Stop Cleaning Your Plate and Lose Weight

Are you a plate cleaner? Is the sound of your fork scraping the bottom of the dish seeking the last remnants of food a familiar one? Whether food was scarce or out of a sense of obligation, we were raised to eat all of the food on our plates. Fortunately, for most citizens of first world countries, food is no longer scarce. Unfortunately, you may still feel obligated to eat every last morsel of food. If this is you, you may be in trouble. This habit may be a part of your weight problem.

Family style dinners are conducive to excess. As each dish comes around the table, the plate gets fuller until food is spilling off of it. If you are hungry, you will load up on foods high in saturated fats and simple carbohydrates as they will satisfy your appetite the fastest. By cleaning your plate you can easily eat two or three times more food than you actually need. And that is before dessert.

Restaurants are worse. In a quest to garner more diners, restaurants offer meals that can easily exceed 1,500 calories. That’s a day’s worth of calories in one meal. In these situations, the mantra “clean your plate” can be your enemy. The hormones that tell your body it is full never seem to reach the brain before it’s too late. The combination of hunger and upbringing conspire against you. Before you can blink, you have finished a meal with enough calories to feed a family of four.

Changing old habits is difficult. You are fighting deep-rooted behaviors that will-power cannot conquer, especially when hunger kicks in. Rather than fight a losing battle, have a plan that will keep you from over -indulging. Here are a few suggestions that may help you limit your intake.

1. Use smaller dishes. Most dinner plates are over ten inches in diameter. If you are inclined to fill every last part of them with food, buy seven or eight inch ones. You can reduce your calories by as much as fifty percent.

2. Ask for a take-out container. If you dine at restaurants that use excessive portions, ask for a take-out container with your food. Place half of the food in the container before you eat. You will have two meals for the price of one and you will have reduced your calorie intake by half.

3. Use the break to stop eating. If you tend to eat a portion of your food quickly and then take a break to see if you want more, seize the opportunity and place a napkin over your plate and get a to-go box.

4. Leave it for the dump. You can try to use take-out containers at restaurants and limit your food portions at home, but eventually excess food will find its way onto your plate without any recourse but to eat it or throw it away. At that point you have a choice: increase the landfills or increase your girth. Your body will thank you if you choose the landfill.

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Gregg Ghelfi is founder and contributor to Fit in the Middle is dedicated to providing information and resources on nutrition, fitness and weight loss. We invite you to read our blog at and comment on the various articles. We also welcome you to submit guest blogs to

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