Restaurant Cristal Room, Paris
French Girl Portion Sizes
In refining what I eat and working out what does and doesn’t work for me, I’ve discovered that what I always thought of as a decent-sized meal may actually be too big for me. I have this thing that I love to feel full and don’t like the feeling of being unsatisfied if I don’t have a very big meal.
When I am handed a plate if I am eating out or being served to at home, my eyes immediately scan it and my involuntary thought is either ‘that’s not much’ or ‘yay, my plate is nice and full’. Whatever I am handed, whether it’s dinner, a coffee or dessert, if it looks huge I feel really happy. I can’t help it!
My meals can be needlessly large. I sometimes feel stuffed after dinner as I don’t like leaving things on my plate. I also don’t like waste. Occasionally I will finish my dinner without eating everything on my plate and save it to have with the next day's lunch salad, but often it’s not an appropriate dinner to save as leftovers, or we already have a fridge-full at work of everything we need for lunches.
A better solution is to serve myself a smaller portion. I only ever have a small amount of protein, such as one sausage if it’s bangers and mash, or half a chicken breast or one chicken thigh cutlet or one tiny piece of eye fillet steak, but I can cut back on the vegetables a little bit.
In my mind, because the brightly coloured vegetables are ‘free’ on Weight Watchers points and healthy, I have a big pile. And it’s not the calories but the feeling that bothers me. They still fill up your stomach too much if you have a lot.
Same with my fresh fruit breakfast. I have a massive bowl in the mornings and then add yoghurt and nuts, then have a milky coffee. Yes, it gets me through to lunch, but even if I reduce it by 25% in size I will feel more comfortable physically after breakfast.
And as for my internal momentary disappointment when I see that a plateful of food ‘isn’t very big’ I can embrace that more petite portion as my French girl serving size.
I think this step of addressing portion size comes after I have had some success tweaking my food choices and adding more fresh components. That way I don’t feel too deprived if I go from large quantities of fun food to small quantities of healthy food all at once. One step at a time.
I don’t feel like I am not eating much to want to be skinny, but that I am going easy on my body by not asking it to work so hard processing the huge portion I have eaten. I’ve heard many times that our stomach is the size of our fist, but I choose to forget it conveniently. When you look at your clenched fist it is not that big!
And the key to getting through to the next meal, I know, is protein. So a small meal of carbohydrates will not satisfy, but add protein and it will. That’s why I have a coffee made entirely with milk in the morning, always have some kind of cooked, lean meat on my salad at lunchtime and meat with dinner.
Years ago when I used to go to the gym, a personal trainer after asking me to write down what I ate over a typical week, said I did not have enough protein in my diet. So I've always been very conscious about including a portion of lean protein in my three meals a day.
How do you think your portion sizes look? What would your ideal French girl say if she saw what you served yourself up? It would be funny if we could let other people see into our kitchens and if we could see into theirs, just to see what a 'normal' portion size looks like. I suppose we already can do that actually - it's called Instagram!