Ep 156: The One About Food Waste

Feb 09, 2021


Today we’re talking about food waste and the clean your plate mentality. Intuitive Eating involves listening to hunger/fullness cues and honoring your preferences, which means sometimes saying no to food if you’re not hungry or being willing to throw food away rather than eating yourself sick. But this is hard for many people who have a deep-seated “clean your plate” mentality.

We are not pro food waste. Food waste is a problem, both from a global perspective and an individual perspective. It brings up all sorts of issues that we won’t cover completely today - finances, global hunger, pollution, etc. What we do want to cover today is how to balance these simultaneous values - make peace with food, honor your body, and learn to manage our desire to avoid food waste.

Cleaning your plate is a learned behavior - for several reasons. Maybe you were brought up thinking you should clean your plate, maybe you experienced self-imposed food scarcity through dieting, or maybe you just feel the need to eat it all and not waste.

Eating food you’re not hungry for or don’t want is still wasting it. It may not be costing you money or affecting the environment, but it does still come at a cost. Being uncomfortably full is the price you pay, really. Consistently eating past fullness leads to a lack of trust with your body and a distorted relationship with food.

When you spend money on food, consider it a sunk cost. You don’t get your money back by eating more than you wanted. The waste came from the buying or ordering, not from the not eating it. Shifting your perspective on waste and maybe putting it back a bit on the decision chain can help you see that it may be a purchasing issue, not an eating problem. 

As we’ve said before, guilt is never helpful. Oftentimes, guilt is an issue with food waste - feeling guilty about wasting food because other people don’t have enough.

Remember that cleaning your plate doesn’t help solve the problem of hunger for anyone else. If you want to help the hunger issue for others, keep that separate from your own eating behaviors. Maybe donate to a charity or organization to feel like you’re taking action on something that’s meaningful to you, while not letting anyone else’s food situation impact the way you treat your own body.

Alternatives to food waste - if you really value not wasting food, there are alternatives. How can you better eliminate food waste?

  • Meal planning as a way to not buy a bunch of food you won’t use. Make a plan and buy the amounts and foods you’re really going to need and use. Look at what you already have before you plan and shop to avoid overbuying. (For more on meal planning, check out our February 2021 masterclass inside Eat Confident Collective all about Meal Planning with Confidence!)

  • Repurpose

  • Leftovers

  • Freeze foods you know you won’t be able to use in time

  • Be willing to have trial and error with food prep

Know that perfection isn’t possible. Sometimes you might waste food, from time to time. That doesn’t mean you don’t value not wasting food, and you can take steps to try to avoid it, but it might happen, and it’s better than making yourself sick and getting overly full from trying not to waste food.

As you practice becoming a Confident Eater and tuning into hunger and fullness, you will get more adept at knowing how much you need to eat. As you plan ahead, be intentional, and honor your body, while at the same time valuing frugality or budgeting or wise spending, you will naturally improve your ability to decrease food waste AND eat intuitively.

 It’s possible to be a conscientious eater AND an Intuitive Eater. You can find a way to balance all the things that you value (that feel important to you) without swinging to extremes.

Want more of Eat with Confidence?

If you’d like more support + guidance in your process of becoming a Confident Eater, we’re here to help. Learn more about our group coaching program, Eat Confident Collective.

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