So many people in my generation were taught as children that they should “clean their plate” at the dinner table.
We are quick to blame fast food restaurants and the soda and snack food industries for America’s obesity problem, but promoters of the Clean Plate Club have done some serious damage, too. Some of these Clean Plate Club members are my clients, and they are now struggling to lose weight while we work on their issues with “wasting food.”
Here’s the problem. When you tell your kids to clean their plates, you are requiring them to use a measure unrelated to their body’s needs and signals when determining how much food to eat.
Our bodies are actually pretty smart. They have built-in mechanisms to tell us when they need food and when they’ve had enough. They are called hunger signals. We even have some handy hormones to help us. The hormone leptin decreases our appetite. Levels of leptin are normally lower in thin people and higher in overweight people. This hormone is actually trying to get us to eat less if we are fat! People in the Clean Plate Club can develop leptin resistance. Your leptin levels keep going up but your brain doesn’t know what is going on and you can’t tell when you’ve eaten too much.
So many people ignore their body’s signals. After all, they were taught to clean their plates, so instead of letting leptin regulate their appetite, they’ve learned to top eating based upon a random visual cue, and end up stuffing themselves. Given that the average stomach is about the size of your fist, you can fit a lot more on your plate than you need to fuel your body. When you clean your plate without regard to your body’s signals, you are overeating. Eventually, this will make you overweight or obese.
I am amazed at how many people clean their plates at a meal. Most people I know do this. They aren’t thinking. They are on autopilot. If there is food in front of them that they like, they’ll eat it, even if they aren’t hungry or are quite full. This is especially true in restaurants. Some of the most diet-conscious people I know will eat everything on their plate at a restaurant, completely ignoring their stomach shouting, “STOP!! I’ve had enough! Can’t you feel how crowded it is in here?”
Then these fat phobic weight conscious people will decide they have to run twice as far that day to make up for it, or something like that, rather than simply listen to their body and stop eating when they have had enough. Or they’ll starve themselves the next day by eating one green smoothie the entire day.
When you think about it, this is insane. Eating more than your body needs is a form of self abuse. I know, because I abused my body for years. Our bodies do not like this treatment, but we do it anyway because it is a habit.
People have time-honored excuses for their plate-cleaning behavior. “I don’t want to waste the food!” “I paid good money for this!” Basically, they are treating themselves like human garbage cans. If you have given your body enough food to fuel it, and you keep eating, your body won’t use it for energy, but will store it as fat. Wouldn’t you rather throw it in the trash than plaster more fat on your frame?
I worked for a long time to undo that “clean your plate” habit. Now, I stop eating even the most delicious food when my body has had enough, and enjoy the leftovers later. I love leftovers. I’ve lost a lot of weight doing this and saved myself some time by not having to prepare food.
Then there is the, “It tastes so good!” excuse. Yes, it probably does, but it doesn’t taste nearly as good when you’re stuffed as those first few bites did when you were hungry. If you really are eating for the taste, the food will taste a lot better when you are hungry eating the leftovers tomorrow than when you are stuffed.
So if you are still in this very unhealthy club, quit now. Today. Right this minute. All you have to do is wait until your body is hungry before eating and stop when it has had enough. Pay attention to your body’s signals. Be willing to throw excess food into the trash can rather than into your body. You will feel so much lighter and more energetic. And you will lose weight without having to run a few extra miles or starve yourself the next day.
If you need help learning how to stop overeating, drop me an email at email@example.com I’m happy to help. Check out my programs HERE. I’ll even hop on the phone with you for some free coaching. You can schedule a free mini-session HERE.
I work with smart women who want to lose weight and keep it off. I help them discover what is really causing their weight problem, fix it at the source, and teach them how to enjoy the foods they love while permanently losing their desire to overeat along with their excess weight. I'd love to teach my method to you! I’m also a gourmet cook and baker who struggled with my weight for 40 years before discovering the secret to not overeating.