Like many of us, when I was a kid, I was told that I was not allowed up from the table till I finished what was on my plate, even if my dear mama had the audacity to make something I hated, like ANYTHING with one tiny shrapnel of onion in it. To this day, other than a few dried minced onions for seasoning, which basically dissolve, I cannot stand to eat anything with even the most microscopic bit of onion or pepper, but when I was young, there was no escaping that clean-your-plate rule. I distinctly remember one time when my mom made mashed potatoes, and I would not eat them because of the few lumps (her potatoes came from God's ground and not a box) and because she peppered them. She told me I was not getting up till they were gone, and she meant it; well into what I am sure was the following month, I was still sitting there in front of that same cold bowl of lumpy, peppered potatoes. Mom usually won those battles, though, and I eventually ate them. These days, I actually like a little black pepper in my taters, and I'm actually a fan of lumps in my Cream of Wheat and mashed potatoes, so maybe it was Mom's way of conditioning me to deal with the lumps I'd encounter in the future.
Fast-forward a few decades, and no one really needs to work too hard to tell me to clean my plate(s). No, I still wouldn't devour a bloomin' onion, but I really have no problem eating these days. There's a sign at our local Chinese buffet, and I actually had to laugh at it on New Year's, because it warns of something I'd never, ever do in a place with unlimited refills on lo mein and sushi and pizza and crab meat smothered in cheese and butter. Still, on the whole we waste a whole lot of food in this country and worldwide. I Googled it, just to see if it's still the same problem it was when I was a kid, when my Great Depression-surviving grandma and great-grandma told me that "Starving kids would be thankful for that," and the fact is, food waste is still a huge problem. According to Dr. Google, Every year, consumers in industrialized countries waste almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (222 million vs. 230 million)" and "In the USA, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month." Not only are we wasting food from our plates, but a lot of it is wasted in production and even before it gets to the grocery store: "About one-third of all food produced worldwide, worth around US$1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. When this figure is converted to calories, this means that about 1 in 4 calories intended for consumption is never actually eaten." Wait. Are you telling me that we are losing calories, when I am so grateful for each and every one I get to keep? Yup...and on a grand scale.
You may wonder what any of this has to do with weight loss, but the fact is that there are more ways to waste food than to throw it in the garbage. For those of us on a weight loss journey, we can be mindful by reminding ourselves that putting too much food on our plate - calories our bodies DO NOT need - is one way to waist (pun intended) food. Mom and Great-Grandma may have wanted us to clean our plates, with good reason, but if your plate is too full in the first place, and you eat more than your body requires, you really are wasting, and you will find that waste on your waist sooner or later. Since my daughter and I started our journey, we have been able to stretch food much farther. One can of veggies is more than enough. Hotdog buns are often split in half to make a lighter version of garlic bread. A 59-cent pack of Buddig deli-thin cold cuts, half-a-pack each, adds a nice touch to omelettes or salads. One large chicken breast can make a meal for two. If we want mashed potatoes, we can do it with two real potatoes or just one scoop of the flaky kind. There is no need to make more than we need, because that will only go to waste in the trashcan or waist in our fat stores. You can waste food, even by eating it.
Here's another way to look at it. I have three dogs. They are my fur babies, the delight of my life when I need someone to vent to who won't talk back to me. My Jack Russell is a mean old hag who is easily agitated. My min-pin-chi is so cuddly that it's on the verge of annoying, and he has a strange obsession with always being right on my daughter's heels. My weenie dog that looks more like a Christmas ham is a bit of a brat, thanks to her "daddy," who no longer lives with us but enjoyed spoiling her rotten. As different as they are, I adore them all, and they seem to adore me, too, especially when I'm snacking and eating. One of my weaknesses is salt, and to get my salt fix, I often eat the Kroger brand of Pretzelhaus Pretzel sticks, yummy, crunchy, inexpensive twigs of carbs and sodium. I can have 42 of them for 120 calories, and that's a pretty nice-sized snack. I usually count them (I believe proper portion control demands counting) and place them in a little cup to eat them (the smaller the cup, the bigger the snack looks, remember!). But here is where the so-called "waste" comes in: For every one of those pretzel twigs I eat, I leave about a quarter-inch and toss it to one of my fur babies. They love it, and in the process, I save a few calories here and there. I'm sure my mom and grandmother would look at me, aghast, and tell me to stop wasting people food on dogs, but am I really wasting it? I know one thing: Those 20 or 30 or 40 calories I'm donating to my doggies will not be waisted.
Do not waste food, folks, by throwing it away, and do not waist it by eating what you don't need. For those of us who have precious few calories to enjoy, throwing food away is not an option, but neither is storing it in our waists, thighs, and bat wings. Fill your small plate with as much as you need, enjoy every bite, and remember that sharing is never wasting...or waisting!