When we started losing weight I didn’t want to get bogged down by all sorts of gadgets and gimmicks. However, a couple weeks in I realized, a few tools were going to be helpful in sustaining our progress. This brings me to my next Nuts and Bolts basic concept – measuring food aka portion control.
Picking healthy nutritious foods is a really important part of improved health but even healthy foods can be consumed in unhealthy quantities. Pam, our Weight Watchers leader, likes to point out from time to time that it only takes 3500 extra calories to gain a pound. An extra 500 calories a day can be an additional piece of multigrain bread, a handful of nuts, and some chocolate in the afternoon. It can also come from a grande coffee beverage with full fat, sugar syrup, and whipped cream on top, mindlessly picked up on the way into work. It’s not just the cheesy fries at a ball game or secretly fattening restaurant meals that can derail our ernest attempts to lose weight.
To keep our weight loss on track, Mr. Second Helpings and I, logged our food and to accurately log our food we needed to measure it. Initially we had a set of measuring cups (1/4c, 1/3c, 1/2c, 1c), a set of spoons (1/4tsp, 1/2tsp, 1tsp, 1TB) and I think we had a larger volumetric measuring cup. Shortly after joining Weight Watchers we increased our selection with two more sets of measuring cups, an additional set of spoons, and an additional 2 cup volumetric measuring cup. Adding these tools to our kitchen were a huge help, and we now have even more. We no longer had the excuse of a dirty measuring cup or spoon preventing us from measuring our portions so we were better equipped to make our meals quickly and accurately.
After a few months of filling our dishwasher with measuring cups and spoons we started to think about adding a food scale. Here again I was apprehensive about purchasing something that we may not use and would become clutter in our kitchen. Eventually we bit the bullet and shelled out around $25 to buy one of the scales for sale at our Weight Watchers meeting location.
I picked the Weight Watchers scale because it was there and so were we. There are several features built in that make it specific to the program but I have never used those. I like the nice wide base, so it doesn’t tip over, and the easy to ready digital display. The scale is quite sensitive making it useful for measuring even a few grams of nuts or liquid. I think it will measure up to five pounds so it is also good for a small roast or large vegetables. I have occasionally needed to weigh things in batches.
Adding a food scale to our kitchen was probably an even better purchase than the measuring cups. We continue to use the scale multiple times a day. In the morning we often put a bowl on the scale, zero it out, portion our cereal, zero it out, portion our milk, and get on with breakfast. The same goes for yogurt, ice cream, nuts, cheese, meat, pasta, baking ingredients, and so many more foods. In a way I feel more normal measuring with a scale. When I put my food into a measuring cup and then into my dish it feels sort of clinical. Placing my portions directly on a plate allows me to see what a serving looks like on my dish. I can add or subtract a bit right on my plate and still know what the amount is to log later.
If you go shopping for a food scale (and I highly recommend it) look for one that you can set a plate on and still see the display. It should be able to weigh in grams and ounces and have enough sensitivity to detect the difference between one almond and two (for example). Make sure it is stable and not going to tip while you are using it. It should be capable of zeroing back out after a dish is placed on it so that you only measure the weight of each food item. Also look for one you won’t mind leaving on the counter so it will always be close at hand.
Measuring my food and learning what a healthy portion looks like has been a huge part of creating a sustainable lifestyle change. Some portions of food decreased while others increased. It is always fun to measure something and wind up discovering a serving is bigger than my guess! Measuring has helped me see, in a very basic way, what my body actually needs to be full and energized. It has also helped me to be more mindful of what I am eating because I have to slow down and take a small extra step before putting something on my plate or in my mouth.
Weight loss and good health does not require a lot of accessories to be successful but a few basic tools can be a tremendous help along the way.