Do you ever overeat because you don’t want to waste food or money?
Perhaps you spent $20 on a meal and felt like you’d be missing out if you didn’t finish your plate. And we don’t take it to-go because of other silly reasons like, it won’t be as good later.
Or maybe you can’t take it to-go and you feel like it’s disrespectful to waste food. That’s probably one that we can all relate to.
The fear of wasting food is one of the biggest psychological blocks to overeating.
It’s a block that’s usually ingrained in us as children, so they can be deeply triggering and difficult to overcome.
So let’s get triggered! And dig into the reasons why we’re afraid of wasting food, why it leads to overeating, and how we can stop both.
At the end of this post, there’s also a free 13-page ebook on eating psychology that you can get. If you want it now, click here to gain instant access.
7 Reasons Why You Hate Wasting Food
As far as I’m aware, the main reasons we hate wasting food involve money, morals, parents, or hedonic eating. But it’s more complex than that.
So I’ve created a list of 7 reasons why you might hate wasting food. And if your reason isn’t on this list, leave me a comment below!
Alas, here are the top 7 psychological triggers for overeating because of the fear of wasting food:
1. You’re afraid of wasting flavor or an experience
Whenever you feel blocks about wasting “flavor” or that leftovers won’t be “as good,” you should equate this to hedonic eating.
Unlike other forms of compulsive eating, which stem from the desire to numb our emotions, hedonic eating is different. It stems from the desire to gain pleasure, not numb negativity.
And when we are in the grips of hedonic eating, we don’t be willing to sacrifice flavor by taking something to-go. So we end up overeating and feeling like it’s because we’re afraid of wasting food.
But it wasn’t really about wasting food at all! It was about the desire for pleasure and joy. Which brings me to the solution:
To stop hedonic eating, you need to make sure there’s joy elsewhere in your life, otherwise you’ll remain stuck in this cycle.
2. You’re “eating in advance” (in attempt) to be economical
Sometimes we avoid wasting food by overeating because of (poor) logic. We know we’ll be hungry later, so instead of wasting food (or taking it to-go!) we just “eating in advance.”
But if we overeat now, then it means that we need to undereat later if we want balance. But undereating has consequences of its own (hint: it’s the reason why diets don’t work: restriction always leads to binges).
And we don’t want to be using logic to eat, anyways. The best way to stop overeating and achieve your natural weight is to listen to your body, not your brain.
3. You feel like you’re wasting money
But what about money blocks? Many of us refuse to waste our hard earned money, even if doing so means we’re overeating and self-sabotaging our weight loss goals.
Money blocks are some of the biggest blocks around wasting food. To tackle this one, let’s put the money you do have aside and consider this question:
If there was a magical procedure that would help you become your ideal weight by tomorrow, how much would you pay for it?
Seriously take a moment to answer this question…
For me, I told myself that I’d spend up to $20k. I have even heard answers upwards of $500k! Then, compare the price of your meal with that number the next time you’re afraid of wasting food.
You might be surprised at how trivial a $10 meal is compared to the thousands of dollars that many of us would honestly spend to achieve our natural weight.
4. You feel guilty for wasting food because of world hunger (except your guilt is not helpful)
Do you think that wasting food is disrespectful to those living without access to adequate food? This is a personal one for me.
I used to be wracked with guilt about wasting food when others in the world didn’t have enough of it. Then I realized that, whether I ate the food on my plate or not, it was still wasted; and it did nothing to help the people I was thinking about.
So, I started donating $15/month to Action Against Hunger, one of the best charities that helps fight world hunger. When I see my recurring charge each month, it reminds me what a privilege it is to struggle with having too much food.
I hope you’ll join me in actually making a difference.
5. You worry about what other people think of you (don’t we all)
Some people will judge you for wasting food. But your eating behavior is none of anyone else’s business. And keep in mind that you don’t really know what anyone around you is thinking.
Even a nasty side-glance from someone could be about something completely unrelated that they are dealing with.
We only assume that others are judging us because we’re judging ourselves in the exact same way.
You’re not a bad person for wasting food. In fact, your guilt is proof that you care! So try your best to think ahead, but when it’s not an option to avoid wasting food, let it go.
6. Your mom or dad taught you to always lick your plate clean
Many of us feel compelled to finish our plates — regardless of fullness — because we were trained when we were young.
The significance of this compulsion shows how effective mental programming can be. So take back your power.
Try reciting the affirmation “I am allowed to leave food on my plate” over and over and over.
This will help program new beliefs into your subconscious, and it can seriously help. (Affirmations are backed by science, y’all.)
7. You have major FOMO with food
In the comments below, you’ll see a comment from Ted sayes, “If I see something I like, I wonder when the next time I’m going to have the opportunity to eat it again. I also feel like I have to take it now before someone else does.”
The fear of missing out triggers lots of unwanted behavior, including overeating. If you feel like your fear of wasting food is linked to the fear of missing out, get curious.
What do you think you’re missing out on? Exotic food? Flavor? Joy? (If it’s joy, go back to #1 and address hedonic eating.)
Then, think about the opportunity costs of overeating: feeling gross, feeling stuffed and lethargic, feeling frustrated with self-sabotage. There are opportunity costs everywhere.
The next time you feel FOMO pushing you to overeat, think it through from the other side. (Or do more inner work if that feels like an impossible task.)
Warming Up to Wasting Food
The fear of wasting food and money are some of the biggest blocks that exist. It’s not supposed to feel good to confront your beliefs around wasting food. So if this post was unsatisfying, it means we touched on something that needs more attention. Lean in.
If you’d like to dig further into the psychological reasons for overeating, check out the ebook below. It comes with a free 5 day course on Psycho-Spiritual Wellness: my method to stop binge eating based purely in psychology and spirituality.
Originally published September 22, 2017 // Last updated July 14, 2020