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Portion Control vs Counting Calories: Which Is More Effective For Weight Management?

Portion Control vs Counting Calories: Which Is More Effective For Weight Management?

Whether you're beginning your weight loss journey or simply wanting to maintain a healthy weight, it's important to find a sustainable approach that works for you.

Two popular methods that are often discussed about weight management are portion control and counting calories. But which one is more effective?

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of each and help you discover the path best for you…

Portion Control Basics

When it comes to portion control, we're talking about the amount of food we put on our plates. It's all about being mindful of the quantity we consume, without necessarily focusing on the specific number of calories.

Portion control teaches us to listen to our bodies and recognise when we're truly satisfied, instead of mindlessly polishing off our plates.

One of the biggest advantages of portion control is its simplicity. You don't need to meticulously track every single calorie. Instead, it encourages you to develop a healthy relationship with food and tune in to your body's natural hunger and fullness cues.

Portion control also allows for flexibility and variety in your diet. You can still enjoy your favourite foods while staying within the bounds of a balanced portion. It's all about moderation and finding what works for you and your lifestyle.

Benefits of Counting Calories

Counting calories, involves more number crunching. It requires you to track the caloric content of the foods you consume, aiming to stay within a designated daily limit. This method provides a clearer picture of your energy intake and can be especially helpful if you have specific weight loss goals in mind.

The benefits of counting calories include:

  • Counting calories can be a highly effective tool for weight management, especially for those who appreciate structure and like to have concrete data.

  • It helps create awareness of how much energy you're actually consuming and can be a wake-up call if you've been unknowingly overindulging in high-calorie foods.

  • All calories are displayed on food packaging, making it easy to work out what you are consuming.

  • Counting calories and sticking to a specific amount can help you to plan your meals ahead.

  • There is now many apps and tools available to help you to estimate the amount of calories that you need to maintain, lose or gain weight, and help you to track them daily.

The Role of Portion Control in Weight Loss

People will most likely consume more food when they are offered larger portions, it's tempting isn't it? So, portion control is important when you're trying to lose weight and maintain your loss.

A portion can be defined as the amount of food put onto your plate and a serving is an exact amount of food. This can be closely measured with measuring cups and tools as well as comparing the serving to sizes of other objects.

It's easy to over indulge when you're not paying attention to what you're eating. For example, if you're dipping into the biscuit tin when watching tv, or having office snacks during a busy work day. 

The Science behind Counting Calories

To burn or lose fat, you need to consume less calories than your body uses. This is called a calorie deficit.

Calories are used by your body for energy. When you consume less calories than you use, you begin to lose fat.

Let's say Mary needs 2000 calories to sustain her body weight, based on her current lifestyle. Mary works in an office job, doesn’t go to the gym, but does go for a walk on her lunch every day for half an hour.

For Mary to lose weight, she needs to be in a calorie deficit and burn more calories than she consumes.

To create a deficit, Mary can lower her calorie intake by reducing her portion sizes, or calorie count to achieve her calorie deficit goal.

Mary could also create a calorie deficit by keeping her calorie consumption the same, but increasing her energy expenditure. She could do this by upping her 30-minute walks to 45 minutes, or by exercising in a gym.

It’s important to know how many calories you need to sustain your current body weight, so you can make the necessary adjustments.

Combining Portion Control and Calorie Counting

You could combine these two weight loss approaches by switching high calorie food options for lower calorie snacks and foods. You could also reduce portion sizes of the higher calorie foods, and pack your plate with lower calorie vegetables to help you feel fuller. 

As well as this, introducing or increasing your physical activity, whether that be steps, gym sessions, running or taking part in a sport. Combining physical activity and healthy eating will help you to achieve your healthy weight.

Tips for Successful Portion Control

  • Use a smaller size plate so the portion doesn’t look as small.

  • Weigh your food.

  • Don’t double up on carbohydrates.

  • 20 minute rule- Try and sit for around 20 minutes after you have finished your meal to see if you get the feeling of fullness before you eat anything else.

  • Check food labels.

  • Order smaller portions when eating out.

  • Don’t pick at leftovers.

The Pitfalls of Relying Solely on Calorie Counting

  • One of the downsides to counting calories is that it can sometimes lead to an unhealthy obsession with numbers. It's important to strike a balance and remember that food is more than just numbers.

  • You might forget to log your calories so these can sometimes be inaccurate.

  • Develop unhealthy habits with bad nutritional value foods as long as they are in your allowance.

  • Repetitive and time-consuming logging every meal, snack and drink.

Finding the Right Balance for Weight Management

So, which method should you choose? Well, the truth is, there's no one-size-fits-all answer.

Your lifestyle and goals will influence the approach that works best for you. Some people might find success in portion control, while others find it easier and beneficial to calorie count.

The main thing is to find a sustainable plan that promotes a healthy relationship with food. With this in mind, you might find that a combination of both methods works best for you.

You also need to remember to be patient, as weight loss is all about trial and error, learning from your experiences and adapting this to find a solution that works for you.

If you would like to try and reduce your calories, check out our low calorie snacks & drinks.

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