Portion Distortion

Have you heard of the term 'portion distortion' before? It is often used to describe the 'fact' that many people do not know how to eat appropriate portions; mainly, that they eat too much because they do not know how much food is 'enough'. But recent studies are showing that the TRUE portion distortion occurs in people with ED. (See
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666312005120 for details)

Basically, this study compared anorexic patients with those who did not have any ED. The results are pretty consistent: people with ED (specifically anorexia) are more likely to overestimate food amounts. For example, take a person with anorexia and a person without anorexia. Now give them a plate with one cup of pasta, a piece of chicken, and a cup of vegetables. The person with anorexia is much more likely to estimate that the plate has (for example) double the portion it really has; the other person without ED is more likely to estimate the food correctly.

What does this tell us? To someone with ED like myself, it shows me that what I am doing in recovery is probably the best for me right now - eat by the clock and eat the amounts of food that I have been prescribed. I cannot depend on my intuition to estimate how much food I need to eat; I need to measure it because I KNOW that if I just 'eyeball' it, I will take too little.

Note that for some people with ED, measuring like this is obsessive; it is part of their disorder. For me, I NEED to measure because when I do not, I take simply too little food. If you have an ED and measuring is obsessive for you, it is a different case.

If you struggle with 'portion distortion' in anorexia (in that you always think you are eating more than you really are or always take too little food), a good idea is for you to see someone who can help you. I have heard people learning portions by using their palms instead of measuring cups, or 'eyeballing'. Whatever works for you is fine, as long as you are taking enough food.

I would be really interested in learning from others WITHOUT ED how you 'portion control'. Do you use your hunger cues and stop when you are full? Do you measure your food? Do you even KNOW how much food you are eating (ex. a cup of rice) or do you just take what you want and simply eat it? I am interested because I would like to get an idea of what 'nromal' people do when eating; I know that I personally cannot depend on my hunger cues or eyes to estimate foods.

So for now, I have to depend on measuring my food. And that is okay. As long as I am eating what I need to, that is fine. Maybe one day I will learn to eat without measuring - and eat enough. But for now, I am doing what I need to do to recover. My portion distortion is something that I have learned to deal with. Thank God.

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