Don't blame restaurants for those ridiculously large portions

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It may be the most silly question in the food-service industry: "Anything else I can get you?"

This after delivering a basket of bread, a salad, beverages, a plate with a massive steak hanging over both edges, a baked potato piled high with sour cream, butter, bacon and chives, some asparagus drenched in Hollandaise sauce and a strategically placed dessert menu.

That menu leads to the second-silliest question, "Save room for dessert?"

And to the usually tragic answer, "Yes."

It is not the server's fault.

It is not the restaurant's fault.

We have met the enemy, and he isn't hard to find. He's the guy in the 6X fleece pants, the Velcro-closed shoes he can't reach to tie, waiting for the next powered grocery cart he can wheel around and fill up with Cheetos, soft drinks, pork rinds, frozen pizza and ice cream.

In short, to complete the Pogo allusion, he is us. I can say this because I have been that guy. OK, the pants were 3X and I could usually tie my shoes, if I didn't mind being winded for 20 minutes afterward.

But I was about 120 pounds overweight and had rapidly clogging arteries that landed me on operating tables twice before I decided I had to do something. I had weight-loss surgery and embarked on a regimen of healthy (well, healthier) eating and exercise. I have lost a lot of weight, but need to lose more. I walk a minimum of three miles daily, sometimes more, and try to work out at a gym twice a week.

But eating out is difficult.

Somewhere along the line we began demanding that restaurants serve us ridiculous portions of food. Four ounces of meat is a good serving. Most restaurants I know of offer a choice between 8-ounce (twice as much) and 10-ounce portions, with many offering 16-ounce steaks. Side orders tend to come in super-size portions, as do frequently sweetened beverages.

The problem is that the general public has come to demand those large portions. Folks now routinely ask for carryout boxes (remember doggie bags?) and feel cheated if they don't get two or more meals' worth of food with every order.

It always reminds me of a woman I heard in a bar one night who was told by the bartender that she had had enough.

"I don't want enough," she said. "I want too much."

There are demographic considerations, too. If you live where there are a lot of retired people (like me), note how many buffet restaurants there are in the neighborhood.

I frequently spend the summer in parts of Colorado where the population is younger, and I do not see a single buffet. I come home to bottomless salad bars, massive all-buffet restaurants and places offering endless ribs and chicken.

Here's the rationale: We old folks living on fixed incomes like to think we are getting one over on those places, so we fill up on $4 worth of food, pay them $12 and think we are economic geniuses. The occasional rotund 30-year-old who comes in and gobbles $20 worth of food doesn't have that much effect on the bottom line.

I have learned you can find healthy food at most fast-food places. Ask for a carryout box when you place your order, then immediately box half of your food. When traveling, try to find motels with refrigerators and microwaves.

I see more and more couples splitting entrees, and some places will do the dividing in the kitchen and waive the once-common "extra plate" fee.

I also see more people ordering just appetizers, sometimes two, and it took me a while to learn that if that doesn't fill you up, they won't throw you out for ordering more.

And stop watching the Food Channel. The shows are entertaining, but I can feel my arteries hardening during the first five minutes of "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives."

That stuff ain't good for you.

Ask Paula Deen.

Bon petite appetite.

Courtesy of Scripps Howard News Service