One of the best ways to lose or maintain weight is to get a handle on your portions. We all know North American portions are grossly out of control. Eating normal-sized meals (and being satisfied with them!) is one of the secrets of the French Paradox, and one of the reasons why a lot of women throughout the world (Europe in particular) are able to enjoy the wonderful food they do yet stay slim.
But you don’t have to be European to master this skill. It takes a little effort, at first, because unfortunately we’ve all grown accustomed to our massive bowls of pasta and steaks the size of Frisbees. Here are some tricks to painlessly downsize those portions:
Most of us eat until our plates are clean. So an easy way to eat less? Use smaller plates. Filling up a smaller plate (10-inches instead of 12- or 14-inch plate) will do a Jedi mind trick on your brain. You won’t feel sorry for yourself with a pathetic-looking portion in the center of a big plate. Studies back this up: when researchers gave study participants 34- or 17-ounce bowls and told them to help themselves to ice cream, those with the bigger bowls doled out 31 percent more ice cream.
Do not get seduced by the siren call of buffets. Obviously, buffets are a big enemy of portion control. One problem: you want to “get your money’s worth” at a buffet and so you keep helping yourself to more and more…and more. If you can’t avoid going to a buffet, try to order from the a la carte menu instead of exercising the buffet option. If you can’t do that, try to go up to the buffet only once. I know, it sounds crazy. It may feel like you’re “wasting” money, but think about how much you’re saving in the long run…heart meds are expensive, after all.
The Japanese have a practice known as hara hachi bu, which means eating until you feel about 80 percent full. At that point, your stomach is probably 100 percent full. Your brain just doesn't realize it yet. And the Japanese? Way healthier than us.
"Cut" your plate in half. One-half gets filled with vegetables and/or fruit. The other half is for equal parts carbs and protein (eg. only half a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, the other half is a salad!).
The unfortunate fact is, when you're eating with others you're likely to wolf down more food. You'll eat about 35 percent more when you dine with one friend versus alone. With a group of seven? You'll eat 96 percent more. But just to be clear: there's no way I'm going to discourage an evening out with friends. Too important for a healthy, happy life, in my book. Instead, what I'm recommending is to be aware of this tendency. Pay close attention to what you're ordering, what you're sharing, and how many servings you're taking.
Plate your food in the kitchen, and leave the casserole dish behind. Why? If you bring dishes of food to the table, you're more likely to help yourself to seconds (and thirds, and fourths...). So unless those platters are only filled with veggies and salad...leave them out of reach.
Now, your turn: any portion-control tricks and tips to share? What works for you?
Dark circles under your eyes—is there anything more instantly aging? If you don’t happen to be a middle linebacker, the dark smudge look is probably not what you’re going for. So what causes those pesky, persistent dark shadows under your eyes? And more importantly—what can you do about them?
Here are the most common issues at play:
If your nose is stuffy, there will be a back-up of pressure in the veins that drain from your eyes to your nose. As a result, those dilated vessels cause a shadowy cast and a darkening of the skin. Treat nasal congestion with a neti-pot, saline rinses, or prescription nasal spray.
Anemia essentially means low blood count, and it’s a common cause of fatigue in women (it can also afflict kids and mess with their sleep, among other things). Outwardly, anemia tends to give you the oh-so-flattering combination of pasty skin and dark shadows under the eyes. Once detected (via a blood test), anemia can be treated with dietary modification and/or iron supplements.
Dark circles can sometimes be caused by excessive pigment in the skin around the eyes. This is often hereditary; it can be a common problem for certain skin types, especially in people of African or Asian descent. But pigment can also be caused by pregnancy, or excessive sun exposure. Wearing a high SPF, broad-spectrum sunscreen, and sunglasses, are your preventive strategies. Treatments like skin lightening cream and lasers may help—see a dermatologist for these.
This one, to me, is evidence of injustice...in a universal sense. Nobody should have to endure simultaneous puffiness and deep shadows. How is that even possible? Sadly, it is. Listen, if your swollen eyelids are big enough to cast an actual shadow…girl, you need to go straight here and get some help for all that puffiness.
Well, chalk this up to one more thing you can blame your mom for. (Don’t worry, ladies—your own daughters will do the same.) Your genes can give you excessive skin pigment (see above), or deep-set bone structure that causes more pronounced shadows, for example. Or, some people have naturally more transparent skin, which will also worsen the appearance of under-eye shadows. I’m mentioning the heredity factor, because I think a certain acceptance is in order, here. Sometimes, it’s just the way your face is made.
A bruised discolouration under the eyes is a common sign of allergies. Why? It’s probably a combination of nasal congestion (see above) and skin irritation due to itchiness. If allergies are at the root of your dark circles, there are plenty of options for treatment: antihistamines, allergy shots, nasal spray, eye drops, and prevention through avoidance of your allergen. Again, see your doctor for an individually tailored regimen.
More unfairness, coming up. With age, we lose fat and collagen in our faces, and this is simply a natural process. But your overall body weight has something to say about this. I’ve written in the past about the adage that a woman, over a certain age, has to choose between her face and her rear end. A nice trim behind means less body fat, and less facial fat…which potentially means a more sunken appearance under your eyes. All you can do is maintain a healthy weight. That, you can control. Getting older every year? Not so much.
Some of the same factors that contribute to under-eye bags can also contribute to under-eye shadows. These are things like insufficient sleep, excessive alcohol intake, stress, and smoking. Keep yourself healthy, keep your habits in check...be rewarded with a more bright-eyed look.
Beyond the specific solutions for the above problems, there are more general remedies for dark circles. Options like surgery, fillers, and laser treatment may be worth considering. And then, of course, there’s concealer. Personally, I’m finding that as I get older I’m using a lighter hand with under-eye concealer…because the only thing worse than dark shadows under your eyes is dark circles inexpertly concealed with cakey concealer that settles into your wrinkles. Am I right?
It’s an under-recognized cause of sleep trouble in kids. But it’s not uncommon. It’s nothing sexy or new-age, and it’s not a new discovery.
I’m talking about iron deficiency.
Hands up: who’s familiar with bedtime battles? Just about all of us. But I bet, for some of you, iron is at the root of those battles, and you don’t even realize it yet.
My first son, now 8, had longstanding difficulty falling asleep. For ages, I thought I was doing something wrong. I thought I needed to sleep train him. Or maybe, to co-sleep. To be tougher. To be less tough. To change our bedtime rituals...
I read book after book on the subject. Everyone has an opinion on this, am I right? I would get a knot in my stomach as bedtime approached. Until, one night a few years ago as I lay beside him, gritting my teeth and waiting for him to fall asleep as he struggled and flopped around—fighting sleep, it seemed to me—it suddenly dawned on me: he was acting exactly like a patient with Restless Legs Syndrome. But this was not something I was used to seeing in kids—it’s typically a condition that older adults get, often people with other illnesses. It’s a frustrating syndrome for many people, and can cause great difficulties with sleep. I dug out my textbooks and jumped onto my most up-to-date online resources, and discovered that, indeed, kids can get restless legs. And one of the main causes: iron deficiency. A lightbulb clicked on. Aha. Now that made sense. The kid was a super-picky eater—he hardly ever ate meat or any other dietary sources of iron.
Increasingly, we’re realizing how common iron deficiency actually is in children. We’ve always recommended iron-fortified cereals as a first solid food for infants; many people now recommend starting with meat as a first food, specifically because of the iron issue.
The only way to know for sure is to see your doctor and have a blood test done. But to give you an idea, here are some of the symptoms of iron deficiency in kids:
If any of this is ringing a bell for you, you may need to take your tot to the doctor and get him or her tested for iron deficiency. If the level is low...what next?
Iron can be a difficult mineral for our bodies to absorb, but fortunately a variety of foods contain iron. A combination of these food sources works best, as some are more bioavailable than others. Pro tip: have iron-rich foods in combination with vitamin C-rich food (like oranges and tomatoes), which helps our bodies absorb the iron.
Some examples of iron-rich food:
Bonus tip: try cooking with a cast-iron skillet or frying pan. This one small change will increase the iron content of foods—especially in acidic food (like tomatoes) and high-water content food.
For some kids, dietary iron may not be enough. Some kids need supplements, but this is a conversation to have with your doctor.
And while you’re thinking about iron, don’t forget about yourself. Iron deficiency in pre-menopausal women is extremely common, too, and a frequent cause for that oh-so-ubiquitous complaint of fatigue.
Next time you start worrying about hair loss—and not even from your own anemia, but from positively pulling out your hair trying to get your little angel to sleep—give a thought to your kid’s iron intake.
Once I got my son on iron supplements, his sleep miraculously improved. Of course, I then had to deal with the mom guilt of allowing him to become nutritionally deficient...but that’s a story for another time...