Portion Distortion: How This Sneaky Effect Can Destroy Your Diet

You may be surprised to learn your portion sizes are holding your scale hostage. Why? Because over the last two decades, restaurants and food companies have increased portions so much that what you think is "normal" is actually 5X more than what you should eat!

Portions are out of control, meal sizes are exploding, and—as a result—so are waistlines. So, if the numbers on your scale are frozen in place, start looking at your plate. Chances are there's enough food for two people.

What we're talking about is called portion distortion. And it's a problem so sneaky most people don't even realize they're eating from a supersized plate. And that's why portion distortion is Number 11 on the 15 Reasons Why Diets Fail (And How To Fix It!).


Before we dive in, have you signed up for our FREE 7-day course? This is where I'll teach you the psychology of weight loss and why getting fit isn't just eating less and moving more. To get daily lessons delivered straight to your inbox, click here.

What Is Portion Distortion?

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), portion distortion refers to growing portions sizes that people think are "normal", when in fact there's enough food on your plate for two or even three people.

The NHLBI studied how portions have grown over the last 20 years and here are some surprising findings:

Bagels have doubled in size.


  • 20 years ago, a bagel was 3" in diameter with 140 calories.

  • But today, a bagel is 6" and packs in 350 calories.

And so has a plate of spaghetti and meatballs.


  • 20 years ago, a plate measured in at 500 calories.

  • How many calories are in today's portion of spaghetti and meatballs? Portions have jumped to 1,025 calories.

And just in case you're wondering what you'd have to do to burn off an extra 525 calories, you'd need to run for about 40 minutes.

It's kind of scary how much of an impact portion sizes has, isn't it?!

Let's look at other popular foods that are victim to the portion explosion.


Right now, the questions I'd like to ask you are:

  • What does a "normal" portion actually look like? And,

  • Are you choosing how much you eat or are others choosing for you?

It's Time To Start Scaling Back!

What you think is "normal" isn't. And if you want to stand a chance against overeating, it's time to change not only what you eat, but HOW MUCH.

5 Tips That Will Totally Change How Much You Eat

1.) Estimate Portion Sizes With Your Hand

Sure, it'd be great to measure everything on a scale. But how time consuming is that? Plus, you can use your hand to easily estimate the right sizes.

✋ Palm = 3 to 4 ounces.

Use with: Your palm is perfect to measure cooked meat, like chicken, pork, or steak.

???? Thumb = 1 to 2 tablespoon.

  • From the tip of your thumb to the knuckle is about 1 tablespoon.

  • The entire thumb is about 2.

Use with: Fats, like butter, olive oil, and salad dressing.

???? Closed Fist (Front)= 1/2 a cup.

Use with: Complex carbs like sweet potatoes, brown rice, or quinoa.

✊ Clinched Fist = 1 cup.

Use with: Veggies, popcorn, and yogurt.

2.) Let Your Plate Guide The Way


Another easy way to keep your portions in check is to visualize your plate divided into three parts.

  1. Veggies will fill half.

  2. High-quality proteins will cover a quarter.

  3. Complex carbs and fat will fill the last.

Of course, this is just a rough guide. Some people are less tolerant to carbohydrates than others, so you'll want to adjust based on how your body reacts.

Then, there are those of you that cannot stand veggies, let alone fill half you plate with them. If that sounds like you, we have an article with your name on it! Click here to read I Hate Veggies. How Can I Lose Weight?

3.) Ask For A To Go Box

We know restaurants are serving you 2 to 5 times the standard serving size. So to avoid overeating, walk through the front doors with a game plan.

Here are three go-to strategies to eat less when you're eating out!

  1. Order smaller. Order an appetizer or from the kid's menu.

  2. Cut it in half. When you order ask for a "to go" box. Then, when your food arrives, immediately wrap it up and set it aside. Two meals for the price of one. #DoubleWin!

  3. Share your meal. Studies show people that share are more successful at dropping weight than those that don't.


4.) Learn To Use The Hunger & Fullness Scale

With The Hunger & Fullness Scale, you can learn to eat in a way you're in tune with your body. So instead of eating what's on your plate, you eat until you feel satisfied and stop.

The scale ranges from 1 to 5.

  • When you're at a 1, you are absolutely ravenous.

  • At a 5, you can't imagine taking another bite.

  • You want to sit at a 3, that's where you feel light and satisfied. You feel like you could eat more, but you're comfortable.


There are two main goals when using the Hunger & Fullness Scale:

  1. Don't fall below at 2. This is where you're starting to feel ravenous and that leads to terrible decisions. And,

  2. Eat to and stop when you feel light and satisfied.

But to accomplish both of these goals, you have to pay careful attention to what your body is telling you. Far too often you eat distracted and completely miss your body's cues.

Why is this important? Because studies show when you eat distracted, you're far more likely to overeat. It's important to slow down, have a point during the meal where you check-in with yourself, and keep track of your lessons learned.

5.) Remove The Guesswork And Get A Pro On Your Side

Don't like counting calories or breaking out the food scale? (No one does!) How about hiring a pro to help you build habits and give you accountability for each and every meal?

At MyBodyTutor, we'll teach you how to avoid portion distortion and learn the perfect portion size for you. And believe me, when it comes to learning how much to eat, everyone is completely different.

We have coached thousands of clients and know what works for your friend or spouse won't always work for you. That's why you need someone there to cut out the guesswork.

You know information without action is just, well…wishful thinking. Start turning what you learned into consistent, daily action!

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