When I gained more than 20 pounds after college, I knew I wasn't taking the best care of myself. I was eating fattening foods (hello, nachos and beer!) and skipping my workouts at the gym, but I didn't know where to start with losing weight.

For most of my life, my weight was never an issue. Counting calories was a foreign concept to me. But I knew if I wanted to lose those unwanted pounds, I needed to do something. Around that same time, a friend of mine told me about, a free online weight-loss journal that tracks calories, exercise, goals, and progress. It made keeping track of what I was eating easy—for the most part.

Foods that clearly stated the serving size (1 slice of bread, 15 crackers) or came in a single-serving package (a 6-ounce container of yogurt, a single granola bar) were easy to track. I just looked at the calorie count and entered it into my online journal. Other foods were a bit more difficult to track, however, such as cereal, pasta, and nut butters. Even though the serving size on these containers was clearly marked, I didn't know if I was eating what was considered a serving. I halfheartedly kept track of these calories, but I knew hundreds of them went unaccounted for each day.

Eventually, I realized I wasn't being completely honest with my weight-loss efforts, and I started to pay more attention to serving sizes with the help of measuring cups and spoons. Here's how these slimming kitchen gadgets helped me lose weight.


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I keep them in my prep area
I used to try to eyeball high-calorie ingredients like oils and butter, but I noticed I was being way too generous with my estimates and it was costing me. A tablespoon of olive oil, for instance, has 120 calories! Same goes for the peanut butter I was adding to my morning toast. I was spreading close to 400 calories on it! Instead of overestimating, I keep my measuring cups and spoons in my prep area to help me with my portion sizes.

I don't overfill them
Most mornings, I eat a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. I used to use a small cup to scoop my rolled oats from the canister, but the heaping portion was many more calories than a single serving. Now I use a 1/2 cup measuring cup to scoop my rolled oats, and I make sure to level-off them off for the perfect portion of oatmeal. At first this new serving size seemed whimpy, so I started to "plump up" the volume of my oatmeal with nutritious ingredients. My favorite combination is sliced ripe banana, ground flax seed meal, and soy milk, which makes my oatmeal creamy and fluffy.

I downsized my dishes
When I first started to measure my food, the smaller portions didn't seem like enough to fill me up. I downsized my plates, bowls, and glasses to compensate. A regular-size dinner plate encouraged me to load it up with food, but a smaller plate looked full with much less food. Most of the time, I don't even notice that I scaled back my portions.

I took mental notes of serving sizes
Measuring cups and spoons were essential to my weight loss, but I knew I didn't want to rely on them forever. Once I started to get the hang of measuring, I could visualize what the serving size looked like. Eventually, those mental images stuck, and now I don't use them all the time.