No Wellness Wankery

4: Confused about how much you're allowed to eat? Listen to this.

May 17, 2022
No Wellness Wankery
4: Confused about how much you're allowed to eat? Listen to this.
Show Notes Transcript

23 almonds. 2 cheese slices. ½ cup pasta. 21 grapes. A virtuous way of eating, or a gazillion reasons to have an untrusting relationship with food? 

Portion control. It’s something we’ve been taught. A system that can help us eat correctly. A way to lose weight. A means for exercising willpower.

But the clue to its insidious inflicted misery is in the second half of the name. Control. Portion control creates shame and guilt about what we eat. It makes food a moral issue. It amplifies our fear of gaining weight, generates stress and takes up a lot of mental energy. And along the way, we forget how to eat normally.

How can you build a meaningful life when you’re busy counting almonds in the name of achieving the “correct” body?

Ps. If you want to ditch crappy diet advice for good and build a healthier relationship with food, sign up for my FREE 30-day challenge.

Looking for more support to feel in control around food? I'd love to support you in my Binge Free Academy

If you don't already - come follow me on the gram at @nude_nutritionist (no nude pics, sorry).

Want to share some feedback or have an idea for an episode, I'd LOVE to hear from you - hit me up at

 Hello, welcome back to another episode of No Wellness Wankery. And in this show episode we do each week, we love to call it wellness or wankery. And so we listen to one of your questions that you sent to Lyndi on Instagram. And we get to answer it, by the way. I'm Jenna. I'm Lyndi. And we are going to be going through this episode. Tanya, we have a question from Tanya all the way from South Africa, which we love. Tanya, what is your question?

 Hi Wendy, Tanya from Johannesburg, South Africa. I'm very excited about your podcast. I'm hoping that you can maybe do an episode on portion sizes. to know how much is enough because I tend to clear my plate as I've been told by many people like Waleys to eat your allowance. I often find that when I do dish up a smaller portion, I'm satisfied, but if I dish up a larger portion, I'll eat it anyway. So I'm finding it hard to find the balance between how much is enough. Thank you.

 Oh, I love this question because it gets right into this big dieting myth, the wankery, that is that we need to control our portion sizes. And this is being perpetuated far and wide by a whole bunch of people. And here's the problem with telling someone that they can only eat a small portion size. Some days you are going to be really hungry and some days you're not going to be that hungry. And if you're told that you're only allowed to eat a set number of calories, then there's a very high chance that you're going to finish that meal and feel like that wasn't enough. Maybe you physically feel full, but emotionally you wanted to keep eating, and that's a really key thing. So we've talked about this idea before on the podcast of physically restricting, but potentially what portion control does is it causes emotional restriction. And when we end up feeling restricted, we feel like we're not allowed to eat the foods we want to eat, this can very much lead to that out of control binge eating or overeating that happens when we finally do get access to food.

 I feel like I have all these ideas in my head about certain foods and certain numbers of those things that I can have, and it's very hard to get those numbers out of your head.

 Oh, of course. Perhaps if you've been an old school dieter, you might know how many points something is or how many calories are allowed in a certain meal. So you have an idea, well, my lunch is only allowed to be this big. They've done a lot of research into this. So one particular study that I find very interesting, they gave a group of participants macaroni and cheese, which is a very delicious food, and they told them that they're allowed to eat as much macaroni and cheese as they wanted. And on the first day of the experiments, they ate a lot. They were like, this is delicious. Who doesn't love macaroni and cheese? We all do. And then the study progressed, and each day they'd get the macaroni and cheese. And what you could imagine happened is that each day, they ate less and less macaroni and cheese. Why? Well, the hypothesis is this, that because they were exposed to macaroni and cheese, it wasn't such an interesting food. When we have a list of forbidden foods, something like macaroni and cheese might be on that list, it's highly interesting, we want to eat it all, it's so amazing, and when we finally do get access to it, it feels like we can never quite get enough of it. And we often try and portion control these very foods. And that can create a really tricky relationship where the more we portion control and try and restrict them, the more tempting and highly interesting they become to us. So what we want to try and do is flip this on its head. Now, if you keep telling yourself you're only allowed to eat a small portion size, not only will you create a certain craving for highly interesting foods, but you might also reach a point where generally eating enough food doesn't feel like something you're allowed to do. So when you finally do get access to a plate of food, of course you're going to finish the whole thing because for your body, every time it can access any gram or calorie, it's going to do that because there's a general sense of deprivation that is caused from years and years of dieting.

 Part of that that I always think about is people saying, you don't need to finish everything on your plate and then I think I have to leave something. Like I have to leave some less because then I'm eating less of each meal or I have to offer some to my boyfriend because then I'm eating less than the whole meal. I feel like sometimes in intuitive eating, you don't have to eat all the food. Do I also just want to finish all the food because I'm hungry? If you need a little while to work out whether you're satisfied, does that just mean we're eating too fast?

 I find it very interesting when I look at these people who have never dieted before, I find this really common thread is that they're really slow eaters. I'm not a slow eater because I grew up dieting. It's like as soon as I got access to food, I had to try and get it into my body as quickly as possible. I don't know. It definitely wasn't conscious. It was definitely a subconscious thing. But you'll find there's a very relaxed nature to people who have never dieted before. So yes, slow eating is something that we can aspire to and that's something that you might want to work on. But I think this idea that setting yourself this limit on how much you're allowed to eat is problematic. Now, you might say to yourself, all right, well, before I sit down to eat, and this is what I do recommend, before you sit down to eat, ask yourself, how hungry am I? Today might be a really hungry day. Like for today, for me, I'm having a really hungry day. I feel like I'm hungry every few hours. I'm eating more than I probably would. So I could either get up in my head about it and be like, oh, I shouldn't be eating this much. I'm eating way more than what the portion size is telling me I'm allowed to eat. But that's only going to send me into a guilt spiral that's not going to be good for me. So before you get to a meal, you have to sit down and ask yourself, how hungry am I? We don't want to be letting ourselves get too ravenous, so ideally you're like a comfortable level of hunger. But if you are quite hungry, you're going to need to eat more than the allotted portion size that whatever nutritionist or dietitian or diet program has told you you're allowed to eat. And the goal here is to try and eat slowly and try and get to a point where you feel comfortably full. Now only if you trust that food is allowed again can you reach a point where you eat until you're comfortably full. If you feel like food is restricted, like you might start another diet tomorrow, if like there are foods you shouldn't really be eating, then it's very hard to eat to this point of comfort. You're probably going to get to a point where you're often eating to a point where you feel overly full. And that's simply from that body's reaction of feeling like, I have to get as many calories as I can when I can.

 Our second question was, do you think when you're dishing out your plate, should you just kind of look at the food and try and put on the plate what you think your body needs? Or should you do, like as you were saying, should you put more on the plate and thinking that you might need less? How much should you put on your plate?

 Okay, I would encourage Tanya to experiment with her eating. So you might go, all right, I'll put on the smaller amount of the portion size that I feel like actually this might be what I need to eat. But really a central part of this is that as you're eating, you're reminding yourself, I can go back for seconds. I can have thirds. This is not the limit. The food on my plate is not the limit to how much food I'm allowed to eat. There is always more food that is available to me. And without this understanding and this belief, we feel like we have to eat as much food as we possibly can. But there's a scary thing, I think, where we think, well, if I don't have portion control, then I'm just going to lose control around food. I'm going to gain weight. I'm going to feel chaotic. This portion control is the only thing that helps me stay the size that I want to be. I'll kind of argue that if you're listening to a podcast like this, if you're kind of wondering if you've been struggling with your weight your whole life, if you've tried diet after diet after diet, I'd argue that that thinking is wrong and outdated. What if portion sizing and trying to control how much you eat is the very problem, the very thing that's keeping you stuck, keeping you feeling like you have to finish everything on your plate or feeling like you're unable to have free will around what you eat?

 I always find it so interesting, like nuts are such a healthy snack. They're literally from earth. We've done nothing to them. They grow on trees, I assume they grow on trees.

 They grow on trees.

 They grow on trees. And yet, well, I know like me from a diet culture background, it's like scared of eating nuts because you're only allowed a tiny handful and like you're allowed like 11 almonds or whatever mundane number you've pulled out of nowhere. And something that is so good for you and so yum, you then don't want to eat because you can't stick to that small amount. So then you're like, can't buy a bag of nuts. And then we just don't eat them at all.

 Well, this plays into this whole idea of the demonization of perfectly healthy food. Nuts is a beautiful example. Another example is fruit. So if you've been a dieter, you've probably heard advice that you can only eat half a banana. Bananas are just not meant to be eaten in halves. They come in their little suit, ready to go, ready to be eaten in their whole form. And this whole idea that diet culture tells us we're only allowed to eat half a banana is just absolutely ridiculous.

 Or one half of the egg.

 One half of an egg, or the egg white. I mean, the egg yolk is the thing that's very satisfying. Yesterday I was looking into the satisfaction index, which is based on some research that they did in 1995, a while ago, in Australia, and they looked at all these foods that were highly satisfying and potatoes was number one, things like bananas, bread, pasta, these are very satisfying foods. And I find it very interesting that these are also the foods that when we're trying to diet, we remove from our diet. We think, okay, you're not allowed to eat starchy foods, you're not allowed to have things like potatoes, and yet these are the very foods that keep us feeling satisfied. So then I wonder as well, is it also just portion size or is it what we're putting on our plate? Are you giving yourself permission to have something that's truly satisfying for you or is it some sad salad that feels like a huge compromise because you don't have any fun ingredients in there and none of those really satisfying starches?

 Yeah, because then you'll eat something that's unsatisfying and then probably go and eat for more things until you get to what you really want to eat in the first place.

 Totally, totally. So there's lots of things to take into consideration here. When we talk about nutrition, we're not just talking about nutrients or calories. We're talking about how food makes you feel. This is a huge component of it. So consider that. Consider your hunger before eating. Consider how much food you feel like eating that day that you need. Give yourself permission to eat as much food as you need and make sure that the food on your plate is truly satisfying and enjoyable. And that way you can finish your meal and move on with your life, not having to second guess whether you ate too much or whatever it is, because you trust and know that food, more food, is always available to you.

 I think that's the most important thing that I'm trying to learn from intuitive eating is that there is more food. And I think you need to remind yourself, I remember I had a, I actually had a really good example of doing it. I had a block of chocolate in the cupboard and I was like, I have some, and I was like, I don't actually feel like more right now and no one's going to rob me in the middle of the night and take it so I could have it tomorrow for breakfast if I really wanted to. It will still be there. And just saying that again over to yourself actually helps.

 This is absolutely it, Jenna. This is such a huge thing that I wish everyone would start to practice. In five minutes from now, in half an hour, in an hour, tonight, tomorrow, if you want more of that food, you can go get more of that food. So there is no pullback. Food is always going to be there for you. And you actually have to mean it. You can't just say it. You have to trust that when that time comes that you will let yourself have it. And by the way, if you are struggling with binge eating, I find this is also a very handy thing to remind yourself midway through the binge. Because during the binge, you're already kind of planning on how am I going to compensate or only one more bite or only one more of this and then I'll stop. Actually just say, I'm allowed to eat as much of this as I actually want right now. I'm allowed to eat this tomorrow, I can binge again later. And it actually, funnily enough, is a really good way to pause that binge. Tanya, thank you so much for your question. I've really loved hearing from you, and especially as I'm an ex-South African, I feel like we're kindreds. Guys, please send in more questions. Jenna and I would love to have a chat about them, and it means so much. So shoot me a DM at nude underscore nutritionist on Instagram. What I mean by that is send me a message with a voice message. I'll let you record. Tell us a little bit about yourself and ask us a question, or raise a topic that you'd love us to discuss. We'd love to deep dive into it. Do you feel like you know what you should be eating but like you feel completely out of control with food? You're either eating perfectly or you're face planting into the fridge. Well, if you've got binge eating or you're struggling with emotional eating, I can help. Check out my program, Keep It Real. I've got lots I can teach you and hey, you don't have to be a binge eater for the rest of your life. You can get 20% off Keep It Real when you use the code PODCAST when you check out via the website. And because I don't want this to be just another failed attempt for you, I'm offering a 30-day money back guarantee because you know what? You've just got to give these things a go, no risk. You've just got to give these things a go, no risk. Give it a try.