I heard it just yesterday – “All those children starving in Haiti and you’re going to leave that on your plate.” Sister Paula’s variation for us first and second graders was, of course, the starving children in Africa. My grandfather advised us to “polish those bones” when Nanny served chicken. And, at the Doty dinner table, we were encouraged to belong to The Clean Plate Club. How ever you heard it, I’ll bet you were also told to eat all of the food that you took or that was served to you.
Once upon a time, Americans didn’t have refrigerators or the electricity to power them. They had no way to preserve left-overs and, since food was a great deal more scarce then and too valuable to waste, it had to be eaten when served. Fried food was a good thing because it increased the number of calories in a single serving, providing more energy from the same dinner. When my mother was young, she and her brothers picked cotton in Mississippi. Without that energy, it would have difficult for them to survive, much less work the farm. Waste not, want not. Of course that is the right thing now, just like it was then. The problem now, is that our plates are larger, our portion sizes are larger, our food is less natural and more loaded with sugar, salt and other preservatives. We are eating ourselves to death to avoid waste!
When I first started changing my lifestyle, I left food on my plate at restaurants and even at home. Even though doggie bags and Tupperware are options, it was physically painful for me to leave the food there. Like Pavlov’s pooch salivating at the bell, I felt physically ill when I went against my dinnertime conditioning. It’s STILL a struggle and perhaps the source of my compulsion to finish off any open bag of Cheetos. The thing is: it is essential to get over this false stress response. I’ve gone back to eating all the food I’m served in a restaurant. Even if my meal is a salad with no dressing, too much food is still too much food. In the lifestyle change, I halved my food immediately when it was served. I ate half and brought the other half home. I MUST return to that habit. Otherwise, my stomach again looks for massive amounts of food to feel full. The overeating cycle is re-enforced.
The truth that we know is that we all eat too much. No one can break that habit but us. We have to have a Nancy Reagan moment and “just say no” – no quart of salad, no 16 ounce steak, no Man vs Food (in my opinion one of the most disgusting displays of excess on television). We can bring it home. If not, the world won’t stop spinning if we just leave it at the restaurant sometimes.
Yes, we are morally bound to help the starving in Haiti, in Africa, and in our own communities (there are far more of them than we think); but, giving ourselves obesity induced heart-attacks and strokes just ain’t the way to do it.