Breaking the Clean Plate Club Cycle

The Clean Plate Club.  It has been said that eating patterns are passed down from generation to generation.  As a child I was raised by adults who were by products of the depression era and had encountered food scarcity and it wasn’t uncommon to hear tidbits about the starving children in Africa, being forced into eating food after we were full, going to a buffet hungry to “get your money’s worth”, not getting to eat dessert unless our plates were empty and when all else failed, the guilt that would ensue.  Oh the guilt.

It has been awhile since I first spoke about the Clean Plate Club and how hard it has been for me to stop clearing my plate.  I remember how exhilarating it felt to push my plate away and say “I’m done, I’m full” without feeling sick to my stomach with internalized guilt.  During my dieting days, I would eat what I was entitled to per my calorie/carb/point/container tracker rather than listening to internal fullness cues.

To say the least, quitting the Clean Plate club has been extremely hard and has been an ongoing process.  Over the last year I’ve made changes not only in my own view of a Clean Plate, but also how forcing my kids to eat certain things, eating their leftovers out of guilt, or clean their plate for dessert was doing them a disservice.  So what changed?

It was when Lauren Koski, of the Healthy Habits Happy Moms movement shared her perspective on cleaning your plate that things really clicked for me. “Food waste will happen whether it’s on my plate, or in my body if it’s being eaten when I’m already full”. 

Mic drop.

I’m not helping the starving kids in Africa.

I’m not getting my money’s worth or throwing hard earned dollars in the trash.

I’m not doing myself a service by eating my kids leftovers because they won’t clean their own plates.

I’m a grown up who can eat dessert whenever I want.

It’s not an inconvenience to put leftovers (regardless of how much is left) in the fridge for later if I want to.

I don’t need to force my children to eat because their little bodies know better than I do how hungry they are.  My job as a mom is to give them variety and choices. (Here is an excellent Facebook group/resource on helping children continue the natural Intuitive Eating habits they were born with).

So I encourage you to think critically on this one.  Were you raised in an environment where clean plates were part of your childhood?  Has it changed how you eat as an adult?  Have you found yourself continuing the clean plate cycle as a parent?  Does this change your perspective on food waste?

Intuitive Eating Resources:

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