Unequal Portions

My husband is a weight-loss star. Both of us have been working on losing weight since we returned from our honeymoon, but whereas I only have managed just about 20 pounds, he's officially down by 50. (By the way: Congratulations, honey!)

"Whoa!" you might say. "It's true! Men lose weight like that [snapping fingers], but women can't do it! I'm doomed!"

Stop, stop! Go no further down that path. Remember, on this site, we don't believe weight loss is impossible or too difficult to achieve for anyone. If I had lost 50 pounds as well, I'd be verging on underweight now. No, there are reasons men oftentimes seem to lose weight faster or more easily than us women.

The short explanation is that men and women have different nutritional needs. Think about it: Men are generally taller and larger than women. Men usually also have lower body-fat percentages than women, as women need a good deal of fat tissue to accommodate the reproductive system. The high end of what's acceptable for a man's body-fat percentage is considered the low end for women in the same category. Bigger, more muscular bodies need more calories, which means men can consume more food without gaining weight than women can.

What's this all mean in terms of Healthy Habits? Unfortunately, a lot of women -- even women who keep the kitchen in regular use -- gain weight after marriage. They start eating with hubby every night and thus start serving themselves portions equal to their husband's. Oops! A quick and simple way for women to rein in their consumption and bring themselves down to eating correct portions is to start serving themselves less food than their partners.

How can you combat the post-wedding bulge?

Eyeball the platters. Mentally divvy up what's in the pan before you dig in. Eliminate anything you plan to save as leftovers before you even get to the table, then mark off roughly one-third or two-fifths of the main dish and any starches for yourself (assuming you're serving just the two of you). Use the serving spoon to draw lines if it helps.

Vary your plate sizes. If eyeballing isn't cutting it for you, a more direct method is giving the significant other and yourself different plates. Give the spouse a normal, oversized dinner plate but stick with a smaller, old-fashioned-sized plate for yourself. You'll end up taking less food because the smaller dish can't handle huge servings, yet your plate will look just as "full" as the one across the table.

When all else fails, measure. Not seeing a difference? Determine the approximate number of calories you should consume at dinner (say, 600 if you're on a 1,500-calorie weight-loss plan). Next, whip out the calculator and the kitchen scale, and carefully measure out your own portions before sitting at the table. Let your husband load his plate, too, then leave the leftovers behind in the kitchen.

Don't sweat the veggies. This tip is more about combating the mental struggle of reducing your portions while your husband continues to chow down. With rare exception, vegetables are extremely low in calories. Always prepare a huge veggie side dish (salad, steamed broccoli or green beans, whatever) and give yourself permission to eat as much of it as you want while laying off the higher-calories items.

In some areas, men and women simply have different needs. There's nothing evil about it. As a woman, you don't need as much food as a man. It's not about appearances or social pressure to eat like a bird, it's just a fact of biology. Don't starve yourself, but don't stuff yourself, either!

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