If, over the past year, you've had dinner in front of the TV or scrolled through your phone endlessly over breakfast, you are certainly not alone.
"Quarantine admissibility," is what Susan Albers, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and bestselling author who focuses on mindful eating, calls the almost universal phenomenon of indulging in bad habits during the pandemic.
However, it may be time to consider returning to the table.
It doesn't have to be fancy or elaborate, but setting a nice table can encourage you to sit down and eat with your family, roommates, or even alone with a good book.
"Eating should be an experience and something you enjoy," said Dr. Albers. "You don't have to take a lot of time to eat, but when you do, give it your full attention." That means you put your phone down and sit at the table.
"Your phone shouldn't be your dinner companion," said Dr. Albers, who calls this familiar habit of eating with one hand and scrolling with the other "zombie eating." However, she admits that sitting at the table instead of watching TV or eating without scrolling your phone can lead to daunting tasks because "these two behaviors are difficult to resolve when you've done them day in and day out". This can be especially difficult if you work from home during the pandemic or if you think that eating on the sofa while watching a show is some kind of reward for getting through another tough day.
The good news is that sitting and eating at the table doesn't have to be a chore. When you redefine meal times as special parts of the day, a time to connect with loved ones or relax by yourself, they become something to look forward to.
Fallon Carter, a New York City-based event planner, recently purchased a new dining table. She found that sitting with the right meals during the pandemic was a great way to connect with yourself. "If you determine the room and the zone," she said, "you can make any place special," she said.
Nothing need to be fussy about eating at a table, but a little effort can go a long way in making the experience enjoyable. Ms. Carter added a floral arrangement to her dining room table of flowers that she had bought from Trader Joe. "It wasn't a big elevator," she said with a laugh, but it made the room feel more inviting. She also suggests using cloth napkins and proper glassware, and getting a number of dishes that you really love.
Lots of people leaned over to cook during the pandemic, and setting the table is a great way to honor the work that goes into making a meal. Even if you prefer to have dinner to take away or in the microwave, the benefits of table setting apply. No matter how you get your meal, you can always transfer it to the right dishes.
There are many good reasons to sit at the table to eat, but don't worry. Meals are meant to be enjoyed. Ms. Fallon suggests even getting a little fancy at your table if you want.
"Don't save the good stuff! You deserve the good stuff. We were in a pandemic!"
5 easy steps to make meals special:
Cover the table with cloth napkins, cutlery, glassware and dishes that you love.
Add candles, flowers, or something decorative
Keep the TV off and your phone and laptop in another room.
Sit with your feet on the floor and your back against the chair (like in a restaurant).
Relax and enjoy your meal!