Humans, in general, eat too much. Here is the simple registered dietitian-approved portion control strategy you’ll need to lose belly fat and get rid of love handles quickly and easily.
We have a problem. We like food. A lot. And it is killing our progress in the gym, especially when it comes to the midsection.
In general, we are overfed. And that is our biggest problem. And the answer to the problem is portion control.
Ask any registered dietitian and they will tell you that the fastest way to lose weight is to cut down on total calorie intake.
Yes, the core can be the most stubborn part of the body to work on. And yes, you may have tried everything to cut it down to where you want it. But believe me, you can absolutely lose belly fat through portion control.
Portion control is an eating strategy where you limit your food portions to the amount the body actually needs. And it is extremely effective.
It is so effective, in fact, that it is the exact strategy doctors use when helping patients to lose weight. And guess what? I tried it out and it worked for me as well.
I was one of those guys who thought I just had bad genetics. (And quite honestly, I probably do.) I just didn’t know what else I could possibly do to get the core I wanted.
I was lifting hard, I was eating protein, and I was doing everything I thought I needed to be doing – and still, that annoying little ring around my midsection refused to depart. That is until I took food portion control seriously.
And now? It’s an entirely different story. I have a tight core and no longer have that nagging battle looming over me.
Now, you must understand that to get chiseled, you’ll need to put in the work. You’ll need to work out, in general, do cardio, and target the core.
Secondary to that, good sleep and stress reduction also help. But that old saying “abs are made in the kitchen” is correct. It is in the kitchen where you define how well your body will react to the exercise you are doing.
Fuel yourself with good things and you will reap the benefits. Fill yourself with junk, and all the ab crunches in the world will not fix you.
So if you’re ready to see change in your core, this is how to do it. Here is the registered dietitian-approved portion control strategy you need in order to lose belly fat fast.
Eat when you’re hungry, and eat light
Simple, right? And it’s even freeing if you think about it: eat when you’re hungry, don’t eat when you’re not.
And don’t feel bound by the three meal per day model. You will probably be eating less per meal on a portion control plan, but this will likely lead to eating more often if you are active.
As a mental reference, think of a hunger scale that goes from 0 to 10: 0 is starving, 10 is stuffed. You should generally eat when you’re at about a 1 or 2. You’re hungry. Not famished, just hungry.
And how much should you eat in one sitting?
When you eat, you want to take yourself to about a 6 or 7 on the hunger scale, or around 3/4 full, then stop. This part is critical. Again, you want to be satisfied, not stuffed.
The reason you want to keep it there is that if you eat, in one sitting, more than what you’re body can process, the excess turns into fat. And that fat tends to lodge itself right in the mid-section.
Limit your intake to the amount of food your body can handle, and you will absolutely lose belly fat and see drastic changes to your core.
Use the “fist-full” rule of thumb
A visual aid that is really useful for figuring out proper portion sizing is that your meals should be very close to the size of your fist. This goes for any human being on the face of the earth — tall, short, and everything in between. The size of your fist is the specific size of a healthy meal for you.
Your fist size will take you to that earlier-mentioned 6 or 7 target mark on the hunger scale — satisfied. Not stuffed, satisfied.
Take a look at your hand. The total amount of space and density of your palm (your hand excluding fingers) is the size your protein intake should be — your fish, your chicken, whatever your choice of protein may be.
And for the carbs? Imagine scooping dry sand with your hand. You grab it, and the excess falls out. The amount you are left with in your hand is the amount of carb you should consume for one meal.
All of this, in total, will approximately equal your fist size, with the carb/protein ratio divided correctly. Note that this will not look like a lot of food on a full-sized plate, which can cause some mental barriers and disappointment.
So to aid in overcoming this, know that studies have actually shown that using a smaller plate is a great method to keep oneself on track with portion control, as the brain doesn’t register an abnormality in that case.
As far as the vegetables for your meal, you can safely eat all the non-starchy veggies you want (without added unhealthy fats). This is also where you should turn if you find yourself still feeling hungry 20 minutes after eating. Just avoid going back to the carbs and protein after you’ve already eaten that fist size, since excess, as mentioned earlier, turns into fat.
Also, as a bonus tip, when you snack between meals, say you’re at a .5 – 1 on the hunger scale, try to keep the food quantity around a half fist size in the same carb to protein ratio you would use for a full meal. And again, you can eat non-starchy vegetables freely.
Be aware of the stomach to brain “full alert” message delay
If you’re struggling to keep it to a fist size per meal, be aware that it takes time for the brain to register that you’ve eaten. There is close to a 20-minute delay between when the stomach is satisfied and when the brain receives that message.
People are usually full before they realize it.
This is extremely important to note because people consistently over-eat, as they feel hungry for 20 minutes after they’ve reached their bodies’ limits. And when the message arrives, it’s too late; they’ve already eaten double or triple what they should have.
So to overcome this, eat slow.
Eating slowly allows the digestive system to activate and do its work, which gives the brain a more real-time update as to when your stomach is satisfied.
And if you have to eat fast, just be aware of that 20-ish minute delay and stick to the fist (for a full meal) or half fist full (for a snack) so that you’re not putting on excess weight. Eat the correct amount by manually doing it the right way and your brain will get the message a few minutes later and you won’t feel that hunger anymore.
Think of your metabolism like a bonfire
You’re now aware of the exact portions to eat, but as another point of reference, consider this: we are better at burning calories when we take in limited portions.
Your metabolism is like a bonfire; calories are like the wood.
Think of when you’re sitting around a fire with your friends. When, after some time, it dies down and basically just consists of burning embers and a few small flames, putting a pinecone or a small branch on it often makes it flare up and start going again.
However, if you put a huge log on that dim fire, it bogs it down completely. This is exactly how the metabolism works with calories.
Your metabolism comes alive and keeps chugging along and burning calories when you give it small portions of food. But if you give it too much, it just bogs down and bogs you down with it.
So if you want to keep things chugging at a healthy rate of speed, eat small portions.
Eat proportional to the amount of physical activity you do on a particular day
Something else to keep in mind when it comes to portioning food is that you probably won’t need to consume as much on the days when you’re not working out as on the days when you are.
Maintain ‘eating when you’re hungry’ as the rule of thumb, but whether you’re on a two workout per week plan, a three workout per week plan, or a 5+ day plan, you probably won’t need to eat as much when you’re resting.
Learning how to adjust your regimen for those rest days is so crucial. Why make your digestive system work overtime while the rest of your body isn’t? There’s no need.
It’s one of those strange, awkward things to learn at first. And it doesn’t exactly feel natural when you’re used to eating a lot every day, but this is one of those factors that really makes the difference between having a shredded core and having extra weight there.
So on your rest days, maintain the process of eating when you’re hungry, and maintain the limited portion strategy, but don’t eat as much and watch what happens. It’s worth it.
Bonus core tip: Know how to cheat so that it helps, not so it hurts
Here’s the fun part. Remember when we talked earlier about stress? Here’s how a little cheating, in moderation, can help your core instead of hurting it. Cortisol, a stress hormone, adds weight to the mid-section. But when you eat food that you genuinely like, it helps to keep those Cortisol levels down.
Have you ever eaten your favorite food and felt relaxed afterward? That’s what’s happening.
So keeping portion control in mind — finding foods that aren’t bad for you that still taste really good is a great way to combat stress and help your core out in the process.
For example, say you really like pizza. There are countless ways to make a healthy pizza. Unfortunately, most restaurants find the greasiest, thickest, most unhealthy way to do it — but you can easily make a healthy pizza that tastes great.
You’ll find that a lot of Mexican food and/or Tex Mex can be made in an extremely healthy way as well. In fact, places like Moe’s and Chipotle have great menus full of healthy options. And the list goes on and on. Chinese places, Italian etc.
There are always ways to find healthy food that hits the taste buds right. Call it a “fake cheat.” It just takes a little searching is all. And additionally, if you are steadily working out and in good health, a little ice cream a few times a week won’t hurt you either. In fact, it will help you. You’re welcome.
You got this
A lot of people try out intense diets when attempting to get fit. Some diets are good, some are questionable, and, honestly, some things work for some people that don’t work for others. We all do, after all, have different genetics, as our ancestors ate different things based on their respective global living regions.
But if you’re eating good things and avoiding processed foods and huge amounts of sugar, the strategy outlined above will work for you, as it is universally effective.
As mentioned before, portion control is a strategy relied on by doctors who help patients to lose weight in the U.S.A. It works for everyone. And what’s great about it is that it’s not difficult to do. You’re eating often instead of eating a ton. You may even find yourself liking it, as I did.
Stay with the fist-full rule of thumb and the guidelines above and learn how to say “no” to that last bite of excess food you desperately want to eat when you know you’re already finished.
Just like when lifting weights, you learn to discipline your body to withstand pain, the mind must be disciplined to only allow the body to eat what it needs. Something I came to understand in my own portion control learning process was that it’s those last three unnecessary bites that put on the weight. Learn to say no, and you will lose belly fat in no time.
Attack the core from all angles. Stick with it. Stay working out, do some cardio, eat right, and you’ll get that tight core you want.
As the legendary Gracie family of the martial arts community says, “Eat to live, don’t live to eat.”
You got this.