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Parental influence on your ideas of portion size

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Old 02-01-2007, 05:04 PM   #1
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Default Parental influence on your ideas of portion size

I was thinking about this topic today. I eat skinless chicken drumsticks pretty much every day for dinner, and I always have two. I think this stems from my experiences growing up. Whenever we had chicken drumsticks, my mom always gave everyone two. This was the same for my dad and my 6-foot older brother and my slightly shorter but highly active younger brother. To this day, I always eat two drumsticks, and it never really occurs to me to eat three. When I think about it, I realize that would seem kind of abnormal or gluttinous to eat more than that in my mind. I think this stems from how my mom fed us all of those years.

Unfortunately, when it came to other food (especially carbs), my mom would pile the plate a mile high, so my ideas of normal portion size were somewhat skewed regarding other foods. Also, when I ordered Chinese food in college, and the chicken came in chunks and not in drumsticks, I'm sure I ate more than the amount of meat that would have been on two drumsticks. However, if Chinese food chicken came as drumsticks, I probably would have only eaten two.

My mom also always said we could only have 3 pieces of pizza. So, none of us ever ate more than that, whether it was deep dish or original crust. However, I think I also usually ate 3 because that's what we were "supposed" to get, and I felt it was my share. I probably didn't always need 3 whole slices! If my mom had told us we only got two, I probably would have eaten two all my life, and been fine with it.

Do you think that your parents' behavior played a key role in determining what you consider/considered an appropriate portion?

My mom grew up in an environment where carbs were much more plentiful then meat, and so maybe her ideas/behaviors were also shaped by that???

What's your experience/opinion?

Last edited by Tara D : 02-01-2007 at 06:09 PM.
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Old 02-01-2007, 05:26 PM   #2
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For me it's not portion size but dessert at the end of every meal. We always had something sweet at the end of lunch and dinner.

Growing up we also always stopped at Dairy Queen on the way out of town for a "treat". My Dh and I made a deal with each other that we can only go to Dairy Queen if we've biked at least 2o+ miles.

The sweets after dinner I'm still fighting to get over. I have a feeling it's something I'll always have to deal with. Most of the time I can ignore it but if the "need" is too strong and won't go away I'll brush my teeth. That usually does the trick.

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Old 02-01-2007, 05:42 PM   #3
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beth - I end almost every meal with a tiny piece of chocolate. To me it works because it signals end of meal. I am much more likely to overeat food than sweets.

I do remember we all got the same amount too. How weird that a 5 year old would have the same amount of food on her plate as an adult.
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Old 02-01-2007, 05:50 PM   #4
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I don't remember that my Mom did any of that when I was growing up. We served everything family style, so you ate what you dished up for yourself. There were times when she'd enforce some rules such as "you dished, you eat it" and if we had unexpected company "family hold back." But when my kids went to visit for a week, they came home with some rather bad habits:
  • they suddenly needed dessert after every meal
  • they suddenly required the crusts to be removed from their sandwiches
  • they suddenly needed white bread rather than my normal wheat
My mom would never allow me to eat my sandwich crustless, so I don't know where this came from! If my parents visit, I have to be prepared with cookies and other desserts (I buy them in moderation) otherwise they'll stop at the store and load up and when they leave, I have too many "distractions."

As my children have grown up, I didn't want the extra dishes associated with family style dinners, so I would serve each person. I try for the 3-4 ounce meat with half the plate of veggies and then 1/2 cup or so of rice or potatoes (we don't do the potatoes much any longer). If there is more, I'll announce it so when anyone is done, they are free to go get more for seconds (they'll go back often for favorite main dishes, and less often for the veggies and side).

That said, I've never put limits on the food. If we are having pizza, they eat until they are satisfied--sometimes stopping at 2, sometimes at 3, and rarely more than that. My kids rarely eat chicken on the bone as I always buy breasts, but they don't always finish the breast (so the dogs get a little treat).

Since my in-laws have retired, they stay in our town 6 months out of the year and Sunday dinners are always at our house. In order to feed 6, I have resorted to the family style dinners and this is what I have found: the kids take what they want and eat it and rarely take seconds. I tend to take seconds of the veggies (I don't hesitate to overeat on veggies!). Still I fix chicken breasts, and prepare only one per person. If they are still hungry, they can have more veggies or rice.

So, in answer to your question, I don't think my Mom dictated portion size to me as much as diet recommendations have.

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Old 02-01-2007, 05:56 PM   #5
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grandmas are weird creatures, they will do things for your kids that they would never in a million years have done for you. We had 4 weeks straight of grandma visits after my son was born (2 weeks of each) and after they left my daughter no longer knew how to do ANYTHING by herself. She wanted to be read books when she went potty, had to be carried, needed help putting her clothes on, and expected to eat what she dictated at every meal etc. etc.

We've gone to family style dining because our daughter was getting into control battles with us over food. If she dishes it she feels in control, if WE dish it, its being "forced upon" her and she refuses it. yay toddlers.
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Old 02-01-2007, 06:10 PM   #6
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no, it totoally influenced me a lot! (not my parents, but like, school lunch) School lunch always had some sort of veggie, some piece of fruit, some main sandwich/meat/pizza and then a carton of milk, and something else on the side. It made me feel weird, because at home, my mom gave us 2 slices of wonder bread (I was like, 5 years old) and at most 2 slices of thinly shaved deli meat (ham, usually). We didn;t get any cheese if we got meat.There were those HALF-days at schools when the cafeteria didn;t open, and we were supposed to have our parents make our own lunches for the day. I brought my very humble sandwich to school in a brown paper bag with a glass bottle of water straight from the tap. One kid laughed at my lunch once and said "You only got that little?? Look at what I have!!!" and he poured out of his extra large brown paper bag a plethora of junk candies and chocolates, a giant deli sized sandwich that even I as an adult now, cannot eat more than 1/2, and a 20 oz soda. Looking back, I was jealous then, but now I'm just completely disgusted with that boy's lunch and his parents' willingness to give it to him.
Recently I made myself a small lunch like the ones my mom packed me and someone said to me, "you don't eaT ENOUGH!" even though to me, it was just perfect in size!
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Old 02-01-2007, 06:22 PM   #7
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Unfortunately, when I was growing up my father thought it was funny to see how much he could make me eat. He also thought it was funny to make me drink beer and see if he could get me drunk. (Yes, he was an immature idiot who had no business being a father, but that's another story.)

I had to completely retrain myself as to what normal eating habits consisted of. I think I've been fairly successful, but I still catch myself at times piling way too much on my plate. Fortunately, my stomach is smarter than my eyes at this point, and once I feel satiated the excess goes in the trash.
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Old 02-01-2007, 06:43 PM   #8
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We ate very large portions as a child. Though I am the one who became the heaviest - by far. The one thing that really stands out as a child is that we almost never had fresh fruits and vegetables. All of our side dishes were rice or pasta. And lots of it. Looking back this bugs me to no end. When I had my children, even before my lifestyle change, I made sure my kids got fresh fruits and veggies all the time. I don't ever remember having strawberries or any other kind of berries in my home, ever. We had an occasional cantalope in the summer. Our only vegetables were canned creamed corn. What was that all about? What was my mother thinking? To this day whenever we go to my mother for a meal I always bring a salad. I've been doing it for years. Funny, when I bring it they eat it up.

When my kids have their own homes when they are older, I wonder how they'll look back upon their childhood and think how I've screwed them up in the food department. Sheesh.
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Old 02-01-2007, 07:30 PM   #9
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My mother completely controlled everything we ate, you had to "clean your plate", especially if you wanted desert and it was always every man for himself!! I've watched her eat ice cream in the car with a pen cap, buy boxes of fudge and eat until she got sick, etc. I have such issues because of all of her problems. So, we do not have desert here, but we do a snack before bed so no one eats all their dinner just for a treat and I never tell my kids how much to eat, just remind them to stop when they are full and allow "junk" on occasion so it's not craved too much.

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Old 02-01-2007, 07:55 PM   #10
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I forgot to mention that my parents also grew up in a country where the kids walked miles to fetch water every morning and then walked more miles to school. Kids were very active there, so they ate a lot of carbs, and overweight children were a true rarity. That could explain my mom's piling of the plates with carbs.

Regarding the dessert thing, we probably had dessert once a month. My parents are also from a country where people don't really eat dessert. A woman I know now was given ice cream every night of her life growing up, and so now continues the practice. She would feel weird if she didn't eat it. She is a healthy weight.
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Old 02-01-2007, 08:04 PM   #11
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My folks has a "finish your plate" mentality too, but honestly, while they are an influence on my current eating habits, I am not going to use them as a cop-out. I am an adult now and I'm in full control of what and how much I eat. It's not like I'm being force fed nowadays.

I have a tendency for sweets after a meal too, but now a breath mint or a small piece of dark chocolate does the trick for me.
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Old 02-01-2007, 09:40 PM   #12
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My mom...I love her. But she makes the BEST spaghetti ever. To date, that is my absolute favorite comfort food. I can make it, but I swear, it doesn't come out as good as when she does it, at all. So when I go home to visit, she makes me spaghetti my first night home. Thing is, all through my childhood, when she'd make spaghetti or any other pasta dish, she would make TONS of pasta. The stuff would be overflowing out of our biggest colander when she drained it. And pasta nights, we never really had side dishes, so I would make myself a FULL PLATE of spaghetti, heaped with sauce and parmesan. Massive carb rush, and these days I'm slightly more moderate about it, but...it took me a long time to realize that you're not SUPPOSED to make enough pasta to feed a family of 8 plus three dogs, whether you're cooking alone or for a family of three and one dog.

Desserts were "weekends only" when I was littler, but when I was a teen we relaxed on that, and I got hooked on ice cream on an almost nightly basis. Although I do bless my mom for insisting that I and my brother drink lots of lowfat milk and only rarely allowing us sodas. That habit has persisted now, meaning I don't have the huge battles with soda that some people do, and it was pretty easy for me to drink mainly water, juice, and milk.

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Old 02-02-2007, 12:32 AM   #13
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Yikes. It is hard. I think there's some major psychology that could be delved into here

At home growing up, I was always the glutton. My brother was, too. I could always out eat my mom. What I remember more than anything was feeling awkward that my mind/body seemed to "need" more than hers. Kind of hard to explain. I remember my brother heaping plates of food and never hearing much about it, but if I did that, I would have gotten berated.

I think some of that may have influenced my late-in-life gluttony. It took me a while to find some balance between eating because it was there and darnit, if I wanted it I could eat it!!! and eating healthier portion sizes. Hey, I'm still working on that.

I resented having my portions curbed when I was young. But, in retrospect, I now see why my mom did it.
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Old 02-02-2007, 12:53 AM   #14
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Two cookies.

Not three.

Not one.

Two. Always.

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Old 02-02-2007, 02:42 AM   #15
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My mom, a skinny vegetarian, hated to cook when I was a kid and still does. Grandma lived with us after Grandpa died and always did most of the cooking. I spent a lot of time with her and learned all of her great recipes. She always made plenty of great food! I remember cooking with her as a small child when she and Grandpa lived in the house across the back from where I lived.

My aunt loved to cook, and made delicious pies and cakes and cookies, too. She and Grandma and I would do all the cooking at family dinners, and my mom would set the table, do all the dishes, clean up as we were cooking and scrub the pots and pans. To this day she still hates to be around food and will do all the cleanup if I will cook!

Mom began harping on me about my weight after I was married. I really never was heavy until then. I think her comments of ,"You could stand to lose forty pounds" just made me ignore her more! She's pretty controlling about everything.

As I continued in my marriage, making the food that I wanted to make instead of the foods SHE wanted me to make when I lived at her house as a younger person, became a lot of fun. I relied on old favorites that Grandma would make like scalloped potatoes and mashed potatoes and meatloaf and roasts rather than all of the vegetable dishes and salads. Grandma's comfort foods became my rebellious foods, and I ate plenty of them!

My skinny husband and skinny kids loved them, and I would eat like a teenage boy. I have the pounds to show for it!

Portion size problem? That problem would be ME "bonding " with the men in my life who are BIG eaters! I DO think that my mother helped with my weight gain because of her comments to me that just made me gain more weight IN REBELLION. Stupid, stupid, me!

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