Have you ever heard of the “clean plate club?” I’m willing to bet this guy has. It’s a story about the now five-time winner of the July 4th International Hot Dog Eating Contest held at Coney Island in New York and how he crammed 62 hot dogs down his throat in 10 minutes. Blarf.
I remember being told to eat everything on my plate growing up. I remember a lot of families were like this, and often dessert was the bribe that got us to do it. The model was: Eat all this food, and we’ll reward you with more food.
As a kid, I stuffed myself on a regular basis because of this mentality. You know, the time-to-undo-the-pants kind of caloric inhalation, where you just want to lie back and not move for a while afterward. As I reached adulthood, this mentality led to a weight problem. Fortunately, at 25 I got sick of my flab and got it under control.
Striving to always leave a clean plate is not a way of thinking that leads to maintaining a healthy weight. Exercise is great and a critical part of maintaining health, but controlling dietary intake is really what leads to a healthy body weight.
Back to hot dog guy. These types of things lead to a bad example of food as a game or a contest or “fun.” Well, it’s not. It’s a survival. Food is supposed to be about healthy fueling, and when you go beyond that to turn it into a sport, or a bribe, and simply a source of pleasure, things go sideways.
I do tell my kids to eat what I believe is a healthy amount to grow, but I never make them clean their plates. It sends a bad message. Leftovers can always go in the fridge.