Exercise & portion size

Over the Easter weekend I did a stunningly beautiful 5 day hike with some friends. And not just any friends, but super fit ones who are as agile and fast going up a mountain as klipspringers are. I’m fit, but not that fit, so by good fortune we only had to carry our snacks, lunches and water with us every day and it all brought into focus again the relationship between exercise and eating, especially in terms of portion sizes.

Our portion sizes these days are generally way too big, and it’s not what our bodies need or want. A lot of overeating happens when we’re bored, sad or just because the food is there. Yes, I would have loved a slab of chocolate, but it wasn’t necessary. Besides, if there had been anything extra in my bag I would quickly have thrown it over the edge just to make it lighter. We really only took what we needed: a carb source for energy, some protein to give the meal some staying power and something fresh. This can be applied to every meal, whether you’re sitting at home, at a restaurant or out in the wild, and though it’s still a surprise to a lot of people, satiety can be achieved with proper healthy portions if you make healthier, filling choices. Just remember that each portion will depend on what you’ve had beforehand – if you’ve just had a huge snack, you won’t need as big a lunch. It’s all about adjusting your intake based on appetite.

To be overall healthy, at a weight that is right for you, exercise and healthy eating go hand in hand. No question about that. It’s a huge help in determining what portion size is right for us when we’re about to eat because it helps regulate our appetites, helps keep our blood sugar levels where we want them, and enhances our mood, meaning less eating for reasons other than actual hunger.  When you’re hiking between 15 and 20km a day there is no doubt about when you’re feeling hungry. Your body practically screams at you when it needs something. You also quickly realise when you’re full, and if you overeat even just a little bit you’ll definitely know because all your legs will want to do is stop and all you’ll want to do is sleep.

You don’t have to be doing this much exercise to reap the rewards in terms of its effect on appetite and therefore your portion sizes– even just starting with 30min a day is better than nothing. And don’t let the winter weather stop you – the exercise will warm you up, increase your endorphins and put a smile on your face!

Lunches that ruled: 2 wholewheat wraps, 2 Kiri cheeses, 2 Israeli cucumbers, 1 packet John West flavoured tuna. These are all light, easy to pack and easy to assemble.

Snacks that rocked: nuts and raisons, cereal-yoghurt bars, nut and honey bars, jellytots. And, yes, I had a little chocolate bar too because I love it and it was worked off instantly!


Picture: J Barry

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