I’VE NOTICED (she said with stern significance) that it tends to be VERY LEAN PEOPLE who insist you can eat whatever you want as long as you control your portion size.

I ask your indulgence as I reply to all the lean people worldwide: That’s just bullshit.

I know all the “portion size” tricks. Oh, they say – you can eat as much steak as would fit on the palm of your hand. Or – whatever you get at a restaurant, just eat half of it. Or – use a smaller bowl – a smaller spoon – a smaller mindset.

Twixt thee and me, darling, I am going to eat the steak that is served to me. That’s just all there is to it. If I eat half of my portion at a restaurant, then I’m left looking mournfully at the congealing, lonely food left on my plate for the eternity of time required until my dining companions have joined the joyful ranks of the Clean Plate Club, at which point a waiter or waitress will regard me with deep suspicion if I don’t want those icy remnants boxed up to take home. Really – I’m just going to throw it out when I get home; why don’t we skip the Styrofoam and head straight for the garbage?

As for smaller bowls and smaller spoons – who, pray tell, do you think you are kidding? My mind and my stomach are not at all fooled by this.

So I think we need a different kind of “measure” to determine the tiny daily nutritional victories that will ultimately lead to better health. For instance:

I’m trying to dial back the control that sugar has on my soul – but it’s really important that I don’t OMIT sugar from my meals because I have always had an all-or-nothing mentality. I can avoid sugar entirely with great success… until I fail. At which point, all effort ceases. I do NOT get back up on the horse. Well, that’s done. Pass the cookies.

So I’m going with the advice of Chip, the wise nutritionist at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA – who says: Eat 80% of your meals for fuel and nutrition; eat 20% of your meals for joy. That means that four meals out of 21 (three meals a day for a week) can have dessert… but I interpret it as a “treat” (be that what it may) once every three days.

So two days out of three are sugar-free for me… which is going pretty well since I started, oh about a week ago.

During at-home days, when I’m scrounging some kind of meal out of my empty fridge, I get to count a no-sugar day as a win… but it’s a pretty easy win. There’s just no sugar in my home. If there was some here, I would have eaten it already. I DID eat it already. This is a Safe Zone, sugar-wise.

(Well, there’s a cannister of sugar, which I use in ample quantities when I drink very large, very hot, very sweet cisterns of Earl Grey – but I’m just not drinking tea these days, so the actual raw sugar is pretty easy to resist. So far, I have not found myself snout-deep in the powder.)

The MEASURE of actual virtue can really only show up if I’m presented with the opportunity for sugar and I gracefully demur, giving a ladylike shake of my head while casting my eyes downward, indicating a very polite refusal to reconsider.

That’s a double-plus good.

The other night, my “Let’s Go Out To Dinner” crew (my sister-in-law Lura and my friend Kevin) was casting about to decide in which restaurant’s kitchen that night’s dinner might be prepared. This was my chance. “Let’s go to the Secret Garden,” I said.

Have you been? It’s this tiny restaurant in Occoquan, up a steep set of stairs. The food is good – but DARLING the desserts! Most restaurants, in my experience, are run by people who grudgingly offer desserts because they can pad bills with them. Most desserts aren’t as good as they should be…

…but someone at the Secret Garden LOVES dessert. If you order the coconut cake,  they will wheel up fully one-quarter of a cake to your table – and it’s not just incredibly ample. It’s incredibly good.

Or so I’m told. For me, coconut cake is a hard pass. Coconut – yuck. But Lura and Kevin order one piece and groan with happiness as they attempt to finish it between the two of them. I, on the other hand, order the chocolate pie which – jeezum crow. If I was a god, I’d change the “nectar and ambrosia” menu plan to “nectar and chocolate pie from the Secret Garden.”

I think it’s the crust, which is pleasingly dense and yet lovingly yielding – as if someone took a brownie with bits of toffee in it and smashed it down as flat as possible to the inside of a large pie pan before pouring in a creamy, dark chocolate filling. (Sorry – maybe I should have noted a trigger words warning first??)

And ample? Oh, my. Ample as in a pie serving – ample as in my hips.

And it’s just ONE PORTION. See, lean people? I’m watching my portion control. One piece of pie. How can you fault me for that??

Where was I?

Right. We went to the Secret Garden – but it was a no sugar day, so I sat calmly before my empty placemat while Lura and Kevin gloried in their coconut cake. I went there specifically so I could resist the chocolate pie – and then I resisted it.

And THAT, my fine friend, must be measured as a TRIPLE-PLUS GOOD for me.

Here’s the thing: When I turn down a dessert, I find I’m more likely to turn down dessert the next time it’s offered. One tiny victory breeds a second tiny victory. I can plan my treats and hold to the plan.

Keep your portion size nonsense. I’m calculating a new form of measurement.

Screen Shot 2020-01-20 at 2.21.34 PM

This isn’t the pie at the Secret Garden (I stole this photo off Google Images – no permission, so don’t tell) but that cut in the pie is the right size for a Secret Garden single serving. See that piece of pie blurry in the background? That implies a pie has eight servings. Not at the Secret Garden; a pie has FOUR servings, and I’m here to tell you that’s GLORIOUS. You know – except for the sugar part.



2 thoughts on “Measure

  1. okay, I snorted my coffee on the “snout deep in the powder”. I just finished reading Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg, and your method of control fits right in with the science of change and habit! I just finished off the box of valentine’s candy (see, be prepared) so maybe it’s time I tried your way.


    1. Oh, see – you’re totally ready now! That Valentine’s candy has met its match. You showed it! (And if you abide by the Chip plan, you can have MORE candy day after tomorrow. That’s not so bad, huh?!) BJ Fogg, huh? I’ll go check it out…


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