The Problem with Serving Sizes in America

“Oh, this only has sixty calories! Great!” Wait, does that say in half a slice of bread?

I’m so sick of these ridiculous serving sizes. Sure, some of the companies are coming into sanity with sensible servings, but they’re still ridiculous. No one eats a half a slice of bread as a meal. Do you crumble it up on top of your sandwich innards? Use it as a sort of plate? Or, how about when you want some chips? Oh, you can only eat eight chips? Do you count them out? What kind of life is that? This is why I’ve always felt calorie counting to be so ridiculous.

Write everything down, they say. You’ll eat less, they say.

Why? Why can’t I just eat at leisure? Choose what my stomach craves?

Here’s the little secret:  you can.

And you don’t have to be a workoutaholic to do it, either. No one tells you that, but I’d rather eat a sleeve of girl scout cookies when I’m craving them and be a happy human than count them as an evil source of caloric imbalance. That’s a ready way to an eating disorder, and let’s remember, I still have one. I may not be a scale slave anymore, or weep over a french fry like I once did, but it’s never going away. The foundation has been laid, and it’s my job to ignore the hateful inner dialogue as best I can.

I’ve got about ten pounds to lose, however. Probably (okay, yes) more, but I’m going to be realistic and say ten. And that’s okay, because that puts me right on board with most of America. I don’t own a scale anymore, because as aforementioned, that’s a huge trigger for me, and so I go by how my clothing fits and how I feel. I don’t even do measurements as they recommend when you start a fitness plan, of which I’m sort of on. I know that it would be gratifying in some ways to see the changes faster in the form of inches, but I also know what that would do to me, mentally, and so I’m just going with the flow.

What’s been so frustrating for me, though, is that apart from “healthy” foods being so much more expensive than “unhealthy” foods, the serving sizes on all of them are absolutely asinine. Even in cereal, which I never used to eat, but now eat semi-regularly. 1/2 a cup. Excuse me? Let me get out my measuring cups and make sure I get this right. Also, that’s not enough cereal unless you’re a child. My boys don’t even eat 1/2 a cup of cereal, and they’re six and four. And yes, they’re both right where they should be weight wise.

Let’s move on to everyone’s favorite (unless you have a nut allergy), peanut butter. 2 TBSP. No matter if you buy all natural, processed, unsweetened, crunchy, whatever. TWO TABLESPOONS. Do you know how small that is? Have you ever tried to make something with peanut butter, other than ants on a log, and only used two tablespoons? That’s stupid. Pass.

It isn’t just those things. It’s everything. Very seldom do you find a serving size that actually fits your hunger needs. Sure, most of your diet should be composed of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. I get that. I completely get that. But…how many of you actually succeed in your busy lives at maintaining that sort of diet while also meeting all your nutritional needs? You most likely don’t. You’ll reach for a bag of carrots and forget to account for all the vitamins you’re missing. Or, you’ll do what so many people do, and choose the diet options. Rather than spread peanut butter on toast, you’ll use jam because it has less calories. Never mind the protein you’re missing. You’ll choose sugar free and consume aspartame which has been linked to countless health problems. Low fat means substitutions, like sodium and chemicals like Olestra. None of this is even remotely good for us, but we want to be THINright? Who needs a healthy functioning body when we’re thin? 

I guess this is the rant where I complain about added sugars, fats, and sodium. About how they’re all unnecessary and making America overweight. It’s also the rant where I talk about how those serving sizes, put in place to accommodate for all of the shit pumped into our food, can actually spur eating disorders. They contribute to an unhealthy society. One where the food makes you overweight, unhealthy, uncomfortable, and then the serving sizes tell you that you shouldn’t have ever consumed enough to make you full in the first place. We should all be living in a way that we’re always a little bit hungry, right? Because that’s realistic. Now, eat your baked chips and be happy, dammit.

Food is life, though. It is. Seamed rich into every culture are dishes passed down from generation to generation. In every family there are secret recipes. When we close our eyes and reminisce about holidays and vacations, we recall the flavors we consumed while we were there. My husband and I still talk about a taco shop we visited in North Carolina. STILL. At risk of sounding like too much of a foodie, there really are flavors of life, and those flavors are, actually, in food. It’s not even a metaphor…it just is.

I know I’m not alone in this. I know that I have body dysmorphia, so I will forever see myself in a less than desirable manner. I also know that I’d rather spend my life travelling and tasting rather than starving myself on rice cakes and kale. Here we sit, though, when I really let myself think about it, in a society that contributes to obesity while creating unobtainable beauty standards. The thigh gap? Are you kidding me? How about the nutritional gap? So many things need to change about the way we sell our food, cook our food, and consume our food. I’m sure I’ll receive all kinds of advice on clean eating and vegetarianism (been there, done that), and that’s cool and I appreciate you, but what I’m trying to say is…what about everyone else? What about the people who do not have access to the resources or the knowledge to consume food in the way we should? And when do we hold companies accountable for choosing sales over health? When do we simply stop buying the junk food and forcing it off the shelves?

Rant over. Go eat some peanut butter. 🙂