My parents cursed me. No, really, they did.
As a kid, my parents congratulated my brother and me when we finished all the food our plates. It was adorable when we asked for seconds. If we had food left on our plates and we said we were full, we were told to take one more bite. My mom always insisted that we become members of the Clean Plate Club.
Now, my parents weren’t intending to curse me. No, they were just being parents, doing what they thought was right. I know for a fact that they were simply following the footsteps their own parents laid out for them. Both set of my grandparents went through periods of great poverty and were very conscious and strict about food left on your plate. My paternal Grandpa came over from England during WW2 with his sister shortly after his mother was died. He used to tell us stories of going to a restaurant and ordering a (free) cup of hot water and adding ketchup to make “tomato soup”. He was so proud to be able to give large, belly filling plates of food to his sons and later his grandchildren, and hated to see food go to waste. In my father’s home, cleaning your plate was more of an order and an honor than a ‘fun’ club or an option. My mom wasn’t allowed to drink water while she ate as a little girl because my Nanny told her that it filled her up too much, and she needed to clean her plate before being allowed to leave the table. These habits were how my mom and dad were raised, so they handed them down to me.
As I grew older, joining the Clean Plate Club definitely was not an issue. It was a habit. My friends would look at me in shock, asking where I put it. I would joyfully tell them I was a lifetime member of the CPC. Leaving food on my plate is genuinely hard for me. It’s ingrained in me to finish. (On a slightly different note, did you know in terms of etiquette, there is a fine line between rude and well-mannered in regards to leaving food on your plate? You should always leave a little bit of food on your plate – if you finish it, it is implied that the host did not provide you with enough food, too much and the food sucked. Or so the etiquette books say.)
At my heaviest, I was 165 pounds. Losing weight was one of the most amazing and life changing journeys of my life. I learned how much I really need to eat, and how much I was eating out of habit. I began doling out less food for myself. I made it a point to assess how much I was served, and before even touching it decide how much I would attempt to leave on my plate. I now think before taking another bite. When I feel a little full, I sit back, take a sip of water and wait to see if I want more food.
Every single day, every single meal is a struggle, though. I see food left on my plate and feel the urge to finish it. I feel incomplete without finishing my plate, like I’m letting someone down. Sometimes I cave and finish my plate when I’m not hungry any more. Sometimes I’m weak and keep picking at food after I’ve set down my plate. Sometimes I stand at the stove eating leftovers from the pan while I’m cleaning up. I struggle with binge eating and eating out of boredom and eating because I’m emotional. I feel guilty and kind of gross after I do it, but admitting is the first step, right? And admitting has made me realize the one blessing I have received from this curse.
My son will never have a lifetime achievement card from the Clean Plate Club. He will never hear me insist on him taking one more bite, if he is genuinely full. I will not congratulate him for finishing his plate (Unless it’s a plate of broccoli. Or spinach. Or something crazy healthy that his father would never touch.) While I understand that there will be days that he is so picky and finicky that I would kill for him to have an excuse to clean his plate, I will never. I have learned that one’s body tells him what it wants. Ryan is already learning to listen to his body, eating what he wants and then letting me know he’s full by tossing food to the dog. He doesn’t feel the urge to clean his plate, and I sincerely hope he never does.
The curse of the Clean Plate Club is something I will undoubtedly struggle with for the rest of my life. It’s ingrained in me the same way saying “Bless you,” when someone sneezes has been ingrained in me. But like all shortcomings, I work on it every day, becoming stronger and wiser. And slowly, slowly, slowly, my curse diminishes until, hopefully, it is one day just a small nagging in the back of my mind.
Either way, I’m shredding my gold membership card.
This week I’m linking up with Amanda from Running with Spoons for Thinking Out Loud!
Are you a member of the Clean Plate Club? Do you have the Curse of the Clean Plate Club? Let me know in the comments!