I’ve never kept my struggle with my weight quiet on this blog. I don’t talk about it every week, but I mention it frequently enough that if you’ve been reading for a while, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that keeping my weight down is a struggle for me.

I recently started a weight loss study with one of the universities in Philadelphia, and I’m doing very well. There are no pills or shakes or bars in this study. It’s all real food. I can eat the foods I choose, but portion control is a huge part of it. I have found that my very best friends (besides the leaders and the other participants in this group study) in this struggle have become some basic kitchen tools. What are they?

Food scale – To know the calorie count in what I’m eating, I need to be accurate about the portion size I’m eating. The only way to be accurate is to weigh and measure almost everything I eat. Do I count that banana as a medium or large one when I’m recording its calories? Of course, I’d love to think it’s a medium because then I can record fewer calories and eat more food, but the food scale keeps me honest. I use the Weighmax Electronic Kitchen Scale pictured at left. It weighs both grams and ounces.

It’s particularly helpful at dinnertime. The other night, I weighed out four ounces of meatloaf and realized I could be very happy with three ounces. So I put an ounce back. That ounce I subtracted saved me 90 calories.

Sometimes the scale actually helps me increase my portion. I’ve been buying jarred fruit and a serving is half a cup or 122 grams. If I measure half a cup in a measuring cup, and then I weigh what is in that half a cup, it can be significantly less than 122 grams. By weighing, sometimes I get to eat a little more.

Measuring cups – Sometimes, the measuring cups work just fine. My favorite ones to use for the foods I’m going to eat are similar to the Anchor Hocking ones in the photo. Each one of the bowls has a halfway measuring point, so the small 1/4 cup bowl also has an 1/8 cup mark in it.

I always have those bowls on the dinner table, along with the food scale. There are some things that I absolutely have to make sure I measure – like mashed potatoes. I could eat four or five servings if I wasn’t careful. It’s a little sad to see the measured half cup mound of mashed potatoes on my plate looking like it was scooped out by the high school cafeteria worker, but I know it’s worth it.

Liquid measuring cups are essential, too. Do you know what 4 ounces of wine looks like? I’d like it to look like a lot more than it does! But, as much as I love my wine, the calories from alcohol add up quickly, and I also find that the more I drink, the more I absentmindedly snack. So, I measure out my wine now.

I also use a jigger to measure the milk for my coffee in the morning. Half an ounce of 1 percent milk goes into my coffee. That’s it. You may be asking, “Does a half an ounce really make a difference?” Yes, it does. I drink two cups of coffee a day, so when I went down from an ounce in each cup to half an ounce, I saved 11 calories a day, or 77 calories a week.

Measuring spoons – These simple tools are something almost everyone has in their kitchen, and I find they are so helpful in keeping my portions controlled. Not only have I gone down to half an ounce of milk in each cup of coffee, I’ve gone down from 1 teaspoon of sugar to a half teaspoon in each cup. That saves me an additional 15 calories a day or 105 calories a week. Just with the two small tweaks to my coffee, I’ve saved more than 180 calories a week, which for me means an extra 6 oz. glass of wine on Friday night if I save those calories for it!

Other things I have to be very careful to measure out with measuring spoons are peanut butter and the agave that I use to sweeten oatmeal.

By now, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Who wants to spend their life measuring every morsel they put in their mouth?” I used to feel the same way. Even when I started this program, I felt like that. But, I’ve changed my thinking. Now I think, “I don’t want to spend my life putting on five different outfits before I go somewhere special till I find the one I feel the least fat in.”

If spending a minute or two with a food scale, measuring cups and measuring spoons each day can keep me from a half hour of rooting through my closet (and usually quite a few tears that accompany that process), it’s worth it.

My reason for getting my weight under control isn’t just vanity, though. I know that the older I get, being overweight is more likely to affect my health. I recently had a physical and the doctor was thrilled with my weight loss. I have no health problems – no high blood pressure, high cholesterol, symptoms of diabetes or other issues that can come along with being overweight and I am so grateful for that. If managing my weight will keep it that way, hand me the measuring tools.

They’re a huge piece of the weight loss puzzle that I’ve found work for me. Exercise, the support of others, and rewarding myself (not with food) for every five pounds I lose are some of the other pieces.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Three must-have tools to help you lose weight
After years of resisting hauling out the measuring tools to help me with portion control, I’m now embracing them wholeheartedly.