I've been trying to identify the different ways in which I rationalize -- and used to rationalize -- putting things in my mouth when I'm not particularly hungry, and I finally had a moment of illumination about a week ago when my mother was visiting me. (I've worked so hard at changing certain behaviors that I can't see what I've changed till she comes around & I realize I don't do certian things anymore.)
What I call this is "eating to clean."
You have eaten to clean if you:
1) See a small bit of food left in a pot or serving bowl, which may not quite be a full portion, and eat it just to empty the pot or bowl, so you can wash it.*
2) Try to fill up a plastic storage container, and finding that there's not much in there, finish the portion. Or eat the portion just to avoid putting something in a storage container & fitting it into your fridge.
3) Finish something left on someone else's plate before the waiter clears it, or while you're clearing the table at home.
4) Lick a knife or a spoon completely clean after using it to stir or spread or otherwise serve something.
5) Scrape the inside of a pan, bowl or mixer clean, with spoon or tongue (Okay, I confess. This used to be the best part of my mother baking a cake or cookies -- getting to lick the bowl or beater! But what's cute in a kid may not be so good for a woman doing a whole holiday's worth of baking.).
6) Bake something & burn the edges slightly, cut them off to make the baked thing more attractive-looking & then eat them.
7) "Neaten up" the appearance of a sliced pie or cake by finishing off any oozing filling or crumbs or bottom piece stuck to the remainder of the pan.
Now, I don't mean to be fanatical. Because who doesn't lick a spoon or something now & then? Most Betty Crocker & Duncan Hines commercials show an adorable freckle-faced child doing just that after Mom makes a mix cake or pan of brownies. But I think since women are often preparing food & cleaning it up afterward, this is a very easy way to eat more than you think you are, and that the actions are so automatic, they are practically mindless, so you may not even have a memory of doing it. Which doesn't help with the whole goal of mindful eating & taking our time & finding pleasure in what we eat.
Do other peoples' families do this? I'll bet they do.
*This is what led me to form my hypothesis: At the end of a meal, my mother would always say to my father (and now that he's gone, will now say to me), in an expectant voice: "There's just a little bit of this left. It's not enough to save." The expectation being that we will eat it, so that she can have a clean dish & will not have to take out any Tupperware. I resisted this during her visit & found that she really, really hated throwing out the food. Got all injured-looking & reproachful. Made drama about really ostentatiously throwing it into the trash. (Wouldn't eat it herself, though, I noticed.)