This week I want to say more about childhood patterns. One fascinating aspect is the innocent programming many people receive that sets them up to eat in ways that are unhealthy.
A really common issue is the clean plate syndrome! In other words, eating everything on your plate and leaving the plate clean of food. In the UK this is sometimes attributed to post war behaviour. When I say post war I’m talking about the Second World War! I don’t know if this is true or not but the thinking goes along the lines of recovery from deprivation.
The most important point I am making here relates to the innocence of this programming. Parents who instruct their children to clean their plates in most instances are doing so with a positive intention for their children’s well being. I say most because there are exceptions to most things, we’ll talk about more traumatic versions later in the series.
The suggestion is that people who were children during the Second World War in the UK experienced rationing as a result when they became parents they were more grateful for the abundance of food. This created a mentality of telling children they had to clean their plate before getting down from the table. In some cases this may have got quite extreme.
Other phrases often repeated were to remind children of the starving people in other parts of the world. I remember my brother responding to this by asking how he could post his unwanted food to the needy as he didn’t want it! Sadly his creativity was not appreciated.
This clean plate syndrome seems to exist in other cultures too some I’m guessing there are any number of reasons why it might occur. The important bottom line however is the conditioning this creates in any child told to clean their plate. The chances are the child will learn to over ride their bodies natural signals telling them to stop eating when they are full.
Over the years I have spoken to many people who feel uncomfortable leaving food on their plates and for many there is an unconscious drive to keep eating until all the food is gone.
It might be worth considering that some children get a different childhood message. I heard it described as leaving some food for “Mr Manners”! For children raised with this instruction the opposite may be true that cleaning the plate may result in distress. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who had this experience as a child, was it helpful or unhelpful.
There are also some cultures where cleaning the plate by eating everything on it is seen as a sign of respect. In others cleaning the plate means you have not had enough and your plate may get continually filled up until you leave something (always worth checking the local culture when travelling!).
What do you do if clean plate syndrome is your issue?
Well I’m guessing you’ve worked this out already. Make a point of leaving something on your plate! Now a few tips with this one.
Leave some food on your plate and ask yourself the question, “am I still hungry?” Check in with your body, take a break. If you are genuinely still hungry, throw away the food you saved and serve yourself some more. Do the same thing again.
Notice any resistance you have to this suggestion. I recommend writing down your thoughts, this will help you to identify any beliefs you have about cleaning your plate. These could range from ideas about manners through to not wanting to waste (waiste!) food.
Psychologically there is a reason for throwing some of the food away and it can be one string bean! You are re-conditioning yourself in order to change your automatic habit. For those of you familiar with NLP you might want to consider doing an NLP intervention as part of this process. You could probably do any number of interventions, as an example you could use the Change Belief pattern.
I’d be really interested to hear back from any of you who decide to test out the ideas above. Let me know how you get on, what works, what doesn’t for you.
By the way, these ideas are not my original ones, I am sure you could find similar comments in many other books. I have heard variations on this from Geenen Roth through to Anthony Robbins. To remind you, my plan is to bring as many good ideas together as I can in one place.
Next week we will discuss when food is love!