Sitting down to eat, either on the floor or on your dinner table is considered extremely beneficial. In part, because we slow down when we sit down and slowing down means consuming fewer calories. When we eat slowly we feel fuller and more satisfied than when we wolf down our food.
In fact, there is even a diet based on this theory, called ‘The Sit-Down Diet’ where it suggests that we eat consume fewer calories and comparatively more nutritious food when we sit and eat than while standing up or walking. We are also more likely to digest and assimilate food better when we sit down to eat and chew our food properly, as opposed to rushed eating.
Eating while standing or while rushing to your next chore is often termed as ‘mindless’ eating, not because it’s impossible but simply because we have no thought or respect for what we are eating or putting in our bodies while rushing to that class or meeting. Moreover, research indicates that this kind of eating is fattening. Many of us over-eat in response to external cues and distractions rather than a genuine physical need or want for food. Sitting down to eat (without a TV, computer or book to distract us) focuses our mind on eating and makes us more attuned to physical cues for hunger and satiety. Here are some reasons for you to slow down and eat food while sitting down.
Maintain a Healthy Weight and Diet
Previously considered an old wives’ tale, the link between eating quickly and weight gain was recently confirmed by a clever intervention study where healthy adult male volunteers were served a large cup (300 ml) of ice cream on two different occasions. One time, the men were given five minutes to eat the ice cream; the other time, 30 minutes were allotted. Same volunteers, same amount of ice cream – but when people took a half hour to eat the food, their rating of ‘fullness’ rose and two guthormones related to appetite satisfaction increased markedly.
Scientists have shown that most of the foods we eat standing up are low in nutritional value and high in empty calories. A study published last year in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that young adults who eat on the run consume more fast foods and soft drinks and less healthy food than their peers who make time to sit down to dinner, eating more fruit and vegetables in the process.
Another investigation conducted by Cornell University researchers showed that time-starved working parents struggle to find the time to sit down to a home-cooked meal. Instead, many of them grab quick foods at work or opt for fast food and take-out meals of inferior nutritional quality.
That sit-down eating can favor healthy weight was shown in a study published recently in the Journal of Pediatrics. Researchers studying children in Greece found that those who regularly sat down to family meals ate more vegetables and fewer snack foods and were thinner than their peers who did not have these eating habits.
Excess weight is a key cancer risk factor. The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) in its 2009 Policy Report estimates that nearly a fifth of all cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, gallbladder, colon, rectum, breast, endometrium and kidney in the US could be prevented if people had a healthy body weight.
When we’re standing up we do things faster, hence the brief craze amongst ‘trendy’ companies for installing bar-height tables for standing meetings after a study found that sitting meetings lasted 34% longer. So perhaps the risk of standing to eat is the temptation to gobble your food down – the speed of eating leading to indigestion, rather than the position.
Proper digestion of food requires you to be relaxed in a rest and digest state. Being in a stressed state of mind may cause digestive distress like bloating, abdominal pain or cramping, constipation, or diarrhea. It also forces you to set the intention to eat rather than eating mindlessly out of boredom.
The process of eating, according to ayurveda, is something reverent and important for the development of consciousness as well as our physical health. When we sit down to eat our stomach is in a relaxed posture and our awareness is on the taste, texture, and smell of the food which greatly improves the digestion.
What You Can Do
.When you’re hungry or feel the urge to eat, prepare your meal or snack, and sit down at the table to eat. This will slow you down from eating mindlessly throughout the door or when you are bored.
.Take time to prepare your snack or meal and place it on a table or on a mat, your designated area to eat.
.Instead, of sitting and eating at your desk or in your car, choose a separate space to eat. .At work, you can look for a shared kitchen-space with a table or a bench and table outside.
.At home, use a dining room or kitchen table. Clear space off the table for you to eat comfortably.
.Try eating with family and friends as much as possible and enjoy their companionship and the food.