What I learned from a couple of 3 year olds

My son surprised me and decided to take me out to dinner with his family.  I’m not really a fan of eating out, but it’s nice to spend time with family anywhere.  I’m paying for that today.  With no real advance notice I didn’t think about taking a dish to bring left-overs home, didn’t want to use plastic or Styrofoam to bring  them home, and due to upbringing more than anything else I didn’t want to see it end up in the trash.  So I ate more than I wanted.  You may be asking what that has to do with two three-year-olds.

Not going out much, I didn’t have much familiarity with the restaurant we ended up at, Olive Garden.  When I glanced through the menu, the first thing that caught my eye was a dessert, a baked apple treat with ice cream.  This sounded so good.  But you can’t order dessert, so I ordered a meal, like a proper person should.

Now here’s where conditioning comes into play for me I heard these sayings repeatedly growing up:

  • Finish your food, think of all the starving children in the world,
  • Do you know what that food costs?
  • Remember your eyes are bigger than your stomach.
  • Take what you want, and finish what you take (my grandfather)

I didn’t think I ordered too big of a meal, but then the salad and bread sticks arrived I ate a small salad and one bread stick.  By the time my meal arrived, a normal-sized piece of chicken (surprisingly) and some mashed potatoes. I was stuffed and had to force the rest down.

Now comes the really bad part, my son insisted the adults were all getting dessert.  The apple dish I had eyed looked huge so I ordered a piece of chocolate cheesecake.  I figured the kids would help me eat it.  Hah! One had a few bites, then said she had enough, the other didn’t want any part of it. Again, I should have asked for it to go, but I was back to the problem of not having my own container to take it home in.

As we left the restaurant, all three of the adults were moving slowly and at various moments were holding their stomachs.  but the kids were their normal happy-go-lucky selves.

So what did the children do to avoid feeling as we did?

The children ordered what they wanted, here’s how it went:

Grandson: Wanted Fettuccine Alfredo, mashed potatoes and chocolate milk.  When the food arrived he ate two bread sticks, no salad, two cups of milk, and one bite of his potatoes, maybe three bites of his Alfredo. He was done and said he wanted to take the rest home.  When desserts came, he didn’t want to taste any of them, he said he was full.

Our little salad lover

Grand-daughter: She knew what she wanted before we arrived, salad,  mac and cheese, and apple juice.   When ordering she had the option of a side and choose grapes.  When the food arrived she ate one bread stick, small plate of salad, half of her mac and cheese, the grapes (about 6) and only half of her juice.  She too asked her parents if she could take the rest home.  When the desserts arrived she checked each out and decided mine was the only one worth trying.  She proclaimed it very good, but after 4 small bites was done.

So what did I learn from the children?

The moral learned is that I should have ordered what I wanted which was the apple dessert and enjoyed the flavor of it.  I shouldn’t have ordered the meal at all as it was more food than my body is used to eating.   Who makes the rules anyway?  By eating more than I, or my body, needed or even wanted I wasted food and ended up feeling horrible.

Children know instinctively when they have eaten enough, if spared from the “finish your meal” mentality they may never have weight issues.  They are also able to enjoy a taste of something, and stop there.  We think there is so much we need to teach our children, and that is true, but we need to stop and learn from them as well.



  1. What a fabulous post. I think that so many problems could be solved if we’d all just learn to listen to our bodies. I once saw some weight loss self help thing on TV. The fellow had a philosophy that went something like this: If you want to be thin for life do the following. When you’re hungry eat. Eat what you want. Stop when you’re full. So simple.


  2. You would think it is simple, yet obviously too many of us don’t listen to that piece of wisdom. Our culture centers so much of it’s time and every celebration around food. It’s a shame because really I believe it’s the time spent with people,not food, that satisfies us the most


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