When was the last time you pulled up your chair up and sat down for a meal at your kitchen/dinning room table?According to the Journal of American Medicine, 43% of American families eat together everyday. The question I think that is more important to look at, is where are we eating and what are we doing during meal times?
I never appreciated the kitchen table throughout my young adult life. I use to live in a small apartments with no dinning room and typically the kitchen was so tiny you could hardly fit two people in it, never mind a table. Throughout college and graduate school we would eat, on the couch, plates in our laps and food being shoveled into our mouths as we watched the latest E! News. I lost the lessons I learned while growing up and eating family meals of enjoying my food, good conversation and tasting each bite as it entered my mouth. Eating had become a mindless act when I was in my apartment.
Most Americans are driving, typing, texting, watching TV, talking on the phone, surfing on our iPads, while we are eating our meals! We are hardly ever sitting at a table and when we do it is highly unlikely we don’t have some gadget in hand entertaining us. There has been numerous studies that show the more distractions present while you are eating the bigger your waistline becomes. Studies show we eat 30-70% more calories when we are distracted. And eating on the go has become even more prevalent. 20% of food in the US is eaten in the car, according to Micheal Pollan.
It is Thursday night, it has been a long work week. The family decides to have a home cooked meal of chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and salad. You grab a plate full, sit down on the couch, watch the 6:00 PM news and before the opening segment is even over, your plate is clean. Your grab your lap top start answer some unfinished emails from work and it is 8:30 PM and you are starving! You start to rummage though the kitchen cabinets, like an animal looking for a snack. You taste everything but nothing satisfies you. Sound familiar? That scenario I must hear 2-3 times per day from my clients.
When you do this, when I do this, or my clients do this, we are setting ourselves up for failure. By not sitting down at the table for a meal, we lose all control over our hunger, and ability to know when we are full. When you are distracted at meals you overeat for two reason: (1) You eat too fast. (2) You forget to pay attention to those hunger/fullness cues we talked about last week. So if I eat too much then why I am I always hungry a few hours later? The messages our bodies are giving us while we are eating are over looked by something more exciting going on, like Kim Kardashins’ marriage is over after 72 days! Basically we forget that we have eaten because we ignore our bodies cues.
My first dinning room table was delivered about 6 weeks ago. I went shopping with my mom, we bought place mats, cloth napkins, and candles and really did it up right. When I sat down for my first meal at the table something funny happened. The tension in my neck was released, my mind cleared and I enjoyed each bite of food as it went in my mouth. While I was eating my meal, I thought about how nice it was to be “unplugged” and drifted back to memories of all the wonderful family dinner meals my mom prepared for us. She always was a supporter of only eating at the table, and to this day she still says “No eating on the couch!” When I was a kid I thought she was nagging us, but little did I know she was setting us up for one of the life’s best skills, eating mindfully.
My challenge to myself and you is to have one meal per day sitting at a table without TV or distractions. Siting at the table is key for mindful eating and your waistline will thank you!