

Do you have huge glasses? Are you drinking tons of milk or juices? Those glasses are easily two to three servings a piece. Seriously. I know that, for a long time, I used to use one of those thermal “big gulp” cups that I got from a gas station (this is its own problem, I’m aware) and fill it up with coke. That’d be my dinner drink. Large scale fail. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I do have a 50oz container sitting on ym desk as I type, but it’s full of water. Be conscious of what you’re drinking and how much you’re drinking of it at all times. Save the big cups for water, and set aside your smaller cups for meal time… unless, that is, you’re drinking water.

What about your bowls? I always think of that clip from Friday when Craig goes to make the bowl of cereal, and he grabs the world’s largest bowl and pours in half the box of cereal? Yeah… don’t do that.

(Did I just reference Friday on my blog? Help me.)

Cereal is a big culprit when it comes to overeating. It just never seems to be enough. If you’re eating something and it feels like it can never fill you up without several servings, then it’s not working for you. Stop eating it. Using a moderate sized bowl to eat whole foods will help you learn to pay attention to your body’s signals as well as avoid over eating.

Plates are the most ginormous culprit in making it easy to overeat, because they’re literally the size of hubcaps, now. I mean, the last time I ordered a dish at The Cheesecake Factory, I specifically remember the plate being as wide as I am! I don’t think that’s much different from my plates at home, and that’s the sad part! The reality is, we could get away with a decent ten inch-sized plate, but we don’t. That “feels weird.” But if you’re someone who has a hard time with seeing a half-empty plate, then going smaller may be the better move.

For me, right now, this is a big deal because my goals require me to really focus more on what my meals consist of, and shrinking my portion sizes. Since I know that I’ve become accustomed to how I’ve been living my life in regards to food, its time to start paring down a little more and making my meals even more meaningful. I may write about that another day. The reality is… new plates and bowls are high on the list.

Lots of grocery stores sell individual plates and bowls, so even if I don’t want to buy an entire kit, I can still slowly build up a collection for me, at first. There’s nothing wrong with that.

The reality is… no matter how much we calorie count, people don’t eat for calorie values. We eat for volume. (Though I know there are lots of people who weigh each portion they eat, I have never been that person and can’t speak on that.) Not only do we eat for volume, but we gauge how effective a certain amont will be by how it appears on the plate. “If it can fill up the plate, then surely, it’ll fill me up.” In a lot of instances, we’ve made that decision before we’ve even stuck our forks into our plates.

See why you can’t auto-pilot this? Auto-pilot might convince you that you need a second plate before you’ve even started on the first!

I say all of this to say, consider using smaller serving dishes, smaller spoons, smaller bowls, smaller glasses and smaller plates… and your tendency to overeat will slowly decrease. I promise. 🙂