Theme parks and the hot Florida sun are not my thing, but I’m a family gal, so I went along with it, and found myself at Disney World in the middle of June. #sunscreen #heatstroke

On day 5 of 8, I found myself at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe for lunch. I knew from a previous trip to Disney World exactly what I was getting into, and to say I wasn’t thrilled would be insufficient.

You know those people who get a kick out of someone else’s humiliation? I am not one of those people. And while I can’t speak for the employees at the Prime Time Cafe, I would venture to say it’s a requirement for employment. Waiters and waitresses (I can call them that, it’s the 50’s) publicly shame patrons, reprimanding them to get their elbows off the table and to clean their plates.

This last one really got me.

I detest the clean plate club.

I understand it’s hard to get kids to eat, and I understand we want to encourage growing boys to keep growing, but kids know better than most adults when they are satiated and when they are hungry.

Before the age of 3, most kids will eat only as much as they want, regardless of how much you serve them, as they get older, this changes. They start to respond to external cues (i.e., the clean plate club), and they slowly stop self-regulating their food intake. (Source)

As we get even older, the messages are mixed. Clean your plate. But also lose weight.

By the time most women are in middle school, they’ve been on a diet and have strong associations between what they eat, what they look like, and their worth. It’s so deeply ingrained in us by the time we reach adulthood that even our mature, adult thinking can’t undo the tangled web of experiences, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs, and we end up unconsciously clinging to them.

Your relationship with food has very little to do with your emotionally intelligent and rational adult self and everything to do with a lifetime of societal pressure, misinformation, and unintentional messages from the people who shaped you.

If part of your food story is that you must clean your plate, I encourage you to challenge that assumption.

Start checking in with your body halfway through your meal.

Pause.

What is your hunger level? How full do you feel?

Repeat the process ¾ of the way through the meal and then when you have a few bites left (if you get to that point) take an even longer pause to assess your hunger and fullness levels.

Are you full?

If so, you have permission (and encouragement) to not clean your plate.

The clean plate club is one of many unofficial food-related phenomena that can have huge implications for our relationship with our relationship with food as adults. (It’s not the only one, though. So stay tuned for more.)

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