Friday, February 14, 2014

#81: Table, Plate, Chair [101 in 1001]

I was sitting in the doctor's office waiting on my mom when something on the video monitor caught my eye--a rarity.  Normally I ignore this type of thing because it aggravates me.  Many times, the videos on these monitors are a hypochondriac's dream.  By the time you've watched the third round of "do you have these symptoms?" you think you have everything.  The one at my mom's optometrist is the worst--if you're not blind when you come in the office, you will think you're going blind by the time you leave (thank the Lord for mp3 players, books, and crochet hooks). But I digress.

What I saw was actually something positive.  It was called the "Table, Plate, Chair Challenge."  It offered a challenge to the viewer for a set amount of time to eat all their meals at the table, off a plate, sitting in a chair.  Not eating in the car, standing over the sink, in front of the TV, or grazing indiscriminately.

What's the big deal about sitting down at the table for a meal?  For families, those who take the time for at least one daily sit down meal at home are said to have better family dynamics (provided everyone is not on a cell phone or electronic device, or the TVs not basting out it's daily dose of heartburn and bad news in the background). 

I am comforted at the vision of a family sitting around the table--not even a fancy table--eating a meal (again, it doesn't have to be fancy), talking, laughing, sharing, praying, and/or engaging in friendly debate or banter.  I am horrified when I see a daily meal turned into a battleground or a dark hole in which to be barely seen and never heard, instead of a tranquil bright spot of connection.

For those of us who eat alone, it can be much worse.  Many of us (meaning me) do not look forward to eating alone.  Meals have become a necessary evil...a task to be endured.  For the emotional eater/food addict (again meaning me), meals are a torture chamber full of "damned if you do, damned if you don't" menu choices.  But I thought hey, why not?  Maybe it will change something.  So, I took up the challenge.  I set my kitchen table up with a red tablecloth and ate all my meals and most of my snacks there for a week.

Day one was the hardest day.  I've always heard that one should eat slowly because it takes 20 minutes to perceive that the stomach is full.  So, I set a timer and tucked in.  Y'all, when I'm eating alone with no one to talk to, no internet, no book to read, no nothing, twenty minutes is a LONG time to stretch a simple meal.  I tried praying while I ate, but that didn't feel right.  Praying and being thankful before a meal was more natural.  I figure that during meals, God turns His head and just hopes for the best.  Makes me wonder what my friends see when we eat together. Must be a hideous sight.

The rest of the week was a little better because I stopped using the timer and at least let my laptop talk to me; less lonely and my meals took between 10 and 15 minutes.  I couldn't wait for the rest of the week to be over.

So what did I learn from this experience?  I learned that if I had a family, I would insist on sit down meals.  I would encourage your family to do the same if you are not already doing so.  I think sit down meals go a long way in keeping a family connected.  I also learned that it is better for me to always eat my meals at the table than any other way, painful though it may be.

I don't know why I did this challenge around Valentine's day.  It seems to cement the lonely factor.  Not smart, not smart at all.  But it over and done with.

Dear Families:  If this is what meal times look like...


  1. We always eat at the table together. Mostly it's because I can't imagine Bea eating anything if there were distractions.... Now that it's tax season and Frank doesn't always make it home for dinner, I do check my phone while eating. Bad habit, but sometimes it's nice to just to have "adult" interaction, even if it's through the news.

    1. That's good. The point is to maintain family connection.