Goodbye Clean Plate Club!

We will work on learning to stop eating when our body tells us that we have had enough, and not when there is no food left on our plate.

Remaining food on a plate. Unsplash - Mads Eneqvist

But what is the “Clean Plate Club”?

It is a group of people who usually do not stop until they have eaten everything that is on their plate. This behavior occurs regardless of how much has been served or the body’s signs of fullness.

What made you join the infamous club?

First of all, let’s be clear: you were not born a member! You only asked for milk and stopped when enough was enough. At that stage, it was impossible to make you eat when you were not hungry.

But then what happened? Throughout your life, you were forced to eat things you didn’t like or in larger quantities than you wanted. “If you scratch your plate you’ll be able to play outside for another half hour” — reward for scratching the plate or even fear of not scratching. And the comparison with the cousins who scraped the plate and made her feel diminished, less loved?! You also learned that good things — dessert — come when you eat everything.

Pie being cut and on a plate

Until the torturous and eternal dieting phase arrives! This is when you learn to eat according to the orders of an “invisible or internal general,” and execute a calorie-counting plan at predetermined times. You see, it is not a sentence, but a conditioning.

How non-members live (yes, they exist!)

Generally speaking, they stop when their body gives the “stop” signal, and eat one too many — “a little” — on vacations or festivities. For them, overeating causes the food to start losing its flavor. Non-members eat according to hunger.

They do not have the abundance mentality, because they will eat again in a few hours. This is not a rational attitude, it is instinctive. They eat with their body, so they don’t use willpower (rational) to stop eating.

How partners live

They are people who rely on papers to guide them on how much to eat, eat according to the clock, and stop eating when the food is finished or when they reach the daily quota or that meal.

Their mindset is sparse “You can only eat on time”, and it may not even be what you want. It is an endless internal battle. Members of the club eat with their heads and live in constant negotiation with themselves. Stopping eating means exercising willpower.

3 Principles that can Help

1. Intention

Approach food with the intention of practice, as you would if you were trying to pass a stage in a game. Your goal? To get better. No judgment. No negative self-talk, just be 1% better than yesterday. Don’t be distracted by a phone, computer, or television, you will never succeed in listening to your body’s signals.

2. Awareness

Be present for this: so do your best to sit at the table and eat your meals without distractions. Before your first bite, take a few deep breaths to get out of your head and into your body. Observe how your stomach feels.

3. Observe

Evaluate your body again during the meal: Are you still hungry? What level of hunger? And again, after that eat some more. Are you feeling heaviness or tightness in your stomach? If so, you may have taken a few too many bites.

4 Tips to Make it Easier

1. Use a smaller dinner plate

This will help you get a more accurate picture of how much food your body really needs.

2. Best parts first

Don’t leave the best for last. Eat the most delicious things on your plate first. Thousands of unnecessary calories are consumed when you leave the best for last.

Eggs, potatoes, greens on a plate.

3. Eat slowly

Enjoy the flavors! Observe the texture! Be present in your meal. Don’t rush the experience. Eating is a form of self-care and you deserve to be well taken care of!

Eat in your own time and in a nice place that makes you feel relaxed. Sometimes we eat more than we need to simply because we have to get back to work and don’t feel ready.

4. Post-meal relaxation

Many of us eat to procrastinate. Have an activity planned for immediately after eating. This will allow you to continue your relaxation for a few more minutes before getting back into your routine.

What do you think about this? Do you feel part of the Clean Plate Club? Did something in this post help you to look at it differently? Let me know :)

I am a Brazilian girl (living in Sao Paulo with my fiancé — and other 20 million people). I love coffee, books, and good food. I also really enjoy studying and learning new things that allow me to further develop myself both professionally and personally. I have a degree in Food Science and hold a Ph.D. in Agri-food Marketing. In addition, I am a Certified Nutrition Coach and an enthusiastic Nutrition student.

After 15 years of living in war with my body and with food, I found freedom through mindfulness and intuitive eating, practices that allowed me to overcome yo-yo dieting and binge eating.

I’m passionate about helping women rewrite their food and body histories so they feel free and confident to live their lives to the fullest.

There is a power that comes alive when women free themselves from the food prison in which they have learned to live, when they realize that they are capable and deserving of feeling fantastic in their own bodies, and that confidence is a state of mind — not a body lotion which you get the right to use when you reach a weight-loss goal.

My work is dedicated to nurturing, celebrating and sharing this message.

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