Under Size Me

I, as many of you have probably done, saw the documentary “Super Size Me” with Morgan Spurlock, a few years back. It was an eye-opening (and sometimes horrifying) look into the American fascination for everything big and bigger. We have been so accustomed to this dynamic that we don’t even notice it sometimes. We “supersize” everything and don’t think twice about it, seeing it as a good thing and complaining when we feel we’re not getting enough (aka “our money’s worth”). I can only say this, of course, from my own experience, although I suspect I’m not the only one who’s been through this.

Well, it’s definitely not a good thing. Our penchant for always wanting huge portions and going for seconds or thirds has turned us into a nation of fat people (present company included). We have deluded ourselves into thinking that more and bigger is better, and yes, this has spilled into our eating habits. We eat more because we feel we have earned it, we deserve it, it’s the American way. I’ve witnessed people mocking other countries’ habits of eating smaller portions, again, thinking that more is better. How naive and how far from the truth. I consistently see people from Europe or other countries who eat everything (there are no “bad” foods in their opinion) but in moderate amounts, and they remain at a healthy weight. Yes, Europeans are sometimes very vocal about what they think of our eating practices, but honestly, are they wrong? I think not.

Just a few months back Starbucks announced a new size for iced drinks – the “Trenta”. 30 ounces of iced tea or iced coffee. That’s more than the average adult human stomach can hold! Am I the only one who thinks this is insane? Have we lost all sense of proportion, of reality even? This frightens and worries me. As a nation, we seem to be lost in a never-ending battle to have more, do more, make more, be more. Where does it stop? When do we say “Enough”?

Well, I *did* say Enough.

When I saw that Starbucks announcement, I was shocked and even a little disgusted. And I also made a conscious decision right then and there to always get small drinks whenever I go to Starbucks (or any eatery) from that point on. So whenever I go to my favorite Starbucks, instead of getting a Grande or a Venti, I now always order a Tall (12 ounces) if it’s an iced or frozen beverage, or a Short (8 ounces), if it’s a hot beverage. ENOUGH. It doesn’t matter how thirsty I am, I will always stick to that limit. Some of my friends think I’m crazy, but so be it.

I have also adopted the same philosophy when it comes to eating, be it at home or out. I have decided to adopt the European view of food as nourishment for my body and also something to savor and appreciate, not something to shove into my mouth while doing countless other things, effectively becoming a zombie while I eat. Smaller portions make my meals seem more special, and help me enjoy them more. By adopting this healthier view of food and drink, coupled with more walking and some yoga on the side, will allow me to lose some weight while still enjoying one of the truly fun things in life – food and drink. Bon Appétit!!!

How about you? Have you made any changes in the way you view food in general, and your own eating/drinking habits in particular? I would love to hear your stories! Please leave a comment or take to me on Twitter. Thanks for reading!


17 thoughts on “Under Size Me

  1. I sometimes eat fast food, but I’ve changed the way I eat it. I now order a small value-priced item or two, saving me money. I’ve found that it’s usually plenty of food. At “real” restaurants, I often share now, and that works fine too.

    Nice post. Well composed.

    By the way, I hope you’ll add me to your extensive Blogroll!

    1. I also try to eat fast food only if there’s no other option, and if I do, I’ll get small sizes of everything, besides cutting out the mayo and secret sauces and salt. Ugh. I think I’ve been to McDonald’s once this year; no joke. When I don’t bring lunch to the office and go out looking for a lunch spot, fast food joints are not even an option for me. And yes, now that I’m so aware of food portion sizes, it’s appalling to me how large the so-called “small” size portions are. By European standards, they’d be considered large. Sharing is also a great idea, especially at the big chains, where each single portion could easily feed three people.

      You’ve now been added to my blogroll! Glad to have you. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hi Rick! I too was appalled by the movie “Super Size Me.”

    I’ve been food-conscious for a number of years now, but all too often, I still eat too much of it. It seems that the more I slow down, the easier it is to stop myself from overeating. After all, even eating too much of healthy foods is a problem!

    This was the first I’ve heard of Starbucks new 30 oz sized option. That is ludicrous! Like you said, our stomachs can’t even hold 30 oz.

    Unfortunately, the only way we can stop the food and drink portion sizes from growing is to stop demanding more. Restaurants and grocers offering the larger portions are only half of the problem. If no one bought the bigger and better portion size, they would stop selling it. 😉

    P.S. I was so excited to see a post from you show up in my inbox!

    1. Thanks for your kind P.S., Jenny. You’re awesome.

      I’m so aware now about food portion sizes that I’m constantly shocked when I look at the portions I’m given even after ordering a “small” size. It’s insane, and until this pattern undergoes a monumental paradigm shift, we will continue to be the fattest nation on earth. The sad thing is that it extends to all facets of life: money, social status, work, relationships, etc. We want more and we don’t know when to say “enough”. Hopefully, our words will be able to transcend the computer screen and change hearts and minds and lives. And you’re so right about demand; the only reason our portions keep growing is because we demand it and pay for it. As for me, “small” is now my magic word, the mantra I keep repeating every time I eat outside of my apartment, be it a restaurant, a small café, or a friend’s house. No more insanity.

  3. I have just looked up 30oz (880ml or so) and that is a scary-sized drink indeed!
    In Britain, we’re not quite at the stage of America with regards to portion sizes and obesity but I believe we are the worst in Europe (stronger links with the US and US media, I guess.) I see young children who waddle and the future worries me.
    One of the best (non-fiction) books I read in recent years was called French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano. She wrote from a completely personal viewpoint (no pseudo-science) about her theories on why French women remain slim despite the cheese, cream, red wine, chocolat etc that French cuisine is famous for. It was interesting and made total sense.
    I think it is very difficult to teach yourself how to view food healthily if you’ve been raised in a culture where more is best. I overeat and can sit wondering why I continue to eat when I am aware that my stomach is full to the point of uncomfortable. I’m actually thinking it as I reach for the last piece of chocolate cake “Why? Why do I do this?” I know there’s a basic human instinct to fatten oneself up for the future potential famine but surely my intelligence should be able to override that instinct?
    Anyway, it was lovely to see a post from you pop up in the RSS-thingy.
    Karen (Scotland)

    1. Hi Karen, and thanks for stopping by!

      I read the book from Mireille Giuliano that you mentioned, and I actually learned a LOT from it, even though I’m a boy, LOL! I’ve always admired the French way of seeing food as nourishment and social experience, but always in small quantities and accompanied by wine and walking. I’ve taken to walking about 2.5 miles a day, minimum, and eating smaller portions (no seconds!) and it’s made a huge difference. I’m losing weight, eating *everything* I want, and feeling great. No more insanity on a plate. And yes, I think we all have a moment of reflection where we ask ourselves, why am I doing this? At some point, the food isn’t even enjoyable, yet we keep eating. We were taught from day one to eat all the food on our plate if we wanted dessert, or if we wanted to go play later, or if we wanted (fill in the blank). Is it any wonder that now we have to clear our plates, no matter how full they are? We need to start seeing food differently, and listen to our bodies when we eat. This is a very interesting topic, one that needs to be discussed more openly. I’m glad you’re here!

  4. Hola Rick,

    Again a very interesting and well-structured post…

    I still remember the first great glass of iced-tea I had at a business meeting in the USA…..… I remember I thought…’how can they drink such an amount!’….;-)

    But this is not just a difference between continents, there’s also a great difference between European countries….i also remember my first 1 liter beer in Germany… OMG!!!…

    In Spain, we drink ‘chatos’ (small glasses of beer), or a little cup of wine, they keep the temperature of the drink (so we don’t need icecubes that finally mix flavors) and we repeat (if we want, but not necessary)…… but we prefer to enjoy what we drink with a nice conversation….

    Social habits are important in Spain, we pay a lot of attention to personal relationships….so every lunchtime or dinner is special, almost everyday of the week… for us is a real break, we stop, we chat, we enjoy the company, we try not to think about work in those moments….. we enjoy the meal….we enjoy what we drink…and then, we go on working ;-).

    No restrictions of alcohol here, so people are not in a hurry to get drunk.. and just enjoy!

    From school, we are taught to pay attention to our diet, to eat healthy. It’s true that we don’t eat a great amount of food… we adore to taste the food….a real pleasure…. The Mediterranean diet…. in our culture is very important to have different kind of food everyday, I mean, proteins, carbohydrates, vegetables, etc… that makes our diet almost fat free… This is easy, of course, we have many different kind of food here, a small country, with the coast close to everywhere, so many different fish, or vegetables, easy to access….

    My height is 164 cm (5 ft. 4,5 inch), and 53 kg ;-)… here is Spain, women, we are very feminine and coquettish, we adore taking care of us….

    Saludos, i hope you are ok

    1. Hola, Victoria! Glad to see you here again. I love your portrayal of life in Spain as it revolves around food and friends and social interactions. How refreshing! Why can’t we Americans be more like that? It’s so sad that we see food as this commodity that must be available in industrial-sized portions and we completely lose sight of the real purpose of food, which is to nourish the body, and enjoy the company of good friends and/or family while doing so. I love Mediterranean cuisine, and I wish I could put olive oil on everything! 🙂 Where in Spain do you live? I’ve been to Seville, but that’s it. My family emigrated from Galicia many years ago and never kept in touch with our relatives back in Spain. That’s very unfortunate, isn’t it? But I do plan on returning to Spain some day, maybe for good. 🙂 Again, great to see you again! ¡Hasta la próxima!

      1. Hola Rick,

        hehe.. i even put olive oil on my skin.. pure vitamin E ;-)….and its perfect as a home hair repair mask ;-)…just on the hair ends for 1/2 an hour and then using regular shampoo.. the hair becomes silk…. 😉

        tips aside 😉

        You make me smile, because, even I live and work in Madrid for the last 18 years, i was born in Galicia ;-).

        BTW, My italian grandfather emigrated to the USA and there were born my mother.. after the years my Spanish father met her there and when married went to live to Spain ;-)… i know much about USA culture ;-)….

        And what makes you more consumists than we is that you have MUCH SPACE at home ;-)… not like us, hehe.. we live in small flats, at least in expensive Madrid ;-)…

        For some months i worked in Sevilla… ohh.. wonderful city… i adore dancing.. and flamenco is one of my passions, olé!

        Have a nice day

        never is too late to know your roots….

  5. Hi Rick! I just found your blog and this post made me super happy because I didn’t even know they made “short” drinks at Starbucks. I never finish a tall and always feel like I waste my money because of it. I am definitely going to have to ask for that next time I go!

  6. Hi! I also just recently found your blog from Be More with Less! Great find!

    I really appreciate your paragraph about your European take on food. I’ve lost close to 100 pounds adopting the minimalist lifestyle, even though I didn’t know what it was called. If I’m hungry I eat enough to satisfy my appetite. If I’m not hungry, I don’t eat. When eating out, ordering a la carte is a great way to minimize your consumption. I also recently became a vegetarian, which has helped me achieve a more minimalist lifestyle.

    I just signed a lease on a great apartment, and starting the packing process has made me realize how much stuff I have that I don’t even use or need. I’m looking forward to reading more from you!

  7. I really can appreciate your feelings about this because I too find myself in the same predicament. I am overweight and hate the American mindset on bigger is always better, go big or go home, if you cant run with the big dogs stay on the porch. Yes as a country I think we have all lost our minds! Now with that said its easy to feel that way but so much harder to not eat that way and live that way once you have really lived that way for any amount of time. I personally will go through periods where I do well, moderate my portions, chew my food and focus more on the company I keep and less on the meal itself. Then I will have periods usually during stressful times or hormonal times 😦 where I too lose my mind. Sometimes I feel like I’m some sort of a junkie that fell off the wagon. It really really sucks and I feel ashamed of it when it happens. I mean after alI I sure hold some strong opionons here and this officially makes me a big time hypocrite. Glad to know there are others out there that are struggling too but refuse to give up. We’ll get there someday darn it!! 🙂

    1. I can relate to this 100%, Jen. 😦
      I have full sympathy with anyone who struggles to maintain their weight and, at the same time, can feel myself judging them (and myself).
      I judge myself more than others. I live a moderate life, am frugal in so many areas, but, when it comes to food….?
      I think reading about other people’s attempts to reduce consumption (food or possessions and their successes (and failures) definitely helps change the mid-set that I have.
      As you say, we’ll get there someday!
      Karen (Scotland)

  8. Last night I ate half an ice-cream sandwich. Yes, I took it out of the freezer, sliced it with my favorite santoku knife (just because it’s my favorite), put half back in the box, and ate half. It was perfect. Maybe I’ll work my way to thirds. 😀

  9. I just discovered your blog – through Be More with Less – and agree 100% with this post. It is shocking to me to see what we Americans are doing to our bodies. We are consuming far more food than our bodies need and are ending up limiting our abilities to enjoy life and damaging our health.

  10. I’m completely on the same page! And even more so since watching FOOD,INC the movie. Wow, talk about incentive for change. We need to get our act together as a nation or shame on us!

    When I eat junk food I feel a long list of bad things, emotionally and physically. When I eat real food I feel only positive and peaceful. And the extra payoff is healthy weight, beautiful skin, sound sleep and energy for the whole day.

    Eating to live well is one of the best things you can do to improve your life. And include daily physical activity 🙂

  11. When I go out to eat with my family, I purposely choose smaller portions, or forego ordering for myself altogether.

    I do this because I know my wife and kids never finish their portions. We either end up leaving half-eaten meals on the table, or take a doggie-box home, where it stays in the fridge for a couple days because no one wants to eat left-overs, then gets tossed in the trash.

    I forego ordering my meal, then combine their left-overs and eat the best I can. That saves the price of one meal.

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