Thursday, March 01, 2012

You Must be This Tall to Order This Meal

There's no doubt that one of the most significant drivers of societal weight gain over the decades has been our increasing reliance on eating foods prepared outside of our homes. Couple more frequent meals out with larger portions and certainly that's a recipe for gain for anyone, but an even more dangerous recipe for anyone with an impaired calorie burning ability.

What I mean is that if two folks sit down at a restaurant to eat together, regardless of the differences between those two folks, if they order the same meal, they'll get the same meal.  Sedentary 5ft tall middle aged mom with fibromyalgia sitting down to eat with her 6ft 2in College football linebacker son - same order, same meal.

But what if one of those folks burns fewer calories?

There are a great many reasons for someone to burn smaller numbers of calories. Among the most common of those would be advanced age, medications that impair metabolisms, and of course, vertical challenge.

It's a phenomenon that also plays out in households sometimes. I remember somewhere near to when my wife and I were married and she gained a small amount of weight. I wasn't involved in nutrition or weight management at the time, and I only had the most rudimentary understanding of things, but I figured that the crux of the matter was my wife was matching my portions. She told me that she felt she deserved to eat as much as I did, and while I certainly didn't disagree (I've always known better than to ever do that), the simplest way to put it was that yes, she could eat as much as me, but given that the amount of food I was eating supported my weight, my guess was that if she ate the same amount as me, eventually she'd weigh the same too....and I've got quite a few inches of height on her.

At the end of the day, folks with reasons to burn fewer calories, if they're concerned about their weights, understanding and calorie awareness becomes that much more important, as does minimizing meals out because after all, there are no signs on the menu reading,
"You must be this tall to order this meal."
(photo by Flickr's Futurowoman)

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  1. You've got to be aware that it's not actually that simple. My husband weighs 50 pounds less than I do and is less physically active, yet he eats more (although neither one of us eats like a dieter).

    And I'm not an ex-dieter. I'm someone who got fat as an active kid with upper middle class parents who paid attention to nutrition and portion sizes and limited my access to sweets and snacks. Oh yeah - and half the family (my dad's side, who I physically resemble in a lot of ways) is very fat.

    It's not all about energy in - energy out. The game is rigged for a lot of us.

    I'm not complaining. I'm actually fine being the size that I am. I just don't like it when people assume that I overeat and never exercise, or that because I was a fat kid, my parents must have been ignorant and trashy.

    1. Anonymous8:20 am

      I know you are a follower of this blog so you understand that Dr. Freedhoff is aware that it is not actually that simple and that the game is 'rigged for a lot of us' this is about giving people something to think about. Not necessarily people like you who are 'fine being the size that I am' but for 'folks with reasons to burn fewer calories, if they're concerned about their weights'. And peolpe like me, I am fine the way I am put I am struggling to make healthy choices not to loose weight per say but to keep my body fueled for the active lifestyle I lead.

      How many times at the dinner table did arguments over portion size take place in my childhood home? Pretty much every day. My mom had 4 kids in 5 years so we were close in age and wanted the same thing as each other every time - I am sure somedays she wanted to count how many grains of rice she gave us so that she could say they were the exact same portions. We thought it was unfair if we did not get the same amount and I think a lot of us today still feel that way. We desrve the same portion - I am fat and I often think that even though I am full I have to eat the same as the other people around the table or they will think that I am on a diet and unhappy with my size. Ridiculous but there - I am allowed to eat what makes me happy and if the person accross the table from me can eat more then good for them (or not) I need to be my own portion guide. Of course my sister being a frantic dieter and my mother worrying about us not eating enough I all too often heard - 'why aren't you eating? Are you on one of those crazy diets again?' I am just full was an excuse not a legitimate answer. Reality was I was never one to diet I would see how miserable my sister was dieting and want no part of it.

      Bottom line is there is no sense of entitlement to food portions only what is best for each person based on whatever you want to base it on - number of calories or degree of fullness either way everybody is different. Why is it that we can so easily acept that everyone is different for so many things and not for portion size - or body size for that matter?

      The way I see it this is a very important point for everyone to think about and not just people concerned about calories. It is time to stop overeating to keep up with buddy in the booth beside you that ordered the same meal.

      Maybe someday the words 'it's not fair he got more than I did!' will stop echoing in my head and I will be able to eat MY portion size more often.

    2. Anon, if there's anyone reading this page to whom the rule of thumb in the post in not patently obvious, then they would probably also need to have it pointed out them them that its usefulness is limited.

  2. Anonymous12:07 pm

    Hmmm, you have a point here I think. We cook for 2, and divide it equally. Today, I'll start looking at this a bit differently. Thanks.

  3. Mavis2:00 pm

    I have a 16 year old soccer player who stopped growing (no more platelets) at 66 inches. He has been overweight for many years and is now 31 BMI, of course he is very depressed about it. I use indirect calorimeter to help understand his limitations for calorie intake. This blog today generalizes, but is right on the money. Taking all other factors aside, height matters, a lot!

  4. Anonymous3:16 pm

    This is so true, I am 5 ft (60 inches)and i always was within the normal BMI range but usually nearer the top end 23.5 to 24.5. When i moved in with my husband (6 ft) my eating pattern was totally changed.

    I went from having a good breakfast and lunch (usually hot and more like a main meal), I then had a small evening meal about 6pm, I could snack and remain the same weight.

    After getting together, the dinners were bigger and later in the evening, I have never seen someone consume so much bread not to mention changing from wine to beer. So gradually the portions size went up and up.

    So 6 months ago when I was about to reach BMI 30 and my belly was getting nearly the same size as my hips I said enough. I took responsibility for MY portion size changed my eating pattern and binned the bread and beer. It is difficult but I stuck with it, I am BMI 26 and feel great. It is hard when the person next to you is eating more so I got smaller plates for me, to help.