Here's the permission slip you've been waiting for.
You don't have to finish your plate.
The post-war generations taught us to 'finish your plate' because back then there really was fears of shortages of food and rations. It was vital to finish your plate because you were lucky to get a plate at all. And if more food shortages came into place the following day - you might be even more grateful for the portion you got today.
Almost all of my clients have said to me at one point or another, that they are 'trained to finish the plate, whether I'm hungry or not.' We don't actually think of it as a choice. We were brought up to finish it, so we do. It reminds us of our childhood training. We are trained and the idea is fixed, it's ingrained.
A few years ago when I started teaching intuitive eating to my clients (with its emphasis on listening to your body’s hunger signals) I found that it was the #1 way to elevate how we eat. With time and practice, you can start listening to your body too, instead of allowing the size of your plate to dictate how much you eat.
Why you don't have to finish your plate:
You are already full
Our bodies are wise — if we learn to listen to them. And one of the most important aspects of learning to listen to your body is to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. It sounds simple, but many times, we will not even stop to listen to fullness signals and will keep shoveling food into our mouths until we have the satisfaction of an empty plate. If we are not conscious while we are eating, we typically end up 'too full' and this feeling is almost comforting to us as we believe it's a safe feeling. However, it's less-than-ideal for our digestive system to be too full, it's stressful for our digestion.
What if, instead of honoring your plate, you honor your body? Our plate is, of course, filled by us. So a good first step is to start taking less portion if you know you tend to over-eat. You can always go back for seconds if you need.
Honoring your body means giving it as much food as it physically needs — not more and not less. And if your body reaches the point of “I'm just about full!” while there is still food left on your plate, leave it there. Not finishing your plate does not have to create waste by throwing away food. It can mean asking for a doggy bag to-go to finish later or the next day, putting it back in the fridge to eat another time, or even freezing what’s left for another meal.
We Have a LOT of Food Today
Thankfully, right now we don't have to worry about food shortages or rationing due to war. Ironically, the problem we have today is actually that there is TOO much food. While we are lucky, it's also a curse. It gives us too many choices, which makes nutrition confusing for people. [Here's How it can be Scary Simple]
Secondly, we also have refrigeration in our modern times and everyone has one in their home. You know, that big cold box that stores food so well? That's why it's so great.
You Don't Like It
If you don’t like the food you are eating, you don't have to finish it out of politeness or fear of being judged! Taking pleasure in what you eat has actually been shown to boost metabolism and increase nutrient absorption because when we are calm our nervous system can relax - and our digestion works better. So make sure you fully enjoy everything you eat — or leave it on your plate or ask for it to-go.
When you are not really hungry or you don’t feel like eating a certain food but you do anyway - what message are you giving your poor body? You are essentially treating your body like a garbage can. This can be a difficult shift to see, especially if we have been trained since childhood to finish everything. But is it REALLY better for anyone that you force yourself to eat something you don’t want or need?
This one is a little more tricky for most of us. You enjoy the taste of this certain food, but you know it doesn’t physically do your body good. For example, you order a meal that has greasy fries and you like the taste. Yet you know that you always feel bad afterwards. So why not have a few fries that you fully savor, and leave the rest on your plate? This is called mindful eating. It's so powerful.
Giving your body, and not your plate the final say in how much you eat can radically shift your relationship to food and your body. It'll improve your digestion and can absolutely help you lose weight.
Why not give it a try?
Here's your permission slip to stop cleaning your plate every day. You don't need to. Don't worry, it might take some time and practice to untrain youself of this habit. The best thing about us is that when we have habits we realize we don't like - we can change. It's all about awareness + your mindset rather than strict regimen. If you find yourself constantly over-eating or dealing with digestive issues, the Digestive Sessions are just around the corner from launch! Take your digestion to therapy.