Orange is the new black, eggshells are the new kale, and sitting is the new smoking. Or is it standing?
One of the frustrations I hear a lot about is the feeling that much of the nutrition information flying around out there contradicts each other. I completely understand this befuddlement. The healthiest way to posture while eating is one such topic of disagreement. There have been quite a lot of online articles debating whether or not we should eat standing up or eat sitting down. It’s even a little controversial with some folks swearing by eating on our feet, while others praise the benefits of eating in a chair. With each side of the debate criticizing the other, there seem to be conflicting lists of pros and cons. Let’s take a look at the claims about whether or not eating should be done while sitting or standing (AND whether or not we should care).
Does any of this diet advice sound familiar?
- Put down your fork between bites.
- Ask the waiter or waitress to bring a doggy bag at the same time as the meal.
- Avoid family style serving at meals with the food dishes kept accessible in front of you on the table.
Advice like this is common and not bad per se, but it is somewhat flawed and here is how.
There is something called eating “attunement”, which is eating in response to hunger, fullness and appetite. Eating attunement is based on the idea that we are competent eaters with trustworthy bodies. It is based on internal assessments of when, how much, and what to eat. Someone who is a highly competent and attuned eater is not influenced by non-hunger eating cues. Non-hunger eating cues include situations or feelings that might cause a person to eat even when they are not hungry or are already pleasantly full. We are all born with high levels of eating competence, but for most of us these skills tend to get buried with time as we learn to eat because it is time to, because there are starving people in another country (so clean your plate!), or because we learn to eat in response to stress. The list of possible non-hunger cues is long.
When someone is at the point where their eating competency is low and they are more likely to use external cues (like the clock, whether or not others are eating, how much food is left on the plate) to drive eating than internal cues, advice like “put your fork down between bites” might feel relevant. The internally driven attuned eater however, does not need tips like this because they are not at the mercy of environment when it comes to eating. Things like eating slowly and mindfully and avoiding overeating come much more naturally to the attuned eater. Unfortunately, many eaters don’t fall into the category of highly competent and attuned, but instead feel more externally driven. This causes many to rely on behavioral advice like setting the fork down between bites or ordering a to-go bag at the start of the meal. Distrust of inner cues leads to a scrambling to control eating some other way.
Keep this type of outward based advice in mind as we investigate the claims about best and worst eating positions.
Are you on Team Standing or Team Sitting? Let’s see what the advocates of standing have to say first.