Updated: Feb 8, 2021
Preventing Empty Bag Syndrome
Empty bag syndrome is mindless eating. When you eat out of a bag, a carton, a container with no regard for how much of the food you are consuming you eventually reach the end of the bag wondering how did this just happen, this is empty bag syndrome. We've all done this at some point in time and the feelings that follow are dread, remorse and guilt and anger.
Let's take a moment and think about your car. If you over fill the gas tank does it take you farther or go any faster? No, the gas overflows and the excess gas spills over and is wasted. The same thing happens with your body. Our bodies use the foods we eat for fuel. When we overeat, those foods don't get used, they "spill over", and are stored as fat. Portioning your sizes ensures you eat what your body needs so your body can do what it does best, process the nutrients and give you energy.
Now, I'm not saying go grab your measuring cups and spoons along with a food scale (unless you want to). There are many ways in which to plan and prioritize your portions.
1. Plan out your week / day. Many people don't realize how much they eat in in a day. Planning out what you are making prevents the last minute grab and go, because when you are really hungry (hangry even) the likely choice will be an unhealthy one. Furthermore because you are so hungry there is the potential to overeat.
2. Read food labels. Food labels can be tricky and they have a margin of error of up to 20% by law. Yup you read that right! Look on the label for servings per container and factor in if the amount of a serving will be enough for your snack or meal, taking into account the margin of error.
3. Use your tools. The best tools you have you carry with you all the time, your hands! A serving of VEGETABLES is your fist ✊🏻
A serving of PROTEIN is your palm 🤚🏻
A serving of CARBS is your cupped hand. ✋🏻
A serving of FATS is your thumb 👍🏻
4. Eat purposefully. When eating pay attention to the action at hand, eating. Turn off the TV, put down the phone, shut off the computer and eat. Don't rush through your meal, enjoy and savor the food. Your body needs time to digest and feel the fullness. When we eat too fast we don't feel the feeling of satiety which leads to overeating.
5. The properly portioned plate. You can visually estimate portion sizes with your plate. Split your plate in half, and fill one side with with green, leafy vegetables (50%). The other side split in 1/2 so each "portion" is 1/4 of the plate, where 1/4 is for your proteins and the other for considerate carbs such as farro or sweet potato. This tip works when eating out as well!
6. Use a smaller plate. Smaller dishes and bowls make the serving size seem larger, tricking your brain into thinking you are eating a lot more than you are! If you are still hungry, fill up your plate again but the likely hood is since it has taken you a little longer to eat when you go back for seconds you won't eat as much.
7. Freeze leftovers or pack them up right away. I'm a batch cooker. I cook dinner with enough leftovers for lunch the next day. If you prepare more than you need for the meal package them up right away and put them away. Once they are in the fridge or freezer you are less likely to mindlessly pull them out.
STRATEGIES WHEN EATING OUT
1. Set aside leftovers immediately. I know I just said this above but it is also true when dining out. Restaurants serve portions that are enough for 2 sometimes 3 people. What a wonderful opportunity to split your plate in half and ask for the to go box right away. With the temptation off your plate you are less likely to overeat. You can even ask your server to split your meal an pack up the other half to go.
1. Become a dipper. Sauces and dressings can quickly flip a healthy dish on its head. They add an excess of calories, fats and hidden sugars to your meals. By asking for them to be served on the side you control the amount used.
2. Appetizer as an entrée, why yes! You can have an appetizer as an appetizer AND an entrée. Appetizers are the perfect portion size. If you are really desiring an amazing entrée offer to split the meal with your dining partner. Most restaurants will either charge a small sharing fee or split the entrée for free. And if that is not an option, pack up 1/2 the entrée to go.
3. Ask questions about the menu items. Some items will clearly not be on your plan but others may require some clarification. You may think a salad is just a salad but when it is loaded with 2 servings of carbs (croutons and quinoa), 2 helpings of dressing (added sugars and extra fats) 2 servings of protein (excess protein turns into sugar) you can easily overeat. Clarify what is in the dish and how it is prepared. You may decide to ask for some items to be substituted or left out in order to stay in line with your goals.
It's easy to stay focused on your goals while enjoying a wide variety of delicious healthy foods by being wise with your portion sizes. Adding these steps may feel overwhelming so pick one or 2 to start. Being aware of how much you are eating is just as important as what you are eating for successful weight loss and control. When you eat intentionally, purposefully and healthfully you enjoy your meals that much more and improve your relationship with food.
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