How many of you are afflicted by the “Empty Plate Syndrome”? The compulsive need to polish off every single scrap on your plate even though you are already satiated or full to the point of bursting.
Growing up, we are often told that we can’t leave the dining table until we have finished whatever that has been served to us. Or perhaps having the adults praise or offer bribes to entice you into cleaning up your plate.
I tried following this advice at a recent meal and was surprised at the gut-reaction I felt staring down at those last few mouthfuls of food. It was so hard not to eat them. I recognized that I wasn’t really hungry anymore, but it just felt so wrong to carry the plate back into the kitchen with just that tiny bit of food still there. Scraping it into the trash was even worse. I felt so guilty and wasteful, I could hardly bear it.
Guess what? This is because we have been conditioned by the years of repetition.
Recent research indicates that allowing children to decide how much they want to eat may be a valuable tool in the fight against childhood obesity. This is because controlling children’s eating via external cues such as “clean your plate” or bribery, prevents the child from learning how to self-regulate. It conditions them to ignore their own internal hunger and satiety signals and encourages them to overeat. In addition, it may even lead to disordered eating habits in adulthood.
So how do you as an adult overcome this? By practicing mindful eating. Eating more slowly and re-learning to rely on your own internal signals.