Meet Molly. She’s a thoughtful woman. A caregiver at heart, who always thinks about minimizing waste. “Oh, you should just finish that,” you hear her whisper after you’ve eaten half your gluten-free, personal-pan pizza and are beginning to feel your tummy topple over the edge of your pants.
“Come on, there’s hardly anything left," Molly says, "and there are starving children in Bangladesh.”
Yep, she’s your mother and grandmother rolled into one guilt-tinged voice reminding you to finish everything on your plate.
She sneaks in when you're cleaning up the kitchen, about to toss the 4-day-old vegan, chocolate cake you’ve been avoiding for the last three nights. “Really, you're going to toss that? Organic isn't cheap, you know. You might as well just throw $15 in the trash right now!”
And so you eat the rest of your pizza and mow through the stale cake. Not because you're hungry or have no self control, but because you feel guilty, wasteful and ashamed.
I hear this all the time from my clients. Guilt is one of the main reasons they worry about eating out or attending parties with family and friends. They believe they are untrustworthy with food and make up all sorts of rules when it comes to eating out. One of my clients actually throws a handful of salt and a dirty napkin on her unfinished food to signal to herself and the world that she is D-O-N-E. If not, she told me, “I’ll just keep eating to not feel wasteful or guilty. But then I feel guilty anyway for eating too much!”
There are a million reasons we eat when we aren’t hungry. We eat out of boredom, stress, craving comfort, freedom, love, support. However Molly and her magical way of getting you to pass your full point and eat out of guilt is a nuanced feeling. She’s tricky, that Miss Molly, because when she chimes in it sounds like she’s right. Who can stomach being wasteful when there are babies in need? No one wants to be THAT person.
And yet while there are starving children around the world, unless you send them your leftover, half-wilted salad, they get no benefit from you feeling guilty and eating on their behalf.
They are not affected one way or the other if you pound the rest of your rice pasta. What’s best for you both if you really want to help, is send money to a cause that feeds needy children and then toss (or take as leftovers) the food you are too full to finish.
In other words, NOBODY wins when you eat for others.
And of course, in an attempt to dodge the guilt of wasting, your now stuffed stomach signals the guilt of over-eating, which arrives, along with another gal, Brenda the exercise queen, to say you are an untrustworthy, eating machine who must repent with spin class and no dessert for a month. Yep, Molly and Brenda have got you on lockdown.
So how can you stop being the tennis ball being slapped back and forth between these two ladies?
Simple. Put your body first. Honor the sensations she sends you when you're getting full. When your body whispers, “Hey, I’m done,” listen to her rather than let Molly mozey on in with the guilt and shame that keeps you eating. As you begin to feel the sensation of fullness rise in your tummy, put your fork down and take a big deep breath.
Ask your body, “Hey sweetie, do you want more?” Notice I said BODY, not your BRAIN (which has Molly waiting in the wings). When your body replies, “No, I’m good for now, thanks for asking”, stop eating. You then let the waiter take the unfinished food or have him wrap it up to go. It’s that easy.
Remember, you are not a garbage disposal. Stop acting like one.
In the comments below I’d love to know, have you ever eaten out of guilt of wastefulness? What does your Molly say to you while sitting in a restaurant? Also let me know what tools you have for dealing with the guilt Molly loves to deliver.
As always, biggest love and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this one!
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