Our editor Tania and AV director Gary (who happen to be married to each other) did a little experiment to see whether everything they tell you about eating at the table and eating tech-free is true.
For some time now we’ve been eating on our laps in front of the telly. If the food is particularly gravyfied or messy, we might eat at the table, but with our phones on the side or a book or something distracting happening at the same time. This wasn’t always so. When we first got married, we were so excited about having our own home together and starting our lives afresh that we always used to eat at the table. It was OUR table and we wanted to look at each other while we ate and talk and connect. Although we still want to connect, the novelty of our own house has worn off and the sheer volume of work we’ve had recently means that we continue working through lunch and dinner (working from home can cause work to bleed into personal time). So this past month we’ve done a little experiment to see what it would be like to stop completely for a sit-down meal and go completely tech-free while we have it.
Pause to chew
The first thing we noticed was that the time we took to eat food increased; prior to this, we would bolt our food and get on with other things. While we’re still both fast eaters, we eat more mindfully when we sit down to the meal and turn the TV off. We appreciate the food more because it is a pleasure rather than fuel.
The lack of TV, mobile phone or a book also meant that we talked to each other. It’s very hard talking about your day if you’ve been sat a metre from each other all day long, but you can talk about plans, things you’d like to do together or apart, your views on the daily news and even what you might like to watch together that night. Occasionally, pausing to eat dinner together with no tech means you learn something new about your partner or your family. For example, I discovered that Gary doesn’t like heights and that was a strange discovery given that he’s been a theatre lighting tech who had to climb ladders up to the rafters of big theatres. I would not have known that if I had had my nose stuck in scanning social media.
Most friends of mine who have children do make them stop everything to eat dinner at the table, but they often eat separately from the children as they have an earlier eating time. A French couple I know eat a small starter or salad with their young children at their dinnertime and then have a grown-ups only meal together once the kids have gone to bed. That insistence we have that children eat at the table is something that adults often ignore for themselves. The fact is that while routines have been shown to be beneficial to children’s development, not enough has been said about the benefits for adults as well.
Your digestion improves when you take the time to eat consciously. You learn to listen and question when you’re not just being fed information through screens throughout the day. Your stress levels improve if you take time to break from your routine for a good dinner. It is a great way to put a fullstop to your working day and enjoy your evening listening to music, reading a book or even watching TV once you’re done with your meal.
We really enjoyed our time doing this and will be continuing with the habit. Try it yourself and see if it works for you and your family. (Although with the summer holidays now truly upon us, you may think you have too much time to connect with your family!)