the last few bites: in the garbage, or on your backside?

"Clean your plate!" 

"There are starving kids in China!"

Why am I still saying this to my kids? A better question would be "Why am I still thinking this?" 

I can only guess that the reason this is so engrained in my head after all of these years is because when my parents grew up, they were taught that you ate what you were given. Wasting food was not an option. It just was not a luxury people had. Food portions were appropriate, food was mostly homegrown and handmade and there was no need to think about overeating. That mentality around food and portion size was impressed upon me to clean my plate at a very young age.

Now, a few decades later, American portions are grossly out of proportion. In fact, it should be called disproportion. According to, on average, meals from the non-chain restaurants contain about 1,200 calories each, which is more than half the daily requirement for most women and about 44 percent of the daily requirement for men. This is ludicrous.

So.... do we still have to clean our massively overfilled plate? I can't possibly be expected to... so why am I still trying to? And why am I telling my kids to do the same? There is just something in my brain that tells me don't stop eating the chips and salsa until that last chip is gone, even if I'm so full I'm nauseous. 

Something has got to change, and I don't think that it is going to be the restaurants. Our ability to ask ourselves, "Do I want these last few bites in the garbage or on my backside?", should be enough for us to realize that we are not required to eat everything that is put in front of us. We don't need it, our bodies cannot handle it and we are creating a bigger problem in the long run with weight gain, diabetes, etc than just clearing our plate into the garbage.

This is not to say we should be wasteful, not at all. Be mindful and aware of the food you buy. Also, have compassion for people that are actually starving; but, putting on a guilt trip centered around the ethos that you have more than someone else so you better eat it, is not the lesson I want to convey. How about this, we prepare ourselves to not eat it all, not order so much food, but split up the portion and take some of it home. Easier said than done, I admit, it is not always an easy task boxing up your leftover tuna salad sandwich to sit in your car the rest of the afternoon or carry leftover Thai curry around the mall while shoe shopping, but it would stop you from eating it all unnecessarily. Some other possibilities would be to split (gasp!) an entree with a friend, order a small portion, just get an appetizer, or don't eat the extras like bread or chips until you feel like a snake that has swallowed a whole mouse.

The possibilities to prepare for not overeating are endless. Exercise some self-respect, take back control of your waistline and stop force-feeding yourself into a meat coma, and for God's sake, stop thinking that you have to clean your plate!

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