If your goal is weight loss, you probably know there’s a limit to how much you can eat. You shouldn’t starve yourself, but you should eat fewer calories than you’re burning. People usually do that by either restricting their portions or by counting their calories.
Here’s why these methods are different:
Calorie reduction entails eating fewer calories. This method doesn’t focus on the quality of the food you’re ingesting, but rather its quantity. Conversely, portion control is less mathematical and is said to be healthier.
Unfortunately, choosing the wrong method for your personality and goals will hinder your weight loss. That’s why you should read this article as we compare the pros and cons of portion control vs. calorie reduction.
If you choose calorie reduction, you’ll have to count your calories every day. Plenty of fitness apps can help you. All you have to do is type in the foods you’re eating and the workouts you’re doing, and the app will calculate everything.
If you have a fitness watch, you can sync it to the app so that it can upload your personalised workout info. Using such a gadget makes your job easier, plus you’re sure your caloric output is accurate.
Most calorie counting apps are intuitive and help you keep track of your fitness habits. It depends on you if you’re using one of these apps to simply ensure you’re under your daily caloric limit or to eat healthily. If your goal is to eat quality, nutritious food, take into account your macros and micronutrients as well.
On the downside, calorie counting involves weighing each of your food items before eating. That can be pretty awkward to do if you’re visiting or out with your friends. It’s also inconvenient if you have small children or a very hectic life.
Portion control is like reducing your calories but without all the counting. You’ll simply have to use a few visual cues to adjust your portion sizes according to your needs. As you’re not spending all that time weighing your food and filling in the data on your fitness app, you’ll be less stressed.
Besides, you can use this method even when you’re visiting without attracting attention to yourself. You’ll find it especially useful when you’re on a holiday or at a buffet dinner party.
This article suggests that the right portions for most meals can be calculated depending on your biological gender:
- Meat, fish, eggs, dairy: 1 palm (women); 2 palms (men)
- Vegetables: 1 fist (women); 2 fists (men)
- Bread, grain, fruit: 1 cupped hand (women); 2 cupped hands (men)
- Butter, nuts, seeds, nut butter: 1 thumb (women); 2 thumbs (men)
This method works better than putting less food on your plate because people are apparently biased and we can’t control ourselves when it comes to how much we eat. Our plate sizes also influence how much we’re eating.
So which method is easier for you? The answer depends on your personality.
If you’re rigorous and exact, calorie counting may be best. This method will give you all the stats you crave for so that you can control your weight loss journey in minute detail.
If weighing everything that goes into your mouth gives you anxiety, go with portion control.
Eating healthily is important for two main reasons that regard your long-term weight loss.
First, it ensures you’ll keep your stress levels low and your metabolism running at a normal pace. Conversely, a slow metabolism makes you gain weight even if you’re eating very little.
Secondly, it decreases the risk of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular and respiratory problems or diabetes. Therefore, you’ll be able to do challenging workouts that help you lose more weight.
At first glance, portion control can seem better than simple calorie reduction because it helps you eat healthy foods.
However, keep in mind that, while you’re eating healthily, you should also restrict your portion sizes. Unless you’re a bodybuilder that’s 24/7 in the gym, 8000 calories worth of healthy food will lead to weight gain.
Another big problem is that some people reduce their calories without minding the quality of their foods. It’s tempting to continue eating a diet of pasta, pizza, and chocolate and still lose weight if you’re doing caloric restriction. After all, the internet says you need to burn 3500 calories to lose a pound of fat.
But that only works in the short term. In the long term, it slows your metabolism, raises your cortisol levels, and creates various health issues. Eating unhealthy leads to insomnia, mental fog, and tiredness.
So, what’s the best option?
Portion control is best if you need precise visual rules on healthy eating, as well as a strict setting. Calorie counting is best if you want enough freedom to set your macros and to get creative with food.
Calorie restriction helps you lose weight faster. That’s because the fitness app you’ll be using can help you set very drastic weight loss goals. As such, you can go up to 3-4 pounds weekly.
That said, remember that fad diets are associated with long-term weight gain because they slow down your metabolism. Fad diets are also linked to water weight loss, which isn’t sustainable.
Portion control following the above method helps you lose weight slowly, but steadily. As such, you can even accelerate your metabolism to lose more weight as you advance on your fitness journey.
The point is not to overdo it here either. Some people are tempted to restrict their portion sizes too much, which leads to the same disastrous effects as exaggerated calorie restriction. Sure, intermittent fasting has its promoters, but remember that key little word: “intermittent.” Doing it every day for months is just another fad diet.
Most Effective Option
The most effective option is the one you’ll use correctly and stress-free.
If caloric restriction gives you a lot of anxiety, self-blame, or pushes you to reduce your calories more every day, don’t do it. Even if it helps you lose weight fast at first, it’s not worth the trouble.
Conversely, if portion control gives you too much room to cheat, it definitely won’t be effective for you.
The most effective method allows you to plan according to your goals.
You may prefer calorie reduction because you’ll know how to plan your workouts and meals according to your weight loss goals. You can set your macros correctly and eat healthy, nutritious foods. You can also see how each workout adjusts your daily macros so that you can choose the best routine for your goals.
But portion control is also a precise method that helps you plan your meals. It has a steeper learning curve, though, because you’ll have to research the right food/ exercise balance for yourself. For instance, if you prefer muscle toning and strength-building exercises, you’ll have to increase your protein intake. If you’re doing more cardio, you may need more carbs.
Wrap Up: What Should You Try?
In this article, we analysed portion control and calorie reduction from all perspectives. We discussed their ease of use, health impact, and long-term effectiveness.
As you can see, both methods work for quick weight loss, but quick isn’t always better. Oftentimes, slow and steady wins the race.
Focus on healthy choices, food that nourishes you, and less stress. Whether you choose caloric restriction or portion control, remember to be gentle on yourself.
That said, we’re happy to hear more from you. Why are you trying to lose weight? What have you tried so far? What did this article miss? Let’s talk in the comment section!