Portion control is pretty much the biggest source of stress and confusion when I first start working with clients.
My clients usually start by coming to me wanting me to give them a new meal plan to follow or asking for help implementing the most recent meal plan they purchased or were given by their doctor. And one of the first things they want help with are portion sizes.
“Should I weight my food? Count block? Count carbs / calories / macros / points? How much should I put on my plate? Should I carry a food scale with me? How much do I need to eat to lose weight?“
At times in our health journey, counting can be a helpful tool. But it is only helpful if one no longer has food addictions, when we have a lot of experience with The 4 Habits, and when we no longer have tendencies (or currently uncontrollable compulsions) to overeat for any reason whatsoever. If these are still issues, any portion control method can create a sense of restriction and lead to binges, overeating, loss of motivation, and giving up on healthy eating.
And we don’t want that!
Since you are here reading this, you probably haven’t mastered the skills required to follow a healthy diet plan. If you could, you would be able to buy any diet book on the market and follow it indefinitely – starting today – without issue and without “falling off the wagon.”
The problem with meal plans or diet books is that you are trying to fit yourself into someone else’s diet without having mastered the skills to know what is right for your body right now. You are unique snowflake. What your body wants and needs nutritionally will change throughout your life.
The healthy diet you eat today might not be the healthy diet your body needs next week, next month, or next year. Instead of constantly buying new diet books and trying to fit yourself into a new program all the time, why not learn your body’s signals and give your body what he/she is asking for?
Instead of weighing your food or counting calories, carbs, points, or macros, start by using a customized portioning method that you have with you all the time, is anxiety-free and unique to you: The Hand Portioning Method.
Below are some photos I took of my hands and food over one of my plates here at the house. This is nothing revolutionary… nothing complicated.
Please keep in mind, these portion control guidelines are just that… guidelines, not concrete rules for perfection.
That said, stick to these portion sizes for the first year (at least). I actually still use these portion sizes for myself every day. But the composition of my plate might be different than yours. That will come with experience. In the beginning, stick to these portions and see how you feel.
The Hand Portioning Method and The Plate Method are portion control tools to help you know how much to eat for your body without creating a bunch of anxiety. It’s a starting point to take the confusion out of what to put on your plate while you are learning.
I talk about how to adapt The Plate Method and The Hand Portioning method to you, your body, your goals, and your unique needs in depth in my coaching programs. I also touch on it in my podcast and videos. If you ever have a specific question that hasn’t been answered on the site, contact me and let me know.
Portion Control Guidelines
The amount of food your body needs varies between males and females and between individuals. A 6 foot 250 pound woman is going to need different food than me, a 5 foot 7 inch woman weighing 160 pounds. That is why developing the skills to know what to eat for your body is so important. But that takes time and you need some guidelines to get you started.
Start with these portion control guides…
Portion control guidelines for women:
- 1 palm protein (like animal protein or cheese)
- 1 fist non-starchy veggies (like kale, broccoli, spinach, or cucumber)
- 1 cupped hand starchy carbs (like sweet potato, beans, quinoa, peas, corn, carrots, beets, or fruit)
- 1 thumb fats (like nuts, seeds, mayo, or olive oil)
Portion control guidelines for men:
- 1-2 palm protein (like animal protein or cheese)
- 1-2 fist non-starchy veggies (like kale, broccoli, spinach, or cucumber)
- 1-2 cupped hand starchy carbs (like sweet potato, beans, quinoa, peas, corn, carrots, beets, or fruit)
- 1-2 thumb fats (like nuts, seeds, mayo, or olive oil)
These portions change depending on your body, bioindividuality, health needs, and activity level but they are a good starting point.
Eat like this 2-4 times a day based on your body’s hunger signals.
I say 2-4 times a day because, for example, I eat 1-4 times a day depending on how my plate looked at the meal and what my body is telling me. I’ve had two major stomach surgeries in my life time. As a result, I can’t physically eat like most people. Food effect me differently, I have a hard time swallowing some foods, and my stomach doesn’t digest like everyone else’s.
These factors plus my energetic needs for the day based on my activity level and how much thinking I’m doing for work play big factors in how my plate looks and how often I eat each day.
I’ve been working on my healthy eating skills and connecting with my body’s signals for 20 years now. So don’t think you can just jump in and know how to do it. 🙂
- Start with the hand portions you see below…
- Build your plate to look something like this…
- And practice these 2 steps for learning to know what to eat for your body…
And you will be well on your way to mastering portion control for you!
If you’d like The Hand Portioning Method above as a downloadable PDF you can put on your fridge as a loving reminder, just put your name and email in the little pink box below and I’ll send it over to you right away.
You’ll also get my 7-day course on The 4 Habits and my best health tips (which will make knowing how much to eat to lose weight for you and sticking to your plan a ton easier.)
I’ve used these tips to heal MULTIPLE health problems, an eating disorder + go from a size 16 to a size 8 without dieting or intense exercise.