21 micro habits to make weight loss stick: #2 Eat all your food sitting down.

In this instalment of the ‘21 micro habits‘ series, food psychology coach Laura Lloyd explains her reasons.

Surprisingly, it’s not to do with your digestion (though if you have reflux or heartburn you’ll definitely want to do this too).

It’s because of all the tiny add-on eating that we do while we’re standing up. It’s about trying to get all of our eating onto our own radar.

Are you eating standing up a lot?

Do you sit down much in your day?

When I was an actor, I’d often grab food between rehearsals.

Nothing major – a banana, a sandwich.

And I’d often go to watch shows in the evening, and not have time to go home, and not be able to afford a restaurant either. So, I’d eat a felafel on the tube train.

It didn’t feel very healthy, and when I got home late at night, I’d be wanting more to eat – my food had somehow passed me by!

I worried about my body and although I didn’t go on any official ‘diets’, I’d set myself goals – having phases where I’d try to count calories, or having phases where I’d ban myself from certain ‘treat’ foods.

Essentially, I’d try to control what was going in my mouth, rather than thinking about HOW I was eating.

We reach for diets, when really we need to clean up our habits and our thinking.

Instead of thinking about going all-out Veganuary or total ‘detox’ after the Christmas festivities are over, or when your last attempt to diet ended with you losing 30lb and regaining all 45 of them, why don’t we think about the small 1% changes we can make that make all the difference?

And making them now and forever, instead of just ‘being naughty’ now and ‘being good’ (read – depriving yourself) later? 

How I changed my standing-up eating habits and lost 20lb.

I’d never ask you to do something I haven’t guinea-pigged on myself. And this works.

I have overcome my lifelong overeating simply by changing my habits, and my habitual thoughts around food.

(I have also lost 20lb this way – but my main goal is to feel calm and in control (in a kind, self-loving way) around food, for the rest of my life. 

The thing is, I was eating a lot under my own radar. Behind my own back.

Grabbing the kids’ leftover bits of pizza. Licking the peanut butter knife after spreading my daughter’s toast. Telling myself it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t count, or that I deserve it, or mustn’t waste it. 

This one habit – sitting down to eat – is one revolutionary micro habit.

It’s bringing me face to face with some eating that I’m still inclined to do, that’s kind of outside my full awareness and absolutely extra to the ‘real’ eating I do when I’m still properly hungry. This isn’t eating that has anything to do with hunger, and everything to do with emotion, habit, and handling the transitions in my day.

Any of this resonate with you?

Perhaps you’re also worried about your digestion. 

You needn’t worry overly much – although slowing down to eat is highly recommended for your metabolism, and you’re unlikely to do that while standing up.

Some studies show that food is actually digested faster if you move around after.

That said, Marc David of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating (where I did one of my certifications as a food psychology coach) and author of The Slow Down Diet, points out that when we eat too quickly, we trigger our body’s stress response which includes putting fat-burning on hold. 

So it really is worth noticing when you’re eating standing up. You might be surprised. 


When are you eating standing up?

You might think you always sit down to eat, and yet…you may simply not notice yourself doing it.

For instance:  

I often grab something like a crust of bread spread with nut butter and jam at the end of lunch, and then eat it walking down the corridor to my desk. Ha! Like I need a road snack to incentivise myself to get to work! Something to keep me going on that long journey from the kitchen to the living room! Procrastination and work self-doubt is a huge emotional eating motivation I could write a whole other post about… 

Or, when I’m off out to the car to get the kids from school, taking a handful of nuts and cramming them in my mouth as I fly out of the door. 

Or, when I’m impatient, and hungry, eating stuff standing up while I prepare my dish – but then feeling like my dish is rather small as I ate half of it already without really sitting down and appreciating it. 

What I notice when I stop standing-up eating

What I’ve spotted is, that when I make myself take a seat to eat, that crust with nut butter, or that apple, or that handful of nuts, that a) I feel a bit shifty about it, because honestly I was satisfied before I began eating it, and b) I’m so impatient to do my next thing, and I can hardly make myself sit there, it’s so boring eating the extra thing. 

And that’s because my attention wandering and wanting to move onto the next part of my day is actually my cue that I’m done eating and am satisfied – that boredom is one of my fullness signals (which can be emotional and around thoughts and focus shifting, as well as just belly sensations of fullness). 

You don’t ‘have to’ sit down to eat. But being honest with yourself feels so good!

Watch your attitude – we so often turn things that are good for us into a chore. 

I want to ask you: it possible that you might have a lot of fun doing this?

I have got immense pleasure and freedom from admitting to myself, and being really honest with myself, about what I’m actually eating. I feel less sneaky, less secretive, more like I’m owning my choices and taking responsibility. 

If you clean up these kind of behaviours, your efforts to lose weight and overcome your overeating will become peaceful, liberating and effective.

Do these 21 things, and your efforts to diet will finally work – without even needing to follow a specific food plan. Seriously, you can eat what you choose. It’s not about the food.

We concentrate so much on ‘clean eating’ but it’s not our pantry that needs the detox – it’s our brains. 

Controlling what’s on your plate by dieting is what our grannies did.

Some of us, our mums too.

There is a much smarter, modern way – a less self-punishing way, where you actually heal your relationship with food and with your body, and put your overeating to rest using psychology and habit change.

It makes sense, and it’s for life, not just for Christmas or to get a bikini beach body.  


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Just a little side note from me:

Self-judgment is never even slightly helpful, people, if you want to lose weight.

It will stop you in your tracks. Self-judgment creates inaction.

I mean, we think it’s failure that’ll stymie success. That’s not true.

As Brooke Castillo says, failure is not the opposite of success. Inaction is the opposite of success.

Essentially, feeling like a human car crash because you have a lot of thoughts that aren’t helping you, and a lot of habitual behaviours bothering you, just makes it painful to look at what you’re doing, and analyse it.

Which is why we put off leaning in and looking at what we’re really doing when we’re messing up.

But when we do look at it with curiosity, it’s SUCH a relief!

It’s your ability to go into ‘data analysis’ and 'I'm learning new skills' mode that takes the drama out of your weight loss journey:

Scale gone up? Just data – which habit or skill do I need to learn next?

Mum make a snide remark about how you’re ‘getting too thin’? Just data – how can you let other people’s opinions wash off you like water off a duck’s back?

Notice that you ‘can’t’ sit down to work without a road snack to get from the kitchen to your desk? Just data – what am I thinking and feeling about my work?

Go all-out on chocolate one day, and body feels sick and jittery afterwards? Just data – what was I thinking and feeling that day? Does this information from my body change how I think about ‘how much I love’ chocolate?

Self-doubt creates overwhelm. Overwhelm stops you starting. And, once again – that inaction is the opposite of success – not failure.

Failure is very informative. Failure means you’re trying things. It increases your probability of hitting on a solution.

Laura Lloyd

Food Psychology Coach, The School of Food Psychology

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