Eating for Love

I just finished watching a Korean drama called Phoenix (Boorl Sae)—what an emotional roller coaster that was! In one scene, one of the secondary characters tells the other, “I know you love me because you eat whatever I leave on my plate—just like how my mother would eat my leftovers.”

I hadn’t thought about eating another’s leftovers as a way to show love, but more about not letting good food go to waste. Then I remember my grandmother who would say that each grain of rice left in our bowl was a day in our life. She would insist that we finish all our rice so we wouldn’t lose a day. I can imagine some Korean moms finishing off their children’s leftover rice for that reason.

Growing up, I remember cleaning off my plate most of the time. (OK, maybe it helped to have a mom who was a good cook.) But on those rare occasions when I didn’t, I felt bad. I thought, Mom went through all this effort to make something for—the least I can do is eat it. Cleaning off my plate was a relatively easy way to show love and appreciation.

And then there’s the guilt factor—the starving people in the world. How can I let food go to waste? (How dare I?)

So here are 3 bad food habits I’m trying to break:

  • finishing off my plate (even though I’m more than full)
  • eating other people’s leftovers (usually my daughter’s)
  • storing leftovers in the fridge that go uneaten

Although I don’t eat rice everyday like I did when I was growing up, I’ve been applying my grandmother’s philosophy of “waste not, want not” to food in general. And even my husband doesn’t like throwing out food—he says it’s like throwing away good luck. As you can imagine, it’s hard for me to say goodbye to leftovers.

I have this compulsive need to clean off my plate…and my daughter’s. It’s not something I’m proud of because I know it’s what’s been keeping me from getting back down to my healthy weight. I need to remind myself that I can show love to myself by not overeating. More importantly, I can demonstrate my love for my family by increasing my life expectancy through healthier eating and weight management.

I need to be more selective about which leftovers I choose to keep and be better about tossing food out. No need to use the fridge as a holding pen/bio lab for leftovers—most of which end up in the trash anyway. In fact, I should post notes on the fridge for myself along the lines of, “Toss now, if you know you’re going to toss it anyway” or “eat within 3 days” and then write the date. Maybe having an inventory list of what needs to be eaten/tossed will help, too.

Rethinking Love and FoodNote to Self
It’s not a parent’s job to finish off the child’s leftovers. It’s OK to leave food on the plate. It’s also OK to toss it. In fact, think of tossing food as feeding the earth. You don’t have to validate your love by cleaning off your plate. Sometimes to eat for love, you need to be selective of what you eat. Love yourself and your loved ones by eating the right foods in the right quantities.


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