Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

Not noted by Shay, but important to remember is the frequent underestimation of portion size by dieters. Even if nutritional information about calories is available, dieters must still monitor how much they eat, as well as what they eat, with some degree of accuracy. Whether it is tabulated online or on paper, the dieter must take the time to weigh and measure, or at least estimate serving sizes. If he or she does not, portion sizes can easily wreck havoc upon weight loss even with a nutritionally balanced diet.

However, an admittedly small, recent 2010 pilot study, entitled “A community intervention on portion control aimed at weight loss in low-income Mexican-American women” reported by Mary Ann Faucher in the Journal of Midwifery and Womens Health questions the notion of whether detailed education in portion sizes, calories, or overall nutrition is really that valuable for the average dieter. The researchers unintentionally substantiated Shays concept of self-monitoring being associated with weight loss, although self-monitoring was not part of the studys intention.

The study involved a historically disenfranchised group that has been shown to disproportionately suffer from obesity, due to the stressors of poverty and a lack of access to healthy food. The study attempted to determine if a community-based nutritional intervention program with an emphasis on portion control would lead to significant weight loss amongst a trial group of nineteen Mexican-American women. The participants were divided through randomization into a control group, which received standard weight loss counseling, and another group which received instruction that stressed portion control.

For twenty weeks, both groups received four 2-hour classes taught by a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) and a health advisor. The difference between the two groups was not statistically significant. The portion control experimental group only lost a statistically insignificant amount more than the control group. The study was small, but what did emerge from the study was that “mean weight loss, regardless of group, was significantly greater when participants reported self-weighing” (Faucher 2010: 60).

The participants were not specifically required to engage in self-monitoring, and it is possible that once again the more conscientious members of the group were more likely to weigh themselves. Still, the study suggests an intriguing finding — that weight, unlike calorie tabulations and portion sizes, cannot be subject to fudging. Using sophisticated online software and having more in-depth nutritional education might be less important than having weigh-ins for dieters, as a way of keeping track of their progress. This principle of weighing in has been one of the guiding forces behind Weight Watchers, one of the most successful weight loss companies. Keeping track of weight may be equally important as keeping track of food and exercise habits, suggests both the Faucher study as well as Shays literature review.


Faucher, Mary Ann. (2010, January). A community intervention on portion control aimed at weight loss in low-income Mexican-American women. The Journal of Midwifery and Womens Health. 55 (1): 60-64.

Shay, L. (February, 2008). Self-monitoring and weight management. Online Journal of Nursing

Informatics (OJNI), 12,.

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