Size Matters – The Truth about Portion Distortion

Guys, any girl that tells you size doesn’t matter, they’re lying! Now, now, get your head out of the gutter, I am talking about portion control people, geez! With restaurants and food manufacturers increasing portion sizes by epic proportions, it is difficult for our bodies to decipher how much food our body really needs and how much is too much (or in many cases way WAY too much).

The bulging portion sizes is one of many indications that society has changed not just the way we eat and look, but also how we view and appreciate food. The care that used to go into cooking homemade meals is now replaced with drive through meals in a bag. It seems like nowadays you could throw a rock on any corner of the city and hit at least one (if not several) fast food restaurants. Take a look at some examples of how portion sizes have increase in the last 20 years:

A cup of coffee:

An 8 oz cup used to be the average size of a cup of coffee, about 45 calories with milk and sugar. Fast forward 20 years. Starbucks recently announced they will soon unveil their largest size yet, the Trenta, a 31 oz cup (if you can even call it that…) of coffee. That is 916 millimeters worth of liquid. The average adult stomach is equipped to handle about 900 millimeters. Depending on what you order, this new gulp-a-saurus will set you back hundreds of additional calories.


Movie popcorn:

In the 90s, the average size of a movie popcorn (most often split between two) was about 5 cups and 250 or so calories. Today’s movie goers typically order a tub of popcorn lathered in oil, soaked in butter and drenched in salt. This tub-o-lard can bring the grand total upwards of 1,200 calories, which may or may not be split with a patron.


Twenty years ago people drank pop out of a 12 oz can. Now, 20 oz plastic bottles are becoming the norm and to-go options are offered in 32 oz, 44 oz, and whopping 64 oz cups. With the price only a few cents higher for a larger cup, the human ability to reason instinctively gravitates towards getting more bang-for-our-buck, inevitably resulting in the consumption of 800 or more additional calories. Car manufacturers are having to redesign cup holders in order to accommodate the ever-growing size of our soda cups.   


What the experts say….

The Food and Drug Administration, recommends what the proper intake of calories, fat, salt and other dietary elements is necessary per day to maintain satisfactory health and nutrition. The FDA recommends that the average adult eat around 2,000 calories per day. Based on  a 2,000 calorie diet, they suggest keeping saturated fat intake at less than 20 g per day, total fat intake at less than 65 g per day, and  no more than 300 mg of cholesterol and 2400 mg sodium per day. Experts say the abundant growth in our daily food intake is having a devastating impact on our national health care system.

We now have the difficult (if not impossible) task of re-learning what the appropriate amount of food is and what it looks like. The problem is we have become so accustomed to this life of gluttony that scaling back will be a shock to our system. Imagine ordering a pizza and when it arrives you open it up to see it is only 1/3 of the size we are used to, there is no doubt we will feel cheated. What happens when all of the double whoppers with cheese are taken off the menu due to a government regulation on caloric content of food? Mayhem, that’s what happens.


What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you think the government should intervene or do you believe it is a personal choice and the government has no right to regulate what food we can and cannot eat?


10 responses to “Size Matters – The Truth about Portion Distortion

  1. the government should DEF intervene! people don’t understand right portions now a days- we are being brainwashed almost!!! its horrible- they need to change these things!

  2. This is one of those issues that I’ve struggled with, as I’m sure many ladies have, especially if you hang out with lots of boys who can eat twice as much as you do and stay three times as thin! So unfair! Anyway, this is just one of those things that gov’t will never be able to control—folks have to take back portion control for themselves and not let manufacturers trick us into eating 3x more than we should. The problem is that folks just don’t know, or don’t read the label telling them, what’s an appropriate portion size. According to a Cooking Light study I read a few weeks ago, something like 75% of people overestimate the serving size of a bowl of cereal. Now, I always top mine off with a little extra, but I know what I’m getting into. If we can’t even pour an appropriate portion of cereal, how in the world are Americans going to get the size of their steaks and coffees right? I always either take the smallest one, or cut it in half. Good discussion post, Jessica.

  3. Portion control is definitely the number 1 reason why most Americans are overweight. People have no concept of measuring or weighing food. I definitely think the government should intervene!

  4. I think portion control is SO important. I used to be really obsessive about it, but I think I’ve found a healthy balance between eating what I want and watching my portions. The good thing about eating healthy is that you can eat way more for less calories 🙂

  5. While this is a hot topic, I’d have to say that government intervention is not the answer. People need to learn how to eat by themselves, with the right guidance. If you as a person are dependant on someone else to tell you how to live and what to eat, doesn’t that make you a child? Adults are not children and know how to eat. Most just choose not to, instead eating as they want. I don’t feel that someone should come in and take over, wagging a finger as whoever dares to eat as they want, with full knowledge of what they are doing. It’s like the mother that sued McDonalds because her family became fat. Who told them to eat fast food everyday, instead of cooking at home? Who told them not to work out and take care of their own health, since they are ultimately the ones responsible for it. All people need to learn to accept responsibilty for their lives and what happens in it. Sometimes you can’t and that is understandble. Other times…you gotta grow up and realize that it’s only you.

  6. great post! I think the government can try to intervene, but people will still continue to do what they’re doing. Such a hard thing to break habits, especially in people that don’t think there’s anything wrong in what they’re doing.

  7. The government should definitely be called to action! Portion distortion is a big problem!

  8. I agree the gov should get involved, its sad to see people get mad these days if they don’t get a huge portion.

  9. This is a great post. I agree I think these larger portions are one of the main reason so many people are overweight. I hit a milestone on my blog this past week and ZI just wanted to Thank You for helping make it possible by coming to my blog and commenting like you have. Thanks Again!

  10. Pingback: The Demise of Healthy Habits in the Workplace | Dishin' About Nutrition

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