Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Portion Controls

     It's amazing how easily people can get accustomed to super-sized meal portions—remnant survival instincts from days of scarcity. But here in America, it's rare that anyone has to face malnutrition due to a lack of calories. To the contrary, American diets all too often have an excess of calories, and in the rare occasions when nutritional deficiencies do occur, it's usually due to poor food choice versus lack of healthy options.
     Our family eats well-balanced, nutritious meals, but for a while our portion controls were lacking. Every meal was an all-you-can-eat buffet with the refrigerator and cupboards open for the taking if the meal preparations ran low. Deanne and I still controlled what was eaten, but everyone decided how much to eat.
     This worked fine when the kids were younger as God has blessed our kids (and me) with tall, slim builds. They all averaged about fiftieth percentile in weight, seventy-fifth percentile in height, and they were physically active with P.E. at school and work-outs at home. Pene also had joined cross country, then track and Braden walked to and from his bus stops totaling about two-thirds mile each way.
     But as they aged and Braden's and Pene's growth spurts slowed, P.E. got replaced by Health, track season ended, Braden got resistant to exercising outside, and their appetites remained unchanged, then they started putting on extra weight on their butts, and around their faces, necks, and waists. First to experience this all-of-a-sudden change was Braden. Our former trim, large-boned boy (now size 10+ shoes) was filling out in not so muscle bound-looking ways. I once asked him if had jelly-butt.
     No, he said.
     I said, I'm going to test it with my foot. He was sitting sideways on the floor at the time and it looked like a rounded muffin. But was it solid muscle or padded fat? My foot, fortunately, did not sink in. He smiled and I said, “Not so bad,” but it still had an excess of insulation that needed losing.
     First to go were anything-goes afternoon snacks. I never allowed such indulgences other than finishing leftover dinner, or, air sandwiches. An air sandwich is one which we make and eat together. “Okay, what kind of bread do you want?” I ask. “Alright sourdough, yummy! Here's the bread...” I pretend to open a bag and pull out two slices. “You, too. Do the same.” We go through the motions, adding all the fixin's, and finally grab the smashed down bundle in our two hands, open wide, and pretend to shove it in, take a bite, chew, and swallow. Whenever, I say “air sandwich” or “eat your leftovers” now, they know they're not getting anything more. Deanne for awhile indulged them, but then she too got fed up with their eat-as-a-form-of-entertainment and just about quit allowing it too, thank God.
     Next to go were the seconds, thirds, and fourths at dinner. Braden was not pleased. “I'm hungry,” he'd say with—I don't know how he did it—sunken, desolate, I'm-on-the-verge-of-dying eyes. But having inspected his packed-full plate before dinner, I knew he was exaggerating, for whenever he went hiking with the scouts, he ate far less and never complained to them how hungry he still was. In short, he was testing our resolve. So, no problem, I held my ground, and explained how his stomach needed shrinking. And how some former high school athlete classmates of mine who quit working out after high school put on tons of weight fast because they didn't reduce their food consumptions to match. And that I didn't want that to happen to him.
     His deprivation act continued for a few meals until I told him, “I'll tell you what Grandma used to tell me—it's the nicest way I know how to put it: 'You've had enough.'” I said it with calm knowing and gave a nod as if that was that. Since then, he's seldom given me attitude about food insufficiency.
     Pene, when it was her turn to return to normal size portions, got teary a couple of times, but then she adjusted and has been fine since.
     I, too, used to stuff myself silly every delicious meal for awhile, but then realized how uncomfortable it made feel and look, that I didn't want to set the bad example, that it wasn't healthy, and that it made me feel sooo sleepy, so I adjusted and haven't felt the least bit deprived.
     So we're once again trim and stable and content with enough.  In meals as in many other things in life, sometimes less is more.  

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