Are You a Member of the Eat It All Club?

Are you a victim of the Eat it All thought process that plagues many of us? Are you a member of this not so exclusive club?

Confession time here. I was one of its most faithful members.

Here’s how being a member of that club worked for me:

If the food was in residence on my plate – I definitely needed to eat every last morsel.

If I had paid my hard earned money for that food – I owed it to myself to eat it all.

If someone I knew had prepared the food for me – I needed to consume it because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings.

Right or wrong – those are s some of the reasons I belonged to the Eat it All Club.

Do you ever stop to think about what is behind our “eat it all” mentality? Sometimes I wonder where this desire so many of us have to “eat it all” started, and wonder why it is so difficult to quit the Eat it All club once and for all.

Although I cannot speak for everyone, for me, there were some definite factors in my feeling compelled to Eat it All.

1. When I was a child, I was encouraged, and sometimes threatened, to finish the food on my plate. I got the message from adults in my life that if I did not clean my plate then it was like taking food away from the starving children in Africa. Even as a child I never really understood that logic because I knew that I could not shove the unwanted food on my plate into an envelope and mail it to Africa.

2. I didn’t want to waste money – When I reached adulthood and had an income of my own, I honestly did find it hard to leave food on the table. After all, I paid for it, so I should probably finish it. This often meant that I would eat way beyond the point where I felt full.

3. If I were “allowed” to eat it I would– I feel into this pattern when I was trying to follow a specific diet plan like Richard Simmons or Weight Watchers. If the plan said I could have gingersnap cookies, then I must have them. Of course I never stopped at the recommended one or two cookies – instead I ate the entire box. As an aside, I did learn that too many gingersnaps bothered my stomach and have not eaten gingersnaps in years!

These types of thought patterns made it difficult for me to resign from the Eat it All Club. Even when I decided to lose weight using my own plan (which you can find in my book – shameless plug) I still had to fight the tendency to inhale every speck of food on my plate.

I realize now that these “reasons” for eating everything on my own plate were born of habit and a fruitless attempt at soothing emotions with food.

I discovered that I had to make a conscious decision to eat not only the right amounts of food but also to listen to my body and stop when I was full – even if there was food left on the plate.

If you are following a set program, do you feel compelled to eat every bit of food you can possible have and still stay on your plan? If you are doing your own thing then how do you handle your desire to eat more than you really want?

Here are some tips I did to break this cycle of always cleaning my plate:

  • Decided ahead of time what I would eat in social situations
  • Gave myself permission to say no
  • Thought about every meal in terms of how it met my daily and weekly goals.
  • Planned, planned, planned
  • Left room for unforeseen circumstances

Are you part of the Eat it All club, or have you found a better way? I’d love to hear what challenges you have faced and how you’ve overcome them!  Diane

31 thoughts on “Are You a Member of the Eat It All Club?

  1. blackhuff says:

    I was also part of this club because I was taught as a kid, that one do not waste food nor money, so your plate must be clean when leaving the table.
    I wish that my mom was the way I am now. I now know what the right amount of food is is for each person according to their age, height and weight. So I only make the correct amount of food for each person. But if there is food left on their plates, they do get that food in their lunch box the following day for lunch. Saving money this way and not wasting food as well but also not belonging to the “Eat it all club.”

  2. Susan says:

    I grew up in the deep south where food was love, of course you had to clean your plate willingly or be shamed into it. I don’t think I knew what a proper portion of food was until I was well into my 20’s and fighting becoming obsese the first time. I had a job where I was singled out to lose weight or lose my job because I didn’t look good in my costume working in merchandise at Walt Disney World here in Orlando.

  3. Vickie says:

    My kids will not eat one more bite as soon as they are anywhere near full. It mightbe two bites left and they will put it in the refrigerator for later. if there is food in the refrigerator, no one touches it unless it is theirs. We are all good label-ers. There are many things that are divided into portions and labeled (when I make them) rather than being stored in bulk. People eat at different speeds, and this allows each to eat at their own pace.

    Yes, now I have a full switch for real food.

    If I were eating processed food, I think the salt/sugar preempts the full switch and causes
    Problems, with a capitol P.

  4. KarenJ says:

    I have a vivid memory when I was a kid of sitting at the table all morning one time until I ate my (now cold) oatmeal. What a battle of wills! In spite of my best efforts, I became a member of that club, not being allowed dessert until I finished everything on my plate (and we all know dessert was the best part of the meal). It took me a long time to untrain myself. Now when in situations where the food is served to me, such as in restaurants, I eat until I am satisfied and take the rest home. I go to networking meetings for my coaching business and have to “pay” for the food even though I don’t eat a bite of what is served. I feel my payoff is in a healthier me and I model those behaviors for those around me.

  5. Sharon says:

    Yes, this has been my nemesis from childhood and I suspect, a strong reason behind ALL of my weight issues. I was also threatened by the “starving children in Africa” plus was sent on the guilt trip of how hard my parents had worked to earn money to feed us and the least we could do was eat it! My greatest hangups with respect to food have been equating amounts of food with money and the wastefulness of NOT eating it all. I have come a long way and feel good about the progress. Someone (it may have been you) reminded me in a post very early in blogging history that “waste” came in different forms and food put inside your body that wasn’t needed was also wasted. Waste is waste, so better left on your plate than inside your body.

  6. Jody - Fit at 54 says:

    I did grow up “cleaning the plate” as they say BUT with time, I have learned no need for that. I eat mini meals so really I do eat it all but it is a mini meal. 🙂

    Hubby eats 3 meals BUT he is so good about leaving food if he is full. I was never like that when I was heavy – I just kept eating! 😉

  7. Marc says:

    I was the NorthWest Chapter President for 10 years. The colors on our jackets were red, yellow, and white. They represented ketchup, mustard, and mayo. As kids my mom meant well when we were instructed to clean our plates for all the starving kids around the world who could not. I still clean my plate, I just use plates with smaller diameters:)

  8. Deniz says:

    Aaaaaargh! Those very words ‘clear your plate’ make me break into a muck sweat these days.

    I too was raised by parents who hated waste with a passion (not their fault, as they’d lived through WW2 and knew what it was like to ‘do without’!) and who, she says tactfully…, ‘strongly encouraged’ us kids to eat everything on our plates.

    So, I have to admit that I WAS a fully paid-up member of the club for eons, with the annual ribbons, gold long-service stars and all. It took me a heck of a struggle to resign my membership but I’m happy to be finally free of it.

    I’ve learned to recognise what ‘full’ feels like at long last, and it is nice to not feel guilty if a little bit (or a lot) gets left behind on my plate these days.

    Of course, another way round the problem might be to just dish up a teensy-tiny portion and not go back for seconds?

  9. Lisa says:

    When I was a kid, we were forced to “clean our plate.” And if we didn’t we had to sit at the table til we did. That definitely skewed my relationship with food and hunger and knowing limits. As an adult, I still felt like I had to clean my plate. Now? I don’t have the urge as much but I think that is due to the fact that I eat correct portion sizes and don’t try to eat TONS of food!

  10. Cindy says:

    As soon as I read your post the same childhood memory popped into my head. It is one of my younger brother being forced to finish some sausage that my dad had made for dinner while my mom was away. My brother was a little boy and he just couldn’t finish the sausage. He had one more big link to go but he managed to go ahead and eat it and then promptly sat on the sofa and threw it all up all over the sofa. My dad had to clean up the mess and I vividly remember that he felt bad about it. In fact, he was probably confused.
    As we got older – ‘Eat what you want but eat what you take.’ became one his favorite quotes. The problem was I don’t think we ever really learned how much to take (or not to take). To this day, I still have issues leaving food on the plate because I do find it wasteful. But I also need to remember that by just consuming all of my own food does not mean that is going to solve the world’s hunger problems.
    Thank you for this post and your tips. They really help…….which reminds me that I need to see if your book is a Nook book. I think shameless plugs are necessary and a good reminder about your book!

  11. Dr. J says:

    Yes, I was punished for not eating it all as a kid. Re-parenting myself when I was older has paid many dividends in my life!

    Pretty much I do eat it all, but since I’m careful with portion control, it works all right.

    In restaurants, this is often not the case so it’s doggy-bag time 🙂

  12. Taryl says:

    Oh, the clean plate club. Yes, I struggle with that, too. In act I’d sayit has been my biggest enemy in intuitive eating – needing to eat beyond hunger because food is left! Ugh.

    I’m doing better not requiring itof my kids, but my father-in-law is very strict on that point, even with adult guests, and I’m hoping the kids don’t pick up that habit from him. We just require that that eat their veggie course first and try a bite of the main dish, the rest is pretty flexible. But can I conquer the need to clean my own plate when I’m not hungry? Sometimes I have success at this and sometimes it is a fight, so I’d say I’m definitely a work in progress on this point.

  13. Janis says:

    I don’t think our parents ever said that, which is strange since they were BOTH Depression kids. I don’t think my parents ever made overwhelming amounts of food, though. My mom had a native distrust of most packaged foods and we didn’t have much money, so I never had habits of poverty put on me in an environment where they weren’t appropriate. I also never really took more than I wanted in general. I could gauge what I wanted and just took that amount.

  14. Siobhan says:

    My mom, who raised 12 kids, said she learned early on not to insist anybody eat anything when one of the kids threw up on her when forced to eat green beans. (Said kid still can’t stand green beans to this day.) I never insisted my kids clean their plates … could never understand why some adults felt it was okay for them to not eat/not finish food, but would insist their kids had to finish. I don’t have a problem myself with HAVING to eat it all; my problem is with WANTING to eat it all.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I’m with your mom. I don’t insist anyone finish anything, but do limit how many seconds of fruit or bread they can have if they haven’t finished their veggies or the main portion of their food. I have some that would just fill up on apples or grapes and ignore everything else if I’d let them!

  15. Christine says:

    THANK YOU so much for your comment on my blog!
    It means so much to me…I have read your blog for a while now and I see you as a mentor even though I do not know you so you commenting just lite a spark in me!!!

  16. Megan says:

    Great post, it’s obvious from a lot of the comments that many of us have grown up with parents who have set the bar for how much we had to eat and then struggled to manage it ourselves once reaching adulthood and realising just how high that bar really is! I think it comes back to the maternal instinct of nurturing your child, and that comes out in making sure they grow up big and strong through feeding. The problem is that they weren’t as educated about meals, sizes and the contents and didn’t know they weren’t actually helping us. Making the dessert so desirable and a reward for eating all the food on the plate was probably the worst thing my mum ever did. I am still breaking those habits today.

    My solutions is very similar to yours, planning and making sure I think about the foods I eat ahead of time. Thinking about it while I am hungry leads to poor choices, having it ready means I don’t have to think about going to buy that cupcake while getting that sandwich.

    The hardest thing is retraining your mind, and that is a process that is up to each individual and their journey with food and weight loss.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    Yes, I was a member of the “happy plate” club as we called it. To make the plate “happy” meant to eat all the food. I now make it an effor to leave food on my plate and slow down when I eat. I always leave food on my plate now and serve myself much small portions. It makes me smile to think about the leftover calories. Alos, I am guilty of eating super fast, so sometimes my food doesn’t have time to tell my brain – enough already!

  18. Leah says:

    Being able to leave food on my plate, or only eating one plate at a buffet, is one of the greatest changes I’ve made in my healthiness journey. I feel very free when I’m able to say I’ve had enough and I’m not stuffed, or didn’t finish everything. 🙂

  19. Joe says:

    Ever since I had a memory I remember my parents say I had to clean my plate before I could leave. When I went over my Grandparents house for dinner they would say the same thing. Obviously economic factors played a role in their rules. For much of my life I followed the clean plate principle and it showed. Since I’ve dedicated myfelf to losing weight in recent months I have learned ways around it. Since its just me and my wife I purposely cook dinner for only a serving of two. So when I buy chicken breast I’m throwing 2 a piece in a freezer bag and into the freezer. Works for me.

  20. Janis says:

    I wonder how much of this might be down to the fact that that generation grew up with so little … and then we ended up with so much as a society? Taking people who made do with so very little and putting them in a situation of artificial plenty (foods that had many, many times more calories packed into them than is natural) — might that promote obesity over and above that created by the technological food itself, designed to promote overeating?

  21. Caron says:

    I was taught to “clean my plate” too. I could heap as much on there as I chose but I also had to eat every morsel. I still clean my plate, but I know exactly how much is there and how it will help my body. 🙂

  22. Rachelle says:

    I used to be part of that club. Honestly I am still in that club in a way. I still believe in eating everything I put on my plate, but now I put only the amount I should eat on my plate. If I am at a restaurant and my plate has more food on it than I know I should eat in one serving I will often separate it on my plate and then ask for a to go box to put the extra in.

    My question for you though is how to not pass that mentality on to my kids. I have a really difficult time getting them to eat all their food. Usually they stop eating, not because they are full, but because they have eaten so slowly that they have lost interest in the food. If I simply so ok and let them get down then I feel like I pay the price later when they realize they are hungry. Often they figure out that they aren’t full when I’m trying to clean the meal up. So if I allow them to come back to the table and start eating again any given meal can easily take 2 or more hours from start until when I finally have the table cleared. That drives me nuts. I have been teaching them to eat everything on their plate (I usually dish it up or at least supervise so I know they don’t have “too much” on their plate) but reading this entry made me realize that I may be setting them up for a battle with their weight in the future and I don’t want them to go through what I’ve been through and what my husband is struggling with.

    Do you have any suggestions from your experience? How do you handle it with your younger kids. My kids are 8, 6, and 4.

    • Janis says:

      It may just be a matter of going with their instincts: they’re pretty small, so it may be a lot to ask of them to fit an appropriate amount of food in a little stomach all at one go. Maybe let them eat until they lose interest, and then when they come back, they can have a piece of fruit or something once their stomachs settle.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      That’s such a great question about kids. I tell my 8 and 10 year old that they can “be done” whenever they are full, but they can’t have anything else until the next meal. I don’t insist they clean their plate, but I do ask that they finish their vegetables or main dish before they get another helping of fruit or a more “fun” part of the meal. With my 6 and 4 year old, I’m more lenient because I know that they are still developing their taste buds. If they don’t eat much at a meal I do let them have a snack later, but make sure it is a healthy snack like fruit, cheese, or some dry cereal in a cup. No sweets in between meals.

      Another thing I’ve always worked hard on is teaching them about nutrition as they grow and making them aware of the importance of moderation in their choices. I don’t want them to feel deprived growing up but on the other hand I don’t want to shower them with sweets, etc. It is a balance and thus far, my adult children are making good lifestyle choices. (In case you didn’t know, I’ve got seven kids!)

  23. Tami @Nutmeg Notebook says:

    I was brought up in the generation of waste not want not! I changed that pattern when I became a parent and I let my children listen to their bodies instead of directing them to eat when “I” was hungry and to allow them to stop when “they” were full. We are born with those instincts but then conditioned to do otherwise. For myself I am still a work in progress -learning to listen to those signals that say I am full and stopping even if there is food on plate.

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