“It tastes so good; I can’t stop eating even though I’m stuffed.”
This seems to be a hot topic right now with my clients and co-workers.
Can you relate to this statement?
Man, I sure can!!
And if I’m being completely transparent; sometimes it still happens…but not nearly as much as it used to!
I have come a very long way from where I used to be with my relationship with food. I’ve written about my experience with extreme dieting when I was in my 20’s if you want to read about it here.
So why do we feel we have to eat ourselves silly until we are stuffed?
We’ve all done it.
We’ve found ourselves with an amazing plate of food in front of ourselves, the flavors, the texture, the comfort of it all going down….and damn, it’s so so good.
We start to feel the fullness creep in….yet we keep on keeping on with our eating…until we suddenly find ourselves feeling full to the brim and pretty miserable. GAH!!!!
Why do we do this to ourselves????
In my mind two things are at play here:
1-FOMO- or Fear Of Missing Out– We are afraid that the experience will end and that it will be a long time before we have it again, soooo, we continue to eat and eat and eat. Eating is not just a way of fixing hunger; it’s also an emotional experience too, isn’t it?
Eating delicious foods can make us “feel” comforted and that feeling is something we don’t want to let go of, so we keep eating past comfort fearing we might not have this experience again.
The funny part about this is that food is so incredibly abundant these days that for the most part, we CAN have that food and that experience again….anytime we want it!
A couple of my co-workers were talking about their lack of “will power” when it comes to eating burrito bowls from Chipotle in one sitting (if you’ve never had a burrito bowl from Chipotle before; they’re literally the size of my head. They’re ginormous!).
They kept saying that they can’t help but to eat the whole thing every-single- time because it tastes so good. But in the next breath, they complain about feeling so stuffed and full of remorse for eating so much when they’re finished.
Unless we’re on vacation somewhere where the cuisine is authentic to that region and we truly can’t duplicate it at home (read: the gnocchi in a tiny restaurant in San Dona’ Italy….to DIE for); there is no
reason to fear that we can’t have another burrito bowl from Chipotle or anything else readily available whenever we want it!
I’ve totally been down this road before myself….
Years ago, hubby and I would go to our favorite sushi bar and want to eat everything on the sushi menu.
So what would we do? Well, we ordered, everything on the menu! (Ok…maybe not everything but it was far more than we needed!).
We would eat until we were absolutely STUFFED and miserable…cuz, you know, the sushi bar that was 2 miles from our house, might not be there next week or the week after that, so we better eat it all while we can (illogical thinking at its best right??), and it tasted so good!
Which brings me to reason #2…..
2-Victim of “Clean your plate” syndrome- Ah yes, who wasn’t raised with “you better clean your plate because are starving children in (fill_______ in the blank)”.
If you have ever observed small children when they eat, they instinctively know when they’ve had enough and will easily walk away from their food. They are completely in tune with their natural hunger and satiety cues. They don’t care about cleaning their plates and they don’t eat until they’re stuffed.
The problem comes into play when well meaning parents force their kids to eat every single bite on their plates, even when their kids no longer want to eat, as they worry their kids are not eating enough.
I was certainly brought up this way….and heard the “starving kids in China” more times than I count, LOL!
The bad part of all of this is that we eventually learned how to “override” and ignore our natural satiety clues by eating well past comfort. We were made to feel guilty if we didn’t clean our plates, even though we were no longer felt hungry.
This way of thinking has been so ingrained in us since childhood… we carry these same beliefs around as adults.
We are no longer in tune with our natural hunger and fullness cues (I’ve actually had clients tell me they haven’t felt hunger pangs in years).
Because of this, the barometer for “satisfaction” is visual and is measured by whether or not we “cleaned our plates” vs. tuning into how we are feeling as we eat.
Couple this with the standard American over-sized portions…and well…it leads to some serious over consumption!
So how can we overcome “FOMO” and “Clean your plate syndrome”?
It’s about shifting our mindset and being present while we eat. This takes a little practice at first…but its well worth the effort.
Here’s the mindset shift:
Yes the food is so delicious; we don’t want the experience to end so we eat and eat and eat.
But what if we could extend the experience and enjoy it over again by portioning out those meals and making them last for a couple of days?
Doesn’t it make more sense to eat the sushi or Chipotle or whatever it is, over several meals (or at least two meals), so we can look forward to savoring it again in the very near future?
Doesn’t it make more sense to eat until we’re satisfied vs. stuffing ourselves and then feeling guilty for stuffing ourselves, just because we don’t want the experience to end, or we have the need to “clean our plates”, or we can’t stop because “it just tastes so good”? (Yep that was a run-on sentence).
I remember exactly when I decided I needed to do something about the over-eating I was doing.
I was working at 2 restaurants and going through college, so I mostly ate the food from the restaurants I was working at.
They would give us really generous portions… wayyyy too much food for one meal and of course I’d finish all of the food just as I was raised to do.
I would feel horrible of course and it actually affected the way I felt when I was in my classes. Hard to concentrate when you feel like you’re going to explode LOL!
So I decided I needed to change something about my eating situation. I started asking for smaller portions at the restaurants I was working at (seems counterintuitive as we want to get our “money’s worth” right?).
Normally I would take a To Go box, but I couldn’t because I had to go straight from work to school.
But I tell you, I felt SO MUCH BETTER eating less food! Who cares if I “didn’t get my so called “money’s worth”….feeling better trumps “money’s worth” any day of the week in my opinion!
Eating smaller amounts of food eventually became a habit, which became my new norm.
Hubby and I stopped eating half the sushi bar in one sitting and started to bring home what we didn’t finish.
I can honestly say that it is indeed a very rare occasion if I ever finish restaurant portions in one sitting anymore.
I don’t even have to think about it, it’s become such a habit.
I know every time I eat out somewhere…I’m going to get at least 2-4 meals out of my, well, meal!
It was a little scary to do this in the beginning, because I had that “clean your plate” loop playing over and over again in my head. It felt “wrong”, I guess is the word, to leave food on my plate and ask for a To Go box.
But over time, I became more comfortable with the idea, plus, I FELT better not having to stuff myself unnecessarily because of FOMO. I now had “permission” if you will, to eat until I was content…and could look forward to have left-overs later.
Total shift in mindset isn’t it?
If this is a struggle for you, here are my tips to conquer “FOMO” and “Clean your plate syndrome.”
*I invite you to try putting half of your food, if you’re facing large portions…(even if you aren’t facing large portions and are just not hungry enough to finish the entire thing), into a to go box for later.
It will seem weird and may even cause a little anxiety in the beginning…but I promise you this will be one of the best things you can do for yourself…and you’ll save some money because you’ll be getting more meals for your buck!
* Once you’ve put half of the food away, eat what is in front of you S-L-O-W-L-Y.
Take your time to savor your food. Turn off all the distractions such as the computer, TV or phone. We humans like to think we are so good at multi-tasking: we’re not.
Think about the way they eat in Europe. They are taught to savor and enjoy the experience by eating slowly and thoroughly engaging in the activity of nourishing themselves.
*Put your fork down between bites.
I’m sure you’ve heard this 100 times…but it’s so true. Next time you’re out eating in a restaurant or with other family members, observe how often people have the next forkful of food loaded up and ready to go into their mouths before they’ve even finished chewing the bite that’s currently in their mouths! Put your fork down between every single bite. Try to be the last one to finish your food at the table.
*Tune in to how you’re feeling while you’re eating.
If you are no longer in tune with your natural hunger and satiety feelings…try to tune into what you’re body is telling you. This is not possible to do without practicing the previous steps of slowing down and putting your fork down between bites.
Try to eat to a point where you are no longer hungry….but not feeling full either (again you’ll never know this if you’re scarfing your food down). One way to gage whether or not you have eaten just to comfort: you should be able to feel like you could go for a brisk walk after a meal and feel very comfortable doing so.
Learning how to eat without stuffing ourselves, without feeling “FOMO”, or without experiencing the guilt of the “Clean Your Plate Syndrome”, takes time and conscious effort.
It won’t happen overnight, but if you take it one step at a time, you will get there. You have to be mindful and present in the beginning. That’s how it works when trying to create change.
But ….before you know it…you’ll learn how to enjoy your food and the experience of eating without the guilt and remorse from stuffing yourself!