Home Did You Know Portion Distortion: Stop Eating Out Of The Bag

Portion Distortion: Stop Eating Out Of The Bag

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Once upon a time.. I used to kill the bag. Destroy the box. I could barely sit down before I tore into it… whatever the “it” was for the day.

I’m talkin’ about snackin’. Although, for me, it was never really a snack. Not in the traditional sense – it wasn’t simply a little bit to hold me over. It was a LOT to hold me over unnecessarily… and on a regular basis.

I remember one day, coming home from the grocery and getting ready to start putting everything away… and the first bag I opened had a bag of Verona cookies inside. Guilty pleasure, yes they were. It felt like for every item I put in the fridge, I was tossing a cookie in my mouth. I don’t even know if I consciously realized what I was doing at that time.. but I was just eatin’ for the sake of eatin’.

Now… it’s all funny and jokes until I think about the fact that by the time I had finished putting the groceries away, I had finished the entire bag of cookies. There’s what – 24 cookies in a bag, right? If one serving size of 3 cookies is 140 calories… 24 divided by 3 equals 8 servings in a bag… so if I ate 140 calories 8 times… that’s over a thousand calories in one fell swoop.

I realized this was a habit for me. If I ate some goldfish crackers, I’d just get them directly out of the box. Pour them from my hand directly into my mouth – that way I never had to face how much of them I was eating. Not like I didn’t care, but… I didn’t care.

If I ate some ice cream? I’d get a spoonful from the pint, sometimes leave the spoon on top of the ice cream (nasty college student habit, I know), and go back to what I was doing. Cheez-its? Pfft, don’t even. My hand would go from box to mouth.

But then, I started reading the nutrition labels. I could never gauge – and if I did, I’d underestimate – just how much of something I was eating. It was getting in the way of my calorie counting. Of knowing what I was really putting in my body. So… I had to figure out a plan. A way to get a better grasp on how much food I was scarfing down mindlessly.

I bought myself a bag of blue corn chips. They taste a little heavier than your typical tortilla chips, but there’s this rich-and-almost-velvety taste to them that totally rocks. I turned the bag over, and took note of the serving size. 1 serving is equal to 15 chips. I then promptly grabbed a box of ziploc bags, and got to work.

Inside each bag… is 15 chips. One serving per ziploc. And wouldn’t you know it – I was eating three and four servings at a time just from mindless snacking? Do you see those portion sizes? Add in the typical guacamole or sour cream? Holy jeez… I was killin’ myself.

How did the ziploc treatment work? Well, let me tell you. It worked. Believe it or not, there’s science behind why.

Consider this study done by researchers at Cornell University:

According to a new Cornell University study, when moviegoers were served stale popcorn in big buckets, they ate 34 percent more than those given the same stale popcorn in medium-sized containers. Tasty food created even larger appetites: Fresh popcorn in large tubs resulted in people eating 45 percent more than those given fresh popcorn in medium-sized containers.

“We’re finding that portion size can influence intake as much as taste,” said Brian Wansink, the John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing and of Applied Economics at Cornell. “Large packages and containers can lead to overeating foods we do not even find appealing.” […]

So… if all it takes to make you eat more of something you don’t like is a larger container..

…could you imagine what it does to you to eat something you like without even transferring it to a container at all? Eating your favorite chips out of the bag, instead of a bowl or a paper towel? Eating your favorite ice cream out of the pint container, instead of a champagne flute (hey, get creative – work with me, here)? Never getting a bowl, a plate – or in my case, a ziploc bag – allowed me to eat at will… never having to face how much I was eating, or exactly how often I was eating, either. Not like I ever had any dishes to clean, right?

Can everyone set aside time to get their ziploc on? Of course not. That’s not my suggestion at all. However, I do believe in baby steps. Take it slow. Start by no longer eating out of the box, bag, or container. Commit yourself to every time you get something to eat, you’ll put it in a bowl or plate before you put it in your mouth. Give yourself the opportunity to see what you’re eating, and if you know you shouldn’t be eating in the first place… feel a little guilt about it as you put it on your plate. ‘Cause yes – sometimes, you know you have no business eating seconds (or firsts, in some cases) and you should feel a little eater’s remorse about it.

So… I’ve fessed up about my Cheez-Its and my Veronas…. what’s the source of your portion distortion?

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Brittany February 20, 2010 - 9:38 AM

I used to have the very same problem with Pita Chips and cereal. I could literally eat an entire box of cereal in one sitting. Just because it was there! I now place all of my snacks in those re-usable plastic Glad or Ziploc containers. I use the ones that are 1 cup and toss them in my purse for work or when I’m on the go and may need a snack.

Bb February 21, 2010 - 6:42 AM

Fantastic advice. Thank you. That’s a good idea with the biscuits!!

Cryssy February 21, 2010 - 3:11 PM

This is so on point! I started doing this when I had my daughter – i would always out her snacks in a bad so i started doing the same for myself. I was shocked at the difference it made and how once i was finished what was in the zip lock bag i really didn’t want anymore. Where before if i would just eat straight from the bag my hand was going in the boz/bag at least twice.

I have invested in the glad/zip lock containers with the actual cup size on them. They are a life saver (when i use them properly) when i want a snack.

PhluffyPrincess February 21, 2010 - 9:02 PM

I so agree with your post! For me it is cookies also, oreos, chocolate chip, even chocolate teddy grahams. I just cannot seem to have only the 2-3 that equals one serving size. Throughout the night I will go back for more and more and more. So I either do exactly as you have done, or try to purchase bags that are one serving like the 100 Calorie packs.

Timmera February 22, 2010 - 12:50 PM

This post is so true, mindless snacking is one of the worst habits one can have, and it has helped many of us pack on the pounds and keep them there. I started putting measuring cups in all the boxes I eat out of (cereal, cheezits, trailmix, etc…) so that when I go to eat them, I see the 1/4th cup or whatever size it may be, scoop them out like that, and put them in a bag to take to work. That way I am not just pouring or eating without knowing how much I am ingesting. It’s the little steps that make the big goal maintainable!

Au Naptural February 23, 2010 - 5:05 PM

Found your blog via @blackgirlsrun. I so very much needed this reminder! Snacking will surely be the death of me. Great idea, Timmera, about putting measuring cups in the boxes. I can stuff quite a bit in a bag, so the measuring cups would be very helpful.

Alfree March 2, 2010 - 12:35 PM

I am a victim of mindless eating, via the bag. I still practice sticking it in a zippie bag but thanks for the heads up on the importance. I love food, love to eat, but I am a crazy snacker. It’s as if I always have to have something in my mouth! I think I gained this weight from my constant snacking, back to the zippie!

Margaret S March 8, 2010 - 11:05 PM

Mine is Lays potato chips, the plain ones lol. I can munch on those things all the time. But its getting a bit re-dam-diculious lol

I will give putting them in baggies a try. Hey it definately couldnt hurt. Love your blog!

Hill April 13, 2010 - 5:22 PM

Problem – being lazy. All these things take time, effort and planning.

Erika April 14, 2010 - 3:41 PM

Well, if it’s not worth the effort, it isn’t worth eating… is it? 🙂

cakediva77 April 21, 2010 - 6:59 PM

i do this for my kids but not for me …………..i’ll see how it works out

hardworkpaysoff May 7, 2010 - 9:21 PM

I really need to practice this

Rita May 15, 2010 - 8:33 PM

my weakness is sun chips, i only buy the small snack bags anyways but now a days I simply limit myself to one per day if that but I will try cutting those down too

Monika August 3, 2010 - 2:34 PM

my weakness….ice cream straaight out of the pint, almonds biscottis, chocolate orange cookies, soy pudding (family size pack of 4 servings). I’ll definitely gice the ziploc method a try. Thanks for sharing, Erika!

samanto October 25, 2010 - 4:52 PM

This, although time consuming.. really works. I’ve made it a point to bag up everything while I’m putting away the groceries. (may I also suggest chewing gum while filling bag.. so you’re not tempted to snack and pack).

If it’s not worth your time to control the portions, then don’t buy the snack. Or pysch yourself out like I do.. it’s easier to count out baby carrots or slice celery than it is to count out 15 cheese-its..

nettid January 13, 2011 - 12:57 AM

chips ahoy is my source of portion distortion. I can singlehandedly devour the whole bag. Once I reallized that I just didnt eat them any more.

Eni June 3, 2011 - 7:18 PM

I used to eat mindlessly straight from the bag, but I’ve gotten a lot better at not doing that. I would say the biggest source of my portion distortion now is college. My dining hall is all you can eat, buffet style, with quite a few options. Nutrition facts for some of the items are listed online, but they aren’t always helpful because serving sizes are still pretty abstract to me–I really don’t know what 4 oz of rice or fish or whatever is supposed to look like…

Jessica June 18, 2014 - 3:30 PM

I think of it like this, 8oz in a cup, 16oz in a lb, etc. So half of ur one cup measuring cup is 4oz of rice, for meat you may need a scale if you want to get that technical. You can also use the “3oz of meat equals a deck of cards” method also. I “google” a lot of that stuff so I can measure or eyeball it.

purple 'fro June 20, 2011 - 5:39 PM

red handed..cheez its…doritoes..restaurant tortilla chips…

thats why they do not leave the store shelves and enter my home…

side note..I used to KILL the By One Get One nacho cheese doritos..man man man…i learned a whole new lesson on serving sizes and portion control..a “hunger” grab bag of doritoes is about 480 calories and over 1000 mg of sodium. All a “hunger” grab bag is two heaping handfuls of dorritos in a bag…and to think id kill the regular bag in three days…

how about i kill the snack chips and have a small pieace of tilapia, veggies and some brown rice for about 100 calories less with protein, vitamins and fiber

knowledge is power…mercy lawd!

pam April 15, 2012 - 6:33 PM

I do that with food. I buy my salmon by the pound, and when I get home i cut it in 4-5 oz pieces and freeze each piece separately. I don’t buy chips or cookies to bring in the house at all. My downfall at work is the candy box I keep for my students (I know, I know but any way I can get a completed assignment and a classroom full of children who are on task is worth it). I was killing banana Laffy Taffys until I read the ingredients one day. First one was high fructose corn syrup. Easy to put aside after that. As long as there is no chocolate in that box I am safe. And I feel you completely on that pint of ice cream. For me it was a pint of Fudge Mocha Swirl Whole Soy frozen dessert, nightly. Took me from 193 to 210 with a quickness nine years ago. I eventually got up to 220 and have been trying to get out of the 200 club ever since.

SStuart August 24, 2012 - 10:19 PM

I used to do this all the time! Especially with cereal. Then I bought a food scale and it has made me so much more aware of how much I’m eating. I look at the nutritional label, see that a serving of cereal is 2 oz, put the bowl on the scale and then weigh that. I do it for everything now, just to get an idea of what I’m eating. And it’s nice that I can weigh it in the dish that I’ll be eating from so I don’t have extra things to clean up or throw away.

Janine March 8, 2013 - 9:45 AM

Ugh, wheat thins! I never buy these, but the BF does, and if I’m really hungry (or in a bad mood) I’ll scarf down two or three serving sizes out of the box. I am conscious of the fact that I’m eating triple the portion size, so I guess that’s something.
If I’ve been drinking, even moderately, ALL bets are off: it’s like, if two beers hit my brain it’s open season on whatever snackables are around 0_o. Anyone else find this?

Erika Nicole Kendall March 8, 2013 - 8:51 PM

Alcohol is NOTORIOUS for this. It impedes your body’s ability to recognize, acknowledge, and adhere to your own natural signals. I mean, it is the river from which ALL SORTS of bad decisions flow. Food ain’t no different. ROFL

Kitana March 8, 2013 - 12:57 PM

This is so, so true for me! I recently bought a bag of banana chips and portioned them out by the serving size of 1/4c per ziploc baggie to put in my lunch box… the banana chips ended up going stale because, for once, I didn’t scarf them all down within two days.

Marquinta March 8, 2013 - 4:12 PM

Smart food popcorn. Really any popcorn. I have started using baggies to portion it out. I am also trying to do air popped rather than the bag variety. We’ll see what happens with the air popped!

SheShe May 11, 2013 - 3:40 PM

Oreo cookies … I count serving size then add another one and another one and have found myself eating 2 or 3 servings … or 4 … see what I’m saying … it doesn’t end! But I’ve been trying to get a steady grasp on this binge eating (because that’s how I look at it)

Aisha May 28, 2013 - 11:13 AM

99% of my snacks are eaten out of ramekin. It’s worked really well for me.

StephanieM March 30, 2014 - 3:36 PM

This was a wonderful article! You look great! I can’t lose weight on my stomach. I almost look pregnant cause the rest of my body looks skinny. I never eat from the bags, and came here because I need a way to stop my boyfriends mom from eating directly from the bag. It grosses me out. She eats a chip, sticks her hands back into the bag. To me it is like double dipping. I have had to stop eating chips this past 3 weeks. His mom cries about her weight often. I want to tell her its because of the chips but she is a very mean when someone corrects her so I have avoided it. You gave me a fix though! I am going to start separating the chips on her >:] And placing them in bags by their serving size. Then she has to share! You are a genius. Thank you Erika!

Jessica June 18, 2014 - 3:43 PM

This is why processed foods do not come in clear bags….even the small bags that seem like one serving are usually 2.5. If everything was in a huge clear bag, we could see that we’ve eaten 3/4 of the bag already but since the pretty colors and cute words cover the bag, we just keep going going gone until we actually look inside the bag to see that we ate the entire thing!!! WTH

Anita October 7, 2017 - 1:20 PM

great post! for me, eating out of the container started when i was young and has been my M.O. for sixty years now (yes i said sixty!)…it creates the feeling of “the food will never end” …

I find, in fact, that it is less about the food and more about the infinite feeling of eating out of the bag or box or container. i simply have no interest in a single piece of cake on a plate but give me a whole cake and a knife and girl, I am on a roll. until the guilt sets in. and the guilt and weight gain is killer.

So now I am refusing the container and the blissful unconsciousness it brings…hard work but worth it. Even at my age!

Thanks again and courage to all of us with this issue!

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