Column: We can remain in control of our own portion sizes

Fear of overeating dominates this season, notes News Bulletin columnist

BY MARJORIE STEWART

Fear of overeating dominates this season. Many aspects of our culture override personal goals and our failures make us miserable. We are faced with the unpalatable fact that eating habits in rich nations like Canada have become a ‘wicked problem,’ one with no simple, obvious answer, just a lot of issues out of control.

For example, our standards of beauty have become perverse and exclusive. Recently I watched a 1950s TV clip with an audience of men and women who looked downright ugly to me. Even the performers seemed homely. A sort of homogenization of appearance has evolved and people are all expected to look super slim and even-featured. Broadening our standards to accept natural differences of appearance mediated by sensible dental and medical interventions would remove a lot of misery.

When I arrived in Canada more than 50 years ago, food portion sizes in restaurants were double what I expected and waste was the only alternative to eating the excess. Industrial systems were over-producing and portion sizes were growing. Fast food chains now serve meals four times larger than the 1950s; U.S. small drinks, where they exist, are the equivalent of medium or large in Europe; and a regular Coke of six ounces in 1916 became 21 ounces in 1996. If an average-sized, non-exercising woman downs a 64-ounce ‘double gulp’ with an 1,100-calorie burrito, that’s three-quarters of her recommended daily calorie intake. World average minimum daily energy requirement is about 1,800 calories, U.S. citizens consume an average 3,750 calories daily and Canadians average 3,530.

We don’t know much about how the information from the stomach reaches the brain indicating that sufficient food has been eaten, except that hormonal and neurological signals occur along with sensory qualities of the food. One indicator of fullness is standing comfort after eating. While the stomach wall stretches to accommodate a meal, stomachs do not change size, extra bulk comes from layers of fat. Only your stomach can help you to know when it is full.

Strategies to control excessive eating:

Eat at home and do not use huge plates.

Avoid eating while doing something else, such as driving, watching TV or texting.

Eat fewer desserts, chips, sauces and packaged snacks.

Freeze excess food for future use.

Eat meals at regular times.

Buy lower calorie snacks like fruit.

Drink water. Our tap water is guaranteed for potability and is more refreshing than sweetened drinks.

Eat slowly to let your brain learn that your stomach is full, which takes about 15 minutes.

Savour the taste of your food, which improves digestion.

Set aside excess food at a restaurant and take it home

To achieve healthy eating habits with children, model good habits; don’t be afraid to forbid foolish choices; give children small portions and let them know they can ask for more. Never over-fill their plates and insist that they finish everything. Watch for signs of fullness, like restlessness or playing with food. Allowing a child to stop eating when she has had enough helps avoid food aversions and overeating.

Marjorie Stewart is past chairwoman of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at marjorieandalstewart@gmail.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

South Wellington community association hopes to save old school from demolition

Nanaimo school district staff to report on fate of South Wellington Elementary later this month

Black Lives solidarity demonstration fills Nanaimo park

Anti-racism protest held at Maffeo Sutton Park on Friday afternoon

Nanaimo RCMP seek help locating missing indigenous youth

Family of William Baker worries he’s in company of people putting him at risk

Nanaimo man wanted on assault warrants

John Bates wanted following two separate incidents from earlier this year

Stz’uminus motivational speaker and musician named ‘emerging cultural leader’ in Nanaimo

Patrick Aleck is among the recipients of the city’s Culture and Heritage Awards

Trudeau offers $14B to provinces for anti-COVID-19 efforts through rest of year

Making a difference in municipalities is a pricey proposition

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

‘Alarmed’: Health critic calls for more data on COVID-19 in trucking industry

Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec said that level of detail is not being collected

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Most Read