How many times have you eaten something that you didn’t really want, when you weren’t really hungry, for the sake of not letting it go to waste?

The rest of the leftovers.
The ‘ugly’ cookies from the batch you just baked.
The chip crumbs in the bottom of the bag.
That half-donut in the kitchen.
The not-quite-a-bowl-of-cereal left in the box.
Whatever the kids didn’t eat.

There are a lot of reasons we overeat, but not wanting to throw away food is one of the biggest.

We eat, then, not only to seek pleasure but also to avoid pain — specifically here, the pain of guilt.

Case in point: the dear mother of one of my best friends used to have a large painting hanging in their family dining room. It showed a very hungry child from a poor country. She was all sullen, sad eyes and outstretched arms, holding an empty bowl. Whenever my friend would say she didn’t want to eat dinner, her mother would point to the picture. Hashtag, true story.

Now, this wasn’t quite as dramatic as it sounds — it’s now a family joke amongst us friends — but that sort of stuff does creep into your subconscious.

We abhor waste in this country almost as much as we adore abundance.

The problem, of course, is that we are so abundant these days that not wasting is affecting our waistlines.

In a world that’s full of lack, the issue of “having too much” is an incredibly fortunate problem. That said, if it is, indeed, one of your problems, that doesn’t mean that eating everything right now is the right answer.

When you’re faced with more nourishment than you need, try these tips. I call them the “4 S’s:”

  1. SPLIT. Split your plate with someone else, or with yourself, saving 1/2 for a later meal (or part of one)
  2. SHARE. Share your goods with friends, coworkers, your mail delivery carrier, your neighbors, etc. Especially awesome for baked goods!
  3. SIZE. Size accurately when cooking, or ordering at a restaurant. Ask for 1/2 or “lunch” portion of an entree (or even an appetizer and a simple salad)
  4. STORE. Store your leftovers in the freezer (this is especially good for individual pieces of cake!) or put them in single serve containers for the next day’s lunch

Whatever strategy you use, avoid overeating simply because you “don’t want to waste food.” It’s a mind trick, and it doesn’t end well.

After all, would you rather have it in the trash, or on your ass?