Who knew that consuming your food from the comfort of a chair could make all the difference? For a mindful, present eating experience, stop snacking while your standing, and make it a point to sit down at meal time.
In an episode of deep, poolside thinking, a startling realization occurred to me: I eat a lot of food when I’m standing up. Whether I’m prematurely munching on the foods that I’m cooking, too eager to put the food from my fridge onto a plate, or I’m scavenging for snacks in the 28-test kitchen emporium that is a mere staircase away from my fingertips everyday, I’m consuming a lot of food without even being able to sit down and enjoy it. For the past week, I’ve challenged myself to sit down for every meal that I eat, and to say that this experience has been enlightening would be a total understatement.
Let me preface this by saying that I generally have good eating habits. I eat a lot of vegetables and salads, I don’t skip meals (the horror!), and I cook most of my food at home. That being said, I will be the first to admit that I am the posterchild for mindless munching. I’m a strong believer that if you only nibble off 4 quarters of a slice of pie rather than just taking a whole piece, you didn’t actually eat enough pie worth mentioning. At the same rate, if the food didn’t touch a plate and I didn’t slow down to stare pensively at it in front of me and bask in the pleasure it brings me, it’s like I never ate it. It’s like an endless supply of *seemingly* calorie-free snacks. You see what I mean? I am willing to play these devious mental games to convince myself that I have the humble appetite of a small child and the disciplined portion-control of a beauty pageant contestant before a competition. Truth be told, I am a far cry from both.
While standing and eating might not be everyone’s daily reality, it definitely is for me given the nature of my job (blessing on some days, curse on most). Every now and then, the food that I’m eating in the test kitchen might actually be work-related (i.e. I’m critically tasting a recipe that’s being developed), but most of the time, it’s just me being a boundary-less, voracious monster, bouncing from kitchen to kitchen and seeing if there are any treats up for grabs. Trust me, it’s not a bad life, but it definitely adds up.
When it comes to at-home cooking, I’m just as guilty. I cannot tell you how many times I have meticulously planned out and executed an impressive, homemade meal, only to sit down and already feel full. A handful here and a taste of this and a spoonful of that, and before I know it, my appetite is gone and I cannot recall anything that I ate. It is this moment of deep regret and self-loathing that has compelled me to embark on a one-week challenge of promising myself to be sitting comfortably when I consume my food.
What I have gathered is that this self-imposed change in habits has been an exercise in mindfulness, more than anything. Rather than feeling pressed to snack on as many little things that I can find before I actually sit down and my meal formally commences, I was forced to put whatever it was on a plate and wait until I was in a chair to start eating (there are no chairs in the test kitchen, so my daily scavenging trips ended with a full-out sprint back to my desk). Not only does this exercise make me way more accountable for how much food I’m actually eating, but it makes me appreciate the food I’m sitting down to enjoy way more. Eating on the go is surely a time saver, but it happens so fast and I’m typically so distracted that by the time I’m done eating, it’s pretty unlikely that I’ll be able to look back on the experience and recall what/how much it was that I ate.
In a typical work week, there is (at the VERY minimum) one day where I go home too full to eat dinner. One would think that it’s an empowering, mighty feeling of triumphant snacking, but honestly, it just plain sucks. And yet, I never learn. During the week of my challenge, I didn’t feel this way once, and it’s for this reason, that I truly want to carry over this practice for the long-term. A friend even suggested I take it one step further and forbid myself from playing on my phone while sitting and eating to make the eating experience that much more mindful and present. Though I appreciate the sentiment… let’s not be silly—I need to be scrolling through Insta between bites, and there’s no way around that.