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The Trouble with Portion Control

A common word thrown around when it comes to following a specific eating plan is “control”. From that, you also see lots of diets promoting “portion control”.

There are even eating plans that require that you purchase color coded containers to help you follow this very controlled and regimented plan.

As a dancer, you’ve got discipline – you prove that each and every day that you wake up and take class. You’ve found the control to move your body with grace and fluidity.

There are times when being aware of suggested portions is beneficial. If you’re eating packaged, processed foods (even minimally processed) it’s worth considering a portion. If you’re eating chips or candy, stay aware of the ingredients in those foods and put a small portion on a plate. Enjoy it without guilt.

Rather than portion control:

“a more effective strategy may be to encourage greater consumption of foods low in energy density while managing portions of high-energy-dense foods. If people lower the energy density of their diet, they will be able to eat satisfying amounts of food while managing their body weight.”1

To simplify that for you, if you put focus on high nutrient dense foods like dark leafy greens, fruits and colorful vegetables you can eat more food. There are suggested portions even for vegetables, those are worth ignoring. In fact, I typically encourage clients to fill half their plates with vegetables to increase satisfaction, energy and health without “high energy density”.

If you become overly consumed with the “right” portions, you ignore something more important:

Listening to your bodies hunger and fullness cues.

There will be days when 1 serving of nuts or nut butter isn’t enough. Even though those foods have high energy density, they’re packed with nutrition so eating more than one portion if you’re still hungry is also OK.

Check out this related post :   A common cross - training mistake dancers should avoid at all costs.

Rather than being obsessive about portions, be obsessive about this:

Putting your food on a plate, sitting down to enjoy each bite and listening to the messages your body is sending you. This is actually part of The Whole Dancer 7-Step Process to reaching your body goals healthfully and sustainably.

If you struggle with this, you’re not alone! The good news is that every meal is another opportunity to listen to your body. Eating slowly and paying attention can work wonders.

Does this control and discipline need to spill over into the way you eat and approach food? Check out this weeks Youtube video on portion control here :

While you’re there, be sure to subscribe to The Whole Dancer Youtube channel so you’ll be first to hear when a new video is released!

Have a topic idea you’d like me to cover? Just comment below and share your ideas!! I read and reply to every email and I’d love your input!


Published May 18, 2017

Updated April 29, 2020

Photo by Cleanlight Photo on Unsplash

Is portion control the answer?
  1. Rolls, B J. “What Is the Role of Portion Control in Weight Management?” International Journal of Obesity (2005), Nature Publishing Group, July 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4105579/.
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Jess Spinner

Jess is a former professional ballet dancer turned Holistic Health, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Coach for high level dancers. She founded The Whole Dancer in 2015 after identifying a greater need for balance, wellness and support in the dance world. Since The Whole Dancer was founded, Jess has worked with 100's of dancers worldwide at top companies and schools. She has been featured in or written for Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine, Pointe Magazine, and Dance Spirit Magazine.

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