Food Portions — Why Weigh?


As has been discussed before, the first two steps of the W8Loss2Go program are withdrawal from problem foods and withdrawal from snacking or grazing. Even subjects who sail through those stages might stall out when it comes to the third technique, food scale-weighing.

How does this work? A brief outline of the method follows, but readers are encouraged to have a look at the original description by Dr. Pretlow in “Addiction Model Intervention for Obesity in Young People.” Many pages are devoted to the topic, and the last page, Appendix VI, contains very detailed and precise step-by-step instructions.

The basic task is to measure or weigh the typical amounts of frequently eaten foods and indeed any foods, with a digital food scale being the most dependable tool. The person records the starting amounts for each one, to provide a firm reference point. Then the amount is reduced in incremental, staged percentages.

Throughout a series of four W8Loss2Go studies, it has become evident that weighing meals has the most dramatic effect for weight loss. As Dr. Pretlow says, “It shows the participant that eating less results in losing weight, and it shows the participant the actual amounts his/her body needs to run on.”

A stumbling block

Here is a caveat that may need to be emphasized more. For this stage of the program, to eat anywhere outside the home is simply to beg for trouble. First of all, restaurants are notorious for serving up larger portions of food than anybody needs. The only possible salvation is to immediately request a carry-out box and place half the meal inside it.

Yes, many eating establishments offer take-home containers, but a person might feel shy about asking, or might not want the bother of carrying around a styrofoam clamshell. But it just feels wrong to waste it. So, might as well finish it up right there in the restaurant. At least, that is the excuse that a person can hide behind.

The homes of relatives or friends can be even more problematic. They sometimes tend to equate love with how much food they can stuff into a guest. In either situation, portions are unlikely to be weighed. Who is going to carry around a digital scale, and trot it out to go through the embarrassing ritual in front of everybody?

Other roadblocks

What other circumstances are likely to make a person balk at the requirement to weigh portions? This will be more thoroughly covered in another post, but one problem could be the washing-up involved which, however minimal, might be resisted. Since the participant is only supposed to be eating at regular mealtimes anyway, the opportunities to put up this objection are reduced. There may be a family member, probably named Mom, who is willing to incorporate any cleanup into the general dishwashing process.

How could portion-weighing be more interesting? It might be possible to invite family participation in another way. The person using the W8Loss2Go app could decide to become a real expert in estimating the weight of portions beforehand, and could involve another family member in a friendly bet. The loser might have to pay off by doing something silly. Or winning guesses could accumulate like gold stars toward some prize, like the privilege of choosing the menu for Sunday dinner — as long as it is healthful!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!
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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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