Why Finishing Everything Your Plate Is A Big Waste and How To Give It Up For Good

By Laura Rubinstein, CHt

“Think of all those starving children in India.”  “Be a member of the clean plate club.”  “No dessert until you finish your dinner.”  “It’s a sin to waste food.”  These were the exhortations of our parents trying to get us to eat as children, but they had the unfortunate side effect of training us to overeat.  The attachment of guilt to leaving food on your plate is particularly insidious, because it puts us in a bind: Eat too much (and suffer the consequences), or feel like you’ve let down your mother.  It also allows us to rationalize and feel virtuous while compulsively overeating.


I am a conservationist.  Wastefulness does feel sinful to me.  I never questioned the validity of the principle of the “clean plate.”  It was only during a recent conversation that I started to realize how absurd this line of reasoning is.  There is still food on my plate, but I feel full.  Will eating the rest help any starving children in India?  Can I mail it to them?  Of course the answer to these questions is no, but won’t the food be wasted if I don’t eat it?  NO!  Let’s say it doesn’t get eaten.  What happens?  It is either saved for later (definitely not wasted), or goes into the garbage.  But going into the garbage doesn’t mean it is wasted.  Food is biodegradable, so no matter where it ends up, it will break down and becomes compost.  The nutrients are returned to the Earth and feed new growth.  This is recycling in its purest form.

In fact, eating that extra food on your plate is wasteful.  Any extra food eaten is stored as fat in your body.  The energy in the food is now locked up in extra body mass.  For as long as it remains in this state it is kept out of the Earth’s food web.  So by eating additional calories that I don’t use, I’m actually selfishly depriving the rest of the world of access to that energy!  In addition, I’m degrading my health, which leads to greater consumption of health care resources.

But someone put effort into making that food.  What can I do?  Don’t take as much food to begin with.  The amount of food that your stomach can hold comfortably is roughly the same volume as your fist.  Compare your fist to the next plate of food you are about to eat and you’re in for a real eye-opener.  Start with a small plate of food, then take a break before rushing for a second. Inf fact, use a smaller size plate. You’ll probably feel full and realize that you don’t want the extra food.  Bingo – no waste!

Portion size in America has been subject to serious inflation.  Recent studies of historic food serving portion size in America published in The Journal of the American Medical Association and the American Journal of Public Health confirm what we instinctively know to be true:  since the 1970’s, our cultural concept of food portions has been super-sized.  The ever popular fast food establishments in particular have greatly increased the amount of food in a single serving.  When eating out, it is easy to be confronted with much more food than it is comfortable to eat in a single sitting.

Remember, “all you can eat” is NOT all you should eat, or even want to eat.  Being full is different than being in pain, and yet all of us have experienced the discomfort of eating past when we’re full.  This is a real waste.  It wastes the enjoyment of the meal, and it wastes the calories that are kept out of the world energy economy.  So take a moral stand against wastefulness and push that plate away when you’ve eaten enough.  Then explain to your mother (the voice in your head) why it is OK to leave some food on your plate and the real waste is in consuming extra unnecessary calories. Whether you eat it or not it all goes to waste. The waste on your waist is the most unfortunate.

With the proper reframing and positive suggestions, I help people create positive health habits and a body they are proud of for life. Hypnosis is a very powerful tool for making fundamental changes that can improve your health, happiness and overall success.

Coach Laura Rubinstein is a Certified Hypnotherapist who specializes in health habit creation and body transformation.

Copyright 2011 Transform Today. All rights reserved.

Laura Rubinstein CHt is the founder of www.TransformYourBody.com and author of Transform Your Body in the Mental Gym, Why Diets Don’t Work and How to Overcome Your Weight Challenges for Life.