As the holiday season is upon us, now is a good time to remember that it’s not important to finish everything you take. Before my lifestyle change, I was so conditioned to finish everything that it never occurred to me that I had the option not eating something unless I was just too full to eat what I’d taken. Instead, I’d end up eating something just because I didn’t want to waste it, felt guilty, or sometimes it was because I wasn’t paying enough attention to what I was eating to consider leaving the rest. Since my eyes were always bigger than my stomach, I regularly ate more than I needed.
This all changed when I was on a calorie-restrictive regimen. I gained a much greater appreciation for what was appealing to me and worth eating. I became much choosier about what and how much I ate. In particular, when I was at social events or dining out, I was much more careful about what I opted to put on my plate, because I knew that literally every calorie counted, and I learned to maximize my calories. I learned to start with small samples then return for more of what I really liked.
It was during this time that I came to realize that it was also important to leave something if I didn’t really like it. I remember the day this occurred to me. I used to bake a lot of Christmas cookies (and I mean a lot–the last year I did it, I made 26 different kinds!). I loved trying a wide variety. One year I made some orange flavored cookies. I took a bite of one and realized that while I liked the taste, the cookie was dry. It was at that moment that I realized that, instead of eating something that was less than satisfying, I should just throw it away. GASP! This flew in the face of a lifetime of conditioning, but it’s what I ended up doing. The mere act of doing this helped me to realize that I should only finish what I really like; otherwise I was cheating myself of other good stuff.
Perhaps the most difficult challenge is what to do at social gatherings. I love food (as you know) and parties mean a buffet of food I want to try. However, not every dish on a table will necessarily end up appealing to my taste buds, and that should be okay. Of course, I don’t want to offend the person who prepared it, but I also shouldn’t feel compelled to finish something I don’t really like.
So what’s my strategy? If confronted by a host who made everything, I politely say I really liked X over Y and wanted to have more X, so I wasn’t able to finish Y. If it’s a potluck, I find a way to discretely dispose of it. In the end, I get to eat more of what I really liked but not pack in extra calories from something just to be polite, avoid feeling guilty, or because I wasn’t paying attention.