Last week, I went back to my chemistry lab days and conducted a little experiment. I purchased a food scale. I don’t use those. Maybe I have a very innate sense of portion sizes. I do believe it is part of a Dietitian’s job to educate on realistic portion sizes in a practical way. Companies even sale “food portion kits” to help demonstrate. Or, maybe I’m just lazy. But two things I know for sure, weighing my food is not a priority of mine. Furthermore, I don’t care to get the exact, down-to-the-decimal measurement of my food because I do not believe it is necessary. Nor do my physical goals match that of most bodybuilders who use this method. More importantly, I do not want my children to see me weighing my food. Now, you probably think that is ridiculous. I have mentioned it quite a bit on Instagram and in this blog post. But, I’ve never really said why.
In college for one of our community nutrition courses we were assigned a partner. We weighed and measured each other to figure out body fat percentages and to figure out caloric and macronutrient requirements. I was already deep into my major and aiming to become the “healthiest” version of myself, because I was studying to be a nutritional professional after all. We created our own meal plans and were asked to track everything we ate. This was way before MFP (I am getting old). I had to look everything up in a book called Calorie King. Long after the project was over I continued to track and I bumped up my time at the gym. Studying, working out, and perfecting my nutrition were my ultimate priorities. Which I have say as a mom of four sounds kind of nice, ha! It didn’t take long until it hit me that things were getting out of hand. No one thought I had a problem, but I did get comments about looking “skinny” (hate that word) or “good”. I also came to realize that I hadn’t had a period in three months. Long story short, I knew this was not a healthy lifestyle and I pulled myself out of it. And I promised myself I would never obsess over food or exercise again. I only told my mom about this about 6 months ago because really, it wasn’t that big of a deal. It could have, but it wasn’t.
Thankfully, my program at USU was very big on Intuitive Eating and my education there really enhanced my love of food. I also worked at an eating disorder recovery retreat center cooking for the girls and educating them on embracing all types of food. It was a very rewarding experience.
Now that you know that little history about me, you might understand why I feel this way towards the trend of weighing your food. Or any form of meticulous, demanding, restrictive way of eating. You may not think children pick up on these patterns, but they most certainly do (who knows how I’m currently “messing” my kids up). Psychology of Eating listed the top five causes of eating disorders; stress, family origin (“a mother’s unhealthy body image & obsession with calorie counting is easily transferred to her daughter), history of abuse, culture, and a call for growth or transformation. Before, anyone gets too defensive know that this is all coming from a place of education and love. Disagreement or differing opinions do not mean hate or judgment. All parents are just doing the best that they can.
My heart also goes out to those who are trying to set and achieve goals, who feel like weighing your food is only way to get results. Because if you can’t get it exactly right, you aren’t getting enough protein or too much fat/carbs. This is not true. Sure, maybe it can give you a “wake up call” when it comes to portions, but I truly believe that you can get the same amazing results with any program that you follow using visual cues. We have provided such tools with our Food Portion Guide, included in all our plans.
I do feel passionately about this, but like everything I do I started doubting myself… “what if I am way off?” “What if I am being dramatic?” “I can’t be a hypocrite!” So, off I went to Target. I swallowed my pride and purchased a food scale. I was very happy to get the results all complied and I am even more excited to share them with you!
I started with chicken. Cooked chicken of course. I always tell people your full hand is about 6 oz (for women) your palm is about 4 oz.
I guessed first, and then compared it to my hand that it would be about 4 ½ ounces. Pretty darn close. Now if you think that .2 of an ounce is going to make a difference, by all means keep it up. Let’s say you are “off” of your protein count by .2 of an ounce 3 meals a day for a week. That’s only 4.2 ounces per week. I just don’t see it being that big of a deal.
Next up, grapes and strawberries. Grapes are higher in carbs than strawberries. But, strawberries are larger. 1/2 cup fits inside my hand. One cup is about the size of my fist.
I measured in my hand first. Then, placed in the cup. Then, on the scale. MFP: 80g = 104 calories, 27g carb; 1/2 cup measured = 72 grams, 93.6 calories, 24.3g carb. Is the extra time it takes to weigh the grapes worth the 3 grams of carbs?
Peanut Butter: Probably the most challenging to weigh on your food scale. I used Adam’s Natural. The jar says 1 TBSP is 16 grams. I measured out 1 TBSP, then weighed it, then put it next to my thumb. 1 TBSP weighed was 13 grams. Again, only off by a slight margin of 3 grams. Chances are to get something exact like PB weighed out, you have to spend quite a bit of time to get it right.
Salmon: I purchased this pre-cooked at Harmon’s and cut a nice perfect square to let it sit on my palm. Weighed out its 3.1 oz. You can see a little less than the 4.7 oz chicken breast.
Shredded chicken: I will admit this was the most challenging to weigh because I shred mine in my Kitchen Aid, which adds a lot of volume. 6 oz looks like a ton! But, it still compares to my whole hand.
Protein Powder: Now, I’ve heard this is one the most important items to weigh as the servings size is so off. But, I didn’t find that to be the case with Tera’s Whey. I did two measurements: 1) a casual scoop like I would normally do 2) a compacted, more level scoop. The serving sizes on the label claims 28 grams per 2 scoops. Again, if one day I measure out 31 grams and the other day I measure out 27 grams when the serving is 28, will it greatly impact my results?
Conclusion: The purpose of this experiment was to find out if weighing your food is essential to achieve results. I never have. I have always had success losing weight and building the amount of muscle I like. Sure, I would love to see if I can get my body fat down a bit more now that I am done having kids. But, that would have more to do with less snacking and splurging. Not so much weighing every single bite that I take. It’s not worth the time for me. We have helped hundreds of people achieve amazing results without implementing a food scale. To reach your goals, yes you need to plan, prep, balance (aka count macros), and maybe track from time to time. But, it is not necessary to weigh your food. The results didn’t prove to be all that significant.