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Ignoring the Clean Plate Mandate - Stop Eating When You're Full!

Prior to 1954, running the mile in under four minutes was considered physically impossible. Scientists had claimed that to maintain that pace would cause a person's heart to literally explode. But Roger Banister didn't buy into that. He ran the first sub-four minute mile ever recorded on the 6th of May 1954. The amazing thing was the psychological effect it had on other runners. His feat acted like an impenetrable barrier had been broken, and nine other runners also ran sub-four minute miles that same year.

My youngest brother Jon was the Roger Banister of our family, but not for his running ability. It was his ability to not run; or rather his ability to not move at all that earned him a place in our family record books.

I know this sounds a little confusing as Jon was not paralyzed, nor did have any physical impediment. He was simply stubborn! You see one of the major rules in our family was that we had to finish everything on our dinner plate before we were allowed to leave the table. It didn't matter how much we didn't like it, or how full we were; any protest was smothered immediately by the time-tested favorite reference to children starving in (insert impoverished third world country of choice here)!

The problem was that, no matter how much I protested, my parents knew that I would break sooner rather than later. They knew that I simply wasn't strong enough to sit there in defiance for longer than five minutes knowing that I was only delaying the inevitable. I also was not willing to risk missing out on desert, my favorite TV show, or going outside to play with my friends. As a result, I suffered through many meals while resolving to wait out the 1635 or so days until I was 18!

Then along came my brother Jon, the youngest of three, he was maybe 10 when his time came. It started innocuously enough, Jon claiming he was full, followed by the standard threat; "You're not leaving the table until you eat everything on your plate." Then it happened... he stayed at the table! At first it was no big deal, it wasn't like I hadn't tried that technique in the beginning also, but come on, after five or six minutes I wasn't sure which I hated more, eating the cold portion of beans and carrots on my plate or the thought of having to sit still for one more minute. So when Jon said fine, he'd stay at the table, I gave him five maybe ten minutes on the outside, since it was his first time and everyone's fight is a little stronger the first time out. Ten minutes came and went, fifteen, a half hour, then an hour, then two hours, then three and it was bedtime. Truth is we had kind of forgot about him and when we came back into the kitchen there he was, fast asleep right there at the table with his unfinished plate of food next to him.

My parents in their shock didn't know what to do and had to carry him to bed. I was in awe at this little warrior, and I'll never forget as I watched my dad lift him from his chair. Even though he was fast asleep, I swear I could see the slightest hint of a smile on my brother's face. He was exhausted, but he had won.

And it wouldn't be his last victory. For the next several weeks the same situation repeated itself several times. My brother proclaiming he was finished eating, my parents throwing their weight around, determined to have their rules followed and my brother spending hours at the table, ultimately falling asleep with an unfinished plate of food at his side.

Little by little he wore my parents down until one day my parents simply backed down and withdrew their clean plate mandate. This was not just a victory for Jon as we all benefited because of his interminable resolve. No longer would we be forced to eat more than we wanted.

This is a great example of what one person can do with enough determination and willpower. For us it was like Gandhi's fight against the British when they occupied India. Okay, it wasn't exactly the same, but you get point. In Gandhi's case, he had the support of many followers who were willing to put their body and freedom on the line by following his doctrine of peaceful non-cooperation. Jon, however, fought alone. This type of protest is infinitely more effective in the long run than fighting force with force.

In our adult years, our body tells us that we are full, often long before we actually stop eating. However, most of us are still conditioned to continue eating until our plate is empty. If we actually listened to our bodies, we would shed pounds faster than any diet currently out there... and we would keep it off.


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