“Honey,” I importuned, “please sit down and eat some veggie bean soup with me to help make up for that yucky meal you had at Burger Night.”
“Oh, I didn’t eat. Didn’t have time. I barely ate anything,” he insisted when I rolled my eyes in recollection of previous burger nights I’d attended (remind me later and I’ll tell you what I eat there).
You see, while it IS true that, as purveyor of this long-standing summertime tradition, my boyfriend doesn’t actually sit down to a burger and fries, it is NOT true that he hardly eats anything. In fact, his mouth hardly stops chewing! The whole time he’s there he is slingin’ burgers, increasing the carcinogenicity of innocent potatoes (by frying them), and refilling condiment containers.
Watching my overweight significant other do this drives me crazy. I once asked him—after watching him eat an entire white chocolate macadamia nut cookie as he propelled across the room—if he even tasted it, much less enjoyed it.
“I don’t know,” he replied, shrugging.
“What if you had to sit down to eat those cookies?” I inquired as he plucked a snickerdoodle from the plastic tray. “Do you think you’d eat as many?”
Alas, we’ll probably never know because my boyfriend thinks he could control his eating if he wanted to. He doesn’t think sitting down or applying any other strategies is necessary—desire to make a change is enough. But what I’ve noticed about him over the four and a half years since I made his acquaintance is that, like many people, he periodically cycles through a motivated stage, during which it becomes easy to regulate his dietary intake—and it’s at those times that he decides he wants to control what he eats. Of course, it was really that spontaneous, ephemeral impulse that made him want to control his eating in the first place! For most of us, beloved included, desire alone is not enough.
Eating while seated seems like a no-brainer, but if you’re like my boyfriend, you frequently and mindlessly pop tidbits into your mouth while preparing meals or wandering around the house. The truth is, though, that you can put away a lot of calories that way before even sitting down to your meal. And you probably end up eating food you wouldn’t normally eat if you had to sit down to eat it. For instance, if you find yourself tossing nuts down your gullet as you prepare a smoothie, do you think you’d eat those same extra nuts if you used your control efforts to make yourself sit down instead of thinking, “I shouldn’t be eating these nuts”?
Probably not. That’s why I have my clients focus more on eating everything while seated no matter what rather than worrying so much about what they’re eating. And it’s more effective. Imagine telling yourself at a cocktail party, “I’m not supposed to be eating this taleggio flatbread, it’s not on my diet,” versus, “I can eat all the flatbread I want, but I have to do it while seated.” In the first scenario, you effort is set on controlling what you put in your mouth, which is very hard to do—which you may notice as you pluck “just one” from the buffet. Am I right or am I right? In the second scenario, however, your effort isn’t wasted on something over which you have little control; instead, you put your attention where it will do more good—in this case, sitting down to eat. You can control that, and in doing so, you actually start building discipline which will gradually start paying off in the form of less bad stuff and more good stuff making its way into your pie hole.
Now you try
Make a commitment that, for the next week, you’ll sit down before putting anything in your mouth, no matter what. If you’re used to snacking while standing, put up some post-it notes as reminders to implement this new healthy eating habit.
Oh yea, what does a nutritarian eat at a buffet-style standard American burger night? Well, luckily, there are a couple of veggie burger options and an undressed green salad, so I bring along some avocado then make myself a gianormous bowl of salad, add on some sliced tomato and onion, and crumble the veggie burger on top. Delish and nutrish!