Portion Control, Weight Loss, Fat Loss, Overeating, Clean Plate Syndrome, Portion Sizes, Fat Loss
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Do You Have The Clean Plate Syndrome?

by Mitzi Dulan, RD

Many of us were conditioned as kids to clean our plates. Remember all those starving children in other parts of the world? It was mom’s favorite incentive for forcing you to keep shoveling food in until every morsel disappeared. Result: Years later, we’re still inhaling it all like human garbage disposals regardless of how full we’re feeling. In fact, many of us don’t even realize how full we’re getting as we’re eating. We use the clean plate as the litmus test to tell us that we’re satisfied rather than tuning in to our own bodies’ hunger and satiety cues.

Why do we still clean our plates as adults? Countless reasons. Habit. Reluctance to waste good food. The echoes of our parents’ voices whispering in our ears to “clean our plate.” Cost (I paid for it, I’m going to finish it—especially if it’s a restaurant meal). Getting rid of all the food in front of us gives us a sense of satisfaction (we completed a task—even if it was just polishing off a bowl of spaghetti). We’re focusing on something other than eating (conversation, a television show, a magazine article). Or, simply: It tastes good.

It’s time to start listening to your body and honoring it. That’s prerequisite number one for getting the bod you dream of.

So, forget all those old childhood rules. I am giving you permission to leave food on your plate. In fact, I’m encouraging it. You should never again clean your plate. If someone you’re eating with gets offended that you didn’t clean your plate, blame it on me. Tell them “My nutritionist told me to always leave some food on my plate!” Typically, the more food you leave, the better. Even if you’re making your own meals and serving yourself small portions, leave a little on your plate. Why? It’s the first step in taking charge of your eating—you’re going to teach yourself to control it instead of letting it control you.

Once you get the hang of leaving food behind, you can start tuning back in to your hunger cues more effectively. You’ll also start to eat more slowly and take more pleasure in eating, recognizing when you’re getting satisfied, and stopping before you’re stuffed or sick.

Sure, it takes some getting used to. Old habits die hard. But you’ll be amazed at how much power you’ll feel when you push your plate away and decide that you have eaten enough to satisfy yourself. If you’re struggling, repeat after me: Those last few bites are better in the Hefty bag than on my belly or my behind.



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