Jenny commented on my last post:
Not to complain too bitterly about being short, but my normal, weight-maintenance meals are already small. If I eat to lose, we are talking child-sized portions which is a drag without significant motivation.
Isn't it a drag, though? I took a minute to write out a 1500-calorie menu that sort of mimics the pattern that is most comfortable for me (fairly light but egg-based breakfast, medium-sized lunch, fairly hearty dinner). This is what I came up with:
A 300-ish calorie Breakfast
- 2 soft-boiled eggs
- 1 slice pumpernickel toast with a pat of butter and optional smear of marmalade (alternatively, scramble the eggs in the butter and leave it off the toast)
- 6 ounce mini can of V-8
A 500-ish calorie Lunch
- A couple of cups of chopped mixed salad greens and raw vegetables
- 5-ounce can of oil-packed tuna
- Half a cup of cooked chickpeas
- Balsamic vinegar to taste (just rely on the tuna for oil)
- 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
A 700-ish calorie Dinner
- 1 roasted, spiced chicken thigh, with skin
- 1/2 cup raita (half yogurt, half chopped vegetables)
- 3/4 cup grated carrot salad with spices and lemon
- Steamed green vegetables -- say, 10 spears asparagus
- 1 cup grain pilaf
- *Allowing for about 1.5 tablespoon of added oil total from the chicken, salad, and pilaf.
+ + +
All that is fairly hearty-looking because of lots of vegetables and because it was homemade to my tastes. Nevertheless, it is quite possible to have a depressingly small-looking plate. If you want to stick to 500 calories or so for lunch at your typical sandwich place, you get the sandwich, generally, and nothing else. You might be able to manage a half-sandwich and a cup of soup, depending on the soup. Coleslaw will set you back farther than you think. Fries are most likely right out.
For instance, let me grab some lunch data from a casual chain restaurant that has it online, Chili's. Lunch off the menu that would suit someone my size would be:
- On average, about half a burger or half a burrito. No sides.
- Shrimp fajitas will work and probably taste great, and I would get to eat all the sizzling innards -- but only one tortilla. (Ordering the shrimp option is a good trick for right-sizing meals, incidentally. They never give you much, and the cost will help you appreciate it.)
- Nachos are one of my favorite things, but I have to split them with two friends. And I am done with lunch already!
- A "Fresh Mex" bowl sounds like the sort of thing that I should be able to eat, and looks tasty, but I only get half.
- Kids' meals? Okay, this strategy can work. If I happen to be in the mood to eat a circular burger, the teeny pair of sliders come in under the bar, at least if I stick with fruit on the side. Actually most of the kids' meals would work that way, except the pizzas. This is how I could also get a piece of plain grilled chicken that gives me room for fries and fruit.
- Main-dish salads? I only get part of them. Less than half the buffalo chicken salad, about three-quarters of the Caribbean salad with grilled chicken, a third of the "quesadilla explosion salad." Oh, by the way, that is without any dressing. Fortunately salsa makes an excellent dressing substitute.
- Bowl of soup? Those work. A lone bowl of chicken enchilada soup is just about right.
- Tacos? There are three in an order, and for most varieties, two of them makes your meal.
- Lunch combos! They are supposed to be smaller lunch portions. With salad and the included fries, will any work? The short answer is "No." You could give away your fries... no, wait, still too big. How about if you only eat half the lunch combo? Now we are getting somewhere, as most of these are eligible if you only eat half of it (half a salad, half a portion of fries, half a chicken burrito or whatever).
- What about the "lighter choices?" If I am hellbent on cleaning my plate, I could choose some of these (though not all). They don't look bad, actually. There's a steak, for example, or various grilled chicken meals with pico de gallo and salad or broccoli, even a little rice.
In sum, a not-quite-five-foot-tall woman like me -- fairly physically active -- gets to eat approximately half of the average restaurant meal, without fries, unless she doesn't mind sticking with a simple bowl of soup.
And that is without saving any room for a dessert -- or rather, for a couple of bites of someone else's dessert.
This gets old really fast -- unless you can really internalize the notion that restaurants portion for big, hungry males, and small women are second-class citizens.
...Oh, wait, it still gets old really fast.
Yes, yes, I could think of it as free leftovers that I get to take home in a box. I used to be in the habit of taking an insulated lunch bag with me when I went out for the day, and could probably be induced to do it again. Still -- the only way to avoid feeling like you are stuck with a child's portion (or convincing yourself to overdo it) is to deeply internalize what "right-sized" food looks like. This is possible, I have found, but it takes a lot of practice -- meaning, for me, a lot of deliberately ordered, deliberately half-eaten meals, to disconnect my notion that cleaning my plate is the norm.