Empty Plate Syndrome

What is “Empty Plate Syndrome?

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.

Garbage plate

What causes it?

Growing up, we are often told that we  can’t leave the dining table until we have finished everything on our plate. And, how many of you remember being praised by adults for cleaning up your plate? Or offered bribes, in the form of sweets and desserts, to entice us into finishing our vegetables?

How many of you experienced the following when trying to “leave something on 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. This is a learned behavior we picked up by emulating our parents and further reinforced by the family’s dining table rules.

"Sir- don't waste while your wife saves. Adopt the doctrine of the clean plate- do your share." - NARA - 512569

What can you do about it?

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.

Further reading:

Georgie Fear’s half-time strategy!
A great way to become more conscious of your eating and to help you to get more in tuned with your satiety signals.


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