On an episode of Will & Grace, Grace and Karen are finishing up a restaurant meal when the leftovers are doggy-bagged and delivered to their table. Grace exclaims, “Yay! I’m so excited! I can’t wait until I’m hungry again!”
It’s curious how difficult that is for most of us—the idea of stopping when we’re full and waiting until we’re hungry to eat again. For many, it’s the most difficult part of mindful eating—learning when to say, “When.” Problems may arise particularly at night, when the last meal of the day unconsciously registers as “The last meal.” It’s hard to put an end to dinner when breakfast seems so far away.
So, why this difficulty, this distress about “enough”? Perhaps we’ve historically restricted, dieted to the point of our bodies’ cells not quite knowing when the next fix will come—and so, better to pack it in now. It’s as if a part of us has acknowledged that we may never eat again.
On a simple level, problems with parting usually occur with food that tastes good—our sweet, salty, or savory compadres. It’s not too often we overhear, “I just can’t stop eating these lima beans.” Tasty food provides comfort—comfort to our mouths and our minds, heralding a short-lived era of “I deserve.” And, generally, eating is reminiscent of an earlier time when our infant minds were only vaguely aware of some distress that was assuaged at the first ounce of milk.
But, it’s also possible that pushing the plate away mirrors other endings we experience—releasing, letting go, saying goodbye. How we say goodbye to food may mimic how we say goodbye in life—are we trusting, knowing that we’ll again find solace, comfort in others and ourselves? Or, when parting, are we distressed, fearful that we may never be okay?