One of the most difficult habits I’ve had to break is this obligation I’ve always felt to finish food. Part of it, no doubt, was being conditioned at an early age to clean my plate. But I don’t think that’s the only reason. I’m not a fanatic, but I clean up my kitchen mess as I go, I can’t work at a cluttered desk, and I’m the one in our house who finds homes for those things that end up on the surfaces.
I think my need to tidy up carried over to finishing off food. It pained me to leave a few potato chips in the bottom of the bag. I couldn’t leave the last few spoonfuls of ziti in the pan. I never would have left a few peanuts in the bottom of the can. Instead, I ate what was left, even if I didn’t really want it.
During the years that I was pre-portioning everything from packages and measuring every ingredient going into a casserole dish, soup pot, or sauté pan, I rarely had unaccounted for bits of food. I added up all of the calories and worked out serving sizes. But after learning and reinforcing portion control, I no longer had to be so regimented in my approach. Plus, I have someone else sharing a lot of the food in the house.
The way I broke this habit of not being able to leave three pretzels in the bottom of the bag, a single square of chocolate in the wrapper, or a few macadamia nuts in the jar was to be aware of what I was doing and accept that there was just no need to finish the rest. That tiny bit of leftover spinach fettuccine would taste just as good the next day, even if it wasn’t a full portion.
What I’d been doing was undermining my own satisfaction by overindulging just to tidy up. And even though a few pretzels or crumbs in a day don’t add up to a lot of calories, over time they can add a pound or two. Once I became aware that’s what was going on, I was able to just leave it. It took a while to get used to, closing a bag with only one cookie left, but at least I wasn’t eating it just to finish it up.