The curse of the Clean Your Plate Club.
-From the former President of the Clean Your Plate Club:
We were on a pretty tight budget growing up.
We didn’t go out to eat. Our family vacations consisted of camping trips (in a tent). And we certainly didn’t waste food.
I was taught to eat everything on my plate as a kid, because “There are starving kids in Africa” and all that stuff. Don’t get me wrong, world hunger is a serious issue here. But let’s be honest here, the 2 chicken nuggets and pile of canned peas left on my plate were not going to feed a starving child across the world.
I remember one time I was given tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. I wasn’t hungry and not a big fan of tomato soup. But my parents sat a kitchen timer on the table and told me I had 10 minutes to eat everything in front of me. I haven’t eaten tomato soup in 25 years…
Fast forward to current times.
I have my own kids at home and we live on a budget. I don’t enjoy throwing food in the garbage. It’s not a pleasant experience. A lot of work goes into that meal on the table.
But I can see that what I was forced to do as a little kid stayed with me as an adult and taught me to ignore my own body. It encouraged me to eat everything on my plate even though I wasn’t hungry. It taught me to feel guilty about throwing food in the garbage. And it made mealtimes stressful.
It’s taken a long time for me to get over that. To listen to my hunger & fullness signals (after ignoring them for years thanks to years of dieting).
How I’m breaking the cycle
I can see my children paying attention to their body without outside influences telling them to ignore their hunger/fullness signals. Sure, it can be frustrating when I cook a wonderful meal and they eat three bites. But there is no way in hell you’ll find me putting a timer in front of them and forcing them to eat their dinner if they tell me they aren’t hungry.
I allow them to stop at any point they say they’re done. There’s no “Just have one more bite” or “Do you know food costs money?” or “There’s starving kids in Africa” talk at my house. I leave their food out for a bit if I think they’ll come back to it half an hour later (which sometimes they do). But I let their little bodies run the show when it comes to how much to eat. They will not grow up in the Clean Your Plate Club if I can help it.
If NOT cleaning your plate makes you a little nervous, consider this: Your body can only utilize so much food at one time. If you feed it more than it needs, it stores the rest as fat. Isn’t that the same thing as wasting food? It’s not being used. Your body is just saving it for a rainy day. It’s like filling your car up with gas, and then trying to pour more gas into the tank after it’s already full. You wouldn’t do that, would you???
Tips to ditch the Clean Your Plate Club
If you are constantly throwing food away, try serving smaller portions. You can always go back for seconds. Make sure you start with a plan for the week, or at least the next few days. Make your grocery list based on what you need to use up. And if you have kids at home, realize that they can regulate their own food very well if you let them.
Their little bodies regulate themselves over the course of a week. So they might eat like a horse one day and like a bird the next. That is ok, and totally normal. Just go with it. Don’t reward them for finishing their food with MORE food (aka dessert). And PLEASE don’t force them to eat everything on their plate, or they’ll grow up in the Clean Your Plate Club, just like you and me.
If you are interested in how to become an intuitive eater and ditch all the not-so-helpful habits you learned as a child, check out our UnDiet course here. You’ll learn how to identify your triggers for overeating and binge eating. Most importantly, you can mend your relationship with food so you can nourish your body without restriction.