Portion control or intermittent fasting, what is better for weight loss?

Dristi Sharma
Dristi SharmaSep 07, 2023 | 12:30

Portion control or intermittent fasting, what is better for weight loss?

Both the diet fads comes with their own share of side effects. Photo: Getty Images

If you're on a weight loss journey or have heard people around you talking like experts about weight loss, you've probably encountered two popular weight loss techniques: portion control and intermittent fasting. Both claim to work miracles and aid in weight loss. But if you're confused about which one works best for you or whether they actually work at all, let's figure it out.


But before we determine which one actually works, let's clarify what both of these methods mean.

First, let's discuss what portion control is

  • To put it simply, portion control is a dietary practice that involves managing the amount of food you consume during a meal or snack.
  • It focuses on controlling portion sizes to help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight while promoting better overall nutrition.

  • The concept is based on the idea that consuming appropriate portion sizes can prevent overeating and reduce calorie intake, ultimately leading to a calorie deficit and weight loss.

In portion control, you either physically measure or visually estimate serving sizes to ensure you're not consuming excessive calories or nutrients.

This practice can be particularly useful for those trying to lose weight as it allows for better calorie management without necessarily restricting the types of foods you can eat.

Portion control can be achieved by adopting various strategies and practices while eating. Here are some tips on how to practice portion control effectively:

  • Use Smaller Plates and Bowls.
  • Use measuring cups, spoons, and kitchen scales to accurately portion out your food, especially for items like rice, pasta, and protein.
  • Familiarize yourself with visual cues for portion sizes, such as a serving of lean protein being about the size of a deck of cards and a serving of grains or starches being about the size of a computer mouse.
  • Divide Your Plate: Mentally divide your plate into sections for different food groups, such as vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates. Allocate a larger portion to vegetables and smaller portions to protein and carbohydrates.
  • Be Mindful of Snacking.
  • Avoid Eating Straight from the Container.
  • When possible, opt for single-serving packages or pre-packaged foods to help you avoid overeating.

  • Share large portions: When dining out, consider sharing large entrees with a friend or family member or ask for a to-go container right away to pack up half your meal before you start eating.
  • Watch the portion sizes of beverages, including sugary drinks and alcohol, as they can significantly contribute to your daily calorie intake.

Now, let's discuss intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is another popular dietary approach that involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. Unlike traditional diets that focus on what foods to eat, intermittent fasting concentrates on when to eat.

There are several popular methods of intermittent fasting, with the most common being the 16:8 method. This means you finish dinner as early as possible and refrain from eating for 16 hours, ideally having dinner by 7-8 pm.

Intermittent fasting is known for its potential health benefits, including weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity, and better metabolic health.

Both of these dieting methods seem promising and effective on paper, with a host of potential benefits. However, it's essential to consider that both come with side effects.

Side effects of portion control

Dr Darshini Bali, a dietician from Noida, notes that portion control diets come with their own set of challenges and side effects:

  • Reducing portion sizes can initially lead to feelings of hunger and cravings, especially if you're accustomed to larger portions. It may take some time for your body to adjust to smaller servings.
  • Practicality can be a concern as portion control can be challenging when dining out or attending social events with larger portions typically served, requiring extra effort to resist overeating in such situations.
If portion control is taken to an extreme and results in excessively restricted calorie intake, it can lead to nutrient deficiencies if you're not getting a wide variety of foods. It's essential to ensure you're still consuming a balanced diet with adequate nutrients
- Dr Darshini Bali

Constantly obsessing over portion sizes and calories can lead to stress and an unhealthy relationship with food, potentially leading to disordered eating habits for some individuals.

Intermittent fasting (IF) also has its share of side effects. Here's a list:

  • During fasting periods, especially when first starting IF, some people may experience increased hunger, irritability, or mood swings, which can be challenging to manage during the initial adjustment period.
  • Fasting may lead to a temporary decrease in energy levels, potentially affecting daily activities, work, or exercise performance, especially if you're not accustomed to fasting.

  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing during fasting periods may occur, especially for those accustomed to regular meals throughout the day.

  • If not practiced mindfully, intermittent fasting can sometimes lead to overeating or making less healthy food choices during eating windows, which can counteract the calorie deficit needed for weight loss.

  • Digestive discomfort, including stomachaches or irregular bowel movements, may occur for some individuals during fasting. Drinking enough water during fasting periods can help alleviate some of these issues.

  • Fasting, especially when done close to bedtime, may interfere with sleep patterns for some individuals.

Which one is better?

Dr Darshini Bali says, "I believe that intermittent fasting is more effective than portion control. However, if you choose to do intermittent fasting and end up cheating on your diet, the risk of binge eating is higher."

Dr Reema Madhian, a dietician from Noida, suggests, "Both are good. You have to see what suits your body and how comfortable you are with intermittent fasting because, as I call it, it's not a diet; it's a lifestyle." She also notes that determining the right portion size can be challenging with intermittent fasting.

Bottom line

Now that you understand the meanings and side effects of both diet approaches, you can choose the one that works best for you.

Last updated: September 07, 2023 | 12:30
    Please log in
    I agree with DailyO's privacy policy