Poor Eric Rimm.
Last week, the Harvard School of Public Health professor stepped into a social media firestorm of his own creation — and one he no doubt never saw coming.
Having the audacity to suggest that, from a health standpoint, six is the maximum number of French fries one ideally would consume during a fast food meal.
In a New York Times article detailing how potentially deleterious eating these "starch bombs" are to one's health, Rimm lamented the slippery slope most folks are on when it comes to side orders of French fries: “There aren’t a lot of people who are sending back three-quarters of an order of French fries. I think it would be nice if your meal came with a side salad and six French fries.”
Predictably, the Twitter backlash was swift — and often hilarious, with one user saying "the day I eat only six fries is the day someone serves me only six fries and refuses to give me more" and another demanding the immediate abolishment of the Ivy League.
To his credit, in subsequent interviews Rimm didn't back down, explaining to Vanity Fair, “I was just suggesting restaurants could give much smaller options of fries for those of us who might need a taste but don’t need a whole basket in front of us with a meal."
Portion control is key
Be it French fries or any other favorite food, Rimm's primary message — that people should be cognizant of the portions they consume — is especially relevant during the holiday season.
When folks are surrounded by guilty gastronomic pleasures at every turn, it's not surprising that many may be tempted to overindulge.
And while having a seventh — or 77th! — French fry on occasion isn't an unforgivable dietary sin, if you're the type who's easily tempted by your favorite treats, here are a few tips to practice moderation:
Drink copious amounts of water. Before every meal, cocktail party or holiday office gathering, be sure you're fully hydrated. Often, people will mistake dehydration for hunger. So, not only will drinking water leave less room in your stomach for food, it will also help regulate your appetite and enable you to better interpret your body's signals
Use smaller bowls, plates and utensils. Countless studies have shown that the less food we have in front of us, they less food we're likely to eat. What's more, smaller servings force us to slow down and really savor the taste of whatever food we're eating in order to make the experience last.
At parties and other informal gatherings where you're serving yourself, it's easy to select the smallest plate or bowl available. If you're at a restaurant, consider ordering one or two appetizers instead of a full entree that comes with multiple side dishes. When you do order an entree, request a half-sized portion if that's an option. If it's not, request a to-go container and immediately put at half your meal in it and then set it aside.
Beware of distractions. We've all heard the admonitions from mental health experts to practice mindfulness in our daily lives. Well, the same goes for when you're eating. If you're in a large group setting, it's easy to become engrossed in conversation and other goings-on and not pay attention to the food you're consuming. This is when you're far more likely to eat past the point of feeling full. Likewise, if you're eating alone, watching television, reading or being on one of your smart devices might prevent you from being fully attuned to your body's satiation cues. Being mindful at all times takes some practice — but once you master the art, it will enrich your life in myriad ways.