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Let’s Talk About Garbage Cans

In this post I wanted to share a valuable piece of advice that I picked up along my journey of developing better habits for my health. A lot of my habits have centered around food, but some have been about actual eating. For instance, waiting until you’re hungry to eat. I know, it sounds totally obvious, but not everyone does this! Some people just eat because it’s lunchtime and we’ve been trained to eat at certain times. Some people eat 5-6 small meals a day because they were told by someone that it’s the best way to eat for fat or weight loss (it’s not!).

I think one thing we all struggle with is the idea of clearing our plates at a meal. And really this isn’t limited to official meals. It could also be related to snacking, even though snacking isn’t a habit we want to encourage. Many of our negative food habits that follow us into adulthood are things we were trained to do as children. “Clean your plate” is definitely one of them. So what do we do about this compulsion? Being aware of when your hunger is becoming satisfied during your meal and stopping then is helpful, but again, it’s difficult. Sometimes we need a reminder that it is ok to stop and here it is.

You are not a garbage can.

Again:

YOU ARE NOT A GARBAGE CAN.

So what do garbage cans have to do with anything? Well, many people feel they should clean their plates because their food will be wasted otherwise. But how is that really different from finishing your meal when you don’t need to? When you’re already satisfied and continue eating so as not to waste, you’re putting that excess/waste or whatever you want to call it into your body anyway. I know that you’re probably thinking, no that’s not the same. But continuing to eat when you’re full and satisfied is not helping you. If you don’t want to ‘waste’ it, save it for later. Give it to the dog. Start a compost pile. I know we all heard about ‘starving orphans’ in Africa as encouragement to clean our plates when we were younger, but unless you can find a way to overnight your leftover spaghetti to someone starving, it’s not actually going to make a difference.

If you are really concerned about waste, start making smaller plates. I am so familiar with the habit of filling your plate or bowl too much and I get it. You’re hungry, you made delicious food or got takeout from somewhere and it just smells so good! But you can always go back for more if you’re *really* still hungry after eating your first serving. However, this practice is a good time to check in about some things. Are you really still hungry or do you just want more? These are different. And in that vein, are you savoring this yummy food? Or are you eating distracted and too quickly? Try to take your time. Put your phone down, turn the TV off, and actually experience your food. Think about textures and flavours. Don’t make it satisfying only to your physical body. Make it satisfying to your mind and your palate as well. By doing this, you can move beyond treating your stomach like a garbage can and you can start focusing on it with your dining actions.

Questions? Comments? Chime in below!