4 Reasons Why you Eat Standing Up

Eating while standing

I know this is weird, but to this day I sometimes feel the urge to eat standing up.  

Maybe you do too.

And I wondered why we do it, and why we crave it when our bodies are meant to be relaxed, present, aware and sitting down while eating.  It certainly provides the best opportunity to “rest and digest”, which is optimal for your digestion. Sitting down when we eat also signals to the brain that we’re not in a rush, not multitasking and more relaxed, which is essential if you want your body to clearly signal to you that it’s had enough to eat.

When we eat standing up,  we do ourselves yet another disservice: refusing to own the decision to eat.  

My friends and I used to joke that calories eaten standing up don’t count.  And, it also doesn’t count if you just grab a few things from the cabinet here and there and slip them into your mouth quickly.  Right?  

We were trying to feel better about the “atrocity” of eating something even remotely unhealthy or processed.

Lurking behind our jokes and our made-up rules and the games we played with ourselves (admit it, you had some too), we knew there was a deeper problem that we just didn’t want to face and confront.

Eating standing up, while not ideal, does make sense psychologically if you consider the following:

  1. We’ve learned to fear our hunger and appetite and not acknowledge these basic signals.

  2. We’re worried other people will judge our food decisions and often choose to eat quickly in solitude.

  3. We’re so confused and conflicted about food, it's easier just to eat it quickly, without intention, and get on to other things.

  4. We live a crazy, chaotic, busy and frantic life, so who has time to sit down to a full meal?

Here are some other reasons why you might be consistently eating standing up instead of allowing yourself to sit and savor your food.

  1. Someone used to tell you to sit down while eating when you didn’t want to.

As the parent of three young daughters, I sometimes see their restlessness at the dinner table. They want to get done eating so they can move on to continue whatever it was they were doing before Mom hollered for them to come inside.  

My own mom used to beseech me to sit down while I was eating - only for me to rebuff her and continue to rebelliously eat standing up - just not around her.  Why? BECAUSE SHE TOLD ME NOT TO! There is a part of every child who wants to rebel against what their parents tell them or want them to do. And good reasons be damned, I was going to eat standing up, even if it ended up hurting my relationship with food in the long run.

Whether it was someone who questioned whether you were truly still hungry, or a friend in school food-shaming you for having an apple instead of Dorito’s (yes, I did the appropriate swaps with friends to snag said Dorito’s), we start to see our eating behaviors as “wrong” or even shameful.  This doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily stop doing these behaviors, but we become more stealthy and clever at doing them. Eating standing up is a great way to hide the evidence fast in case someone is coming who might judge us.

Over time we also become less and less confident, calm and grounded in any food decision we make.  It’s just too painful to think you can no longer trust your instincts and therefore something must be wrong with you.  

When you consider this angle, it kind of makes sense why we’d eat standing up, right?  You can do a better job sneaking food if you’re upright and ready to make a dash to the other room.

Sit-down Strategy:

Use one-liner sound bites to remind you to sit down. “I am allowed to eat what I want and savor my food and experience pleasure with food.”  “Sitting down while eating benefits me and my long-term goals”. “I’m sitting down for ME and no one else”.

2.  You’re in a huge rush so Eating Standing Up works for you

This is pretty straightforward, but if you’re always on the go, busy taking care of everyone and trying to get the kids to school and yourself to work, you might not always want to take the time to have a nice, slow, sit-down breakfast.  No, you’re most likely to grab a protein bar and eat it on the way to the car while simultaneously carrying your bag, your kid and maybe even a backpack or two.  

We can’t fathom taking extra time just for eating!   With so many other important and pressing things to do, it might be easier just to multitask and fuel up quickly.  

Sit-down strategy: 

Wake up 5-10 minutes earlier and eat before anyone else wakes up.  Prepare breakfast meals ahead of time like overnight oats, chia puddings, muesli or hard-boiled eggs and put them on a plate and eat slowly. (It won’t take a lot of time to eat a precooked egg, whether you’re standing or sitting - so you might as well sit!)

3.You’re conflicted about what you’re eating or always feel judged

Back to the sneaking food situation.  We wouldn’t feel the need to sneak, eat quickly,  and do it alone, if we were confident and calm in our food choices, right?  There would be no need. I have clients who fear their spouses will judge them or literally feel like a spotlight is on them when they eat.  I have teenage clients who are confident their mothers are doing the same. In fact, it’s sometimes actually a projection of what they are really feeling about their own eating.  Make no mistake, some people may have judged you in the past (doesn’t even have to be a friend or family member making these comments to have them still sting), but it doesn’t mean anyone is judging you right now.

If this is an ingrained emotion about eating both what and how much you eat, then it’s likely to either cause you to hide and sneak the food and to eat alone. There can be no evidence, such as a dirty plate or empty bag of cookies at the bottom of the trash.  It’s also this mentality that causes us to eat standing up. The challenging part is that all of this can be true and it not even part of your consciousness.

Sit-down Strategy:

Do some deep breath work before eating.  Question and challenge your thoughts and beliefs in that moment.  

Which leads me to the last reason….


4.  Habit

Let’s say, you’ve done the work.  You’ve unpacked your food and body issues and are in a happy, balanced place with eating, yet you still find yourself standing up hunched over the counter shoveling food in your mouth…..because of habit!

It’s a behavior that has served you so often in the past that it takes conscious awareness to realize when you’re doing it and to make the choice to bring it to the table and fully own the decision to eat.

Sit-down Strategy:

Have triggers, anchors or reminders to sit down when you realize you’re following a habit script.  Don’t judge it. Don’t criticize yourself. The best way to crowd out old behaviors and replace them with new ones is consistency, practice and planning:  maybe you preset the table; maybe you have Post-It notes reminding you to sit; maybe there is someone in your family who can gently hold you accountable to it.

Do you eat standing up?  Do you know why? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. 

To learn more about conscious eating, take my Fast Track to Slow Eating mindful eating course.  It’s 7 days of my best content and strategies to teach you to eat mindfully and with intention.