I Won't Eat or Spend While Standing Up

Photo: Tony

From a $1.49 bag of Lays of potato chips, I found a valuable lesson in personal finance and dieting. And that junk-food tutorial will dramatically change the way I shop and spend money. Here's what happened. When I cleared chips from the dining room table, I absentmindedly stuck my hand into the bag and crammed a handful of chips into my mouth.

But I wasn't hungry. But I was eating. But I wasn't thinking. But I was eating. Finally, my brain kicked out of the standby mode and I suddenly understood the 10 commandments of dieting, including the prohibition about eating while standing. In the upright position, it's incredibly easy to mindlessly consume calories.

That's why dieting gurus always warn about eating while standing up. It's so easy to stuff my mouth with food without thinking. But when I sit at the dinner table or the breakfast counter, I'm more mindful of the process and I consume less.

That realization made me think about spending: In the grocery store, in the mall and in the clothing store, I'm usually standing when I make a purchase. But I now believe that if I sat down and thought about the merchandise in my cart, maybe I would spend less. Many stores--even grocery stores--have areas where I can sit, chill and rest.

The health food store has a juice bar/cafe area; my neighborhood Target has a Starbucks corner and the grocery store near my home has park benches in front and even a little eatery inside. Buying a small cup of coffee could save me a fortune if while sitting, I carefully edit my shopping cart.

Think about it: When we make big purchases or large financial commitments -- a car, a home, college tuition -- at some point in that process, we actually have to sit down to sign papers or to test drive the car or to review documents.

From that seated position, we have additional opportunities to consider our options and make thoughtful choices. During those moments, we negotiate with the sellers and with ourselves: Do I really want this merchandise? Do I really need it?

But in the mall and in most stores, we're often upright and on automatic pilot. And from that position, we leave a large trail of small coins and crumbs. We leak money without really thinking. So I'm not going to a) eat while standing and b) make a purchase without sitting down to think.

Of course, I will still eat potato chips, just smaller portions at the table.

Editor's note: Sharon Harvey Rosenberg (The Frugal Duchess) will be joining Wise Bread as a full time blogger in August. In the mean time, she'll be dropping by with a few guest posts a week.  You can find more great tips from Sharon in her book Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money or in Wise Bread's new book 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.

Can't wait until August? Here are other great posts by Sharon on her blog The Frugal Duchess. Enjoy!

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Guest's picture

I couldn't agree more. In fact, a few years ago, when negotiating a used car deal, we actually STOOD UP to leave when the dealer, um, failed to see things our way, I'll say.
Standing up signaled to the dealer that we, the buyers, were done. When we got home we found a message on our machine and we SAT DOWN to discuss their "final" offer.
After sitting down once more with them, we got them to lower their price and we got the car!

Guest's picture

Great post. You are very correct in that if a decision is made while sitting, there has been much more thought put into that decision. Very interesting way of thinking of things.

Guest's picture

Haha, great tips - but I have to share my misreading in this sentence:

"But I now believe that if I sat down and thought about the merchandise in my cart, maybe I would spend less."

I picture you sitting down in your cart to think about the merchandise. :)

Guest's picture

I laughed out loud at the image of myself sitting in a 1/2 filled cart, going over my purchases. Then I re-read it and felt so silly.

Guest's picture

What's the logic behind sitting to eat?

I tried looking around online, but was unable to find that dieting tip explained (or even duplicated elsewhere).


Guest's picture

The logic behind sitting down to eat is that it makes eating an intentional action. One doesn't eat a fancy dinner like Thanksgiving dinner standing up - traditionally, you all sit down together and it takes some time. Eating standing up or in the car lacks that intention, and psychologically, your brain doesn't perceive it the same way.

Not to mention, if you made yourself sit down every time you just grabbed a nibble as you passed through the kitchen, it would take you a lot more time, and you'd probably be less likely to steal a bite here and there.

Guest's picture

It seems like the evidence for standing vs. sitting is antecdotal at best.

While there are sometimes sitting would help (cutting down on snacking, taking a break at stores), there are other times that it hurts.

To uses some of the examples given, at Thanksgiving people tend to eat more than any other time of year. And with regards to car loans and mortgages, those are probably some of the biggest money mistakes people make. Even a quarter percent of a difference in a loan can waste tens of thousands of dollars. Just because someone is sitting does not mean they are making better choices.

I think there are two better options than debating sitting or standing.

1) Do your research. Whether it's making a grocery list, planning meals in advance, or shopping around for a loan, you'll spend less if you put the leg work in first.

2) When in the middle of a meal or shopping trip, stop and think: "do I need this?" If you're not sure. Take a break. Wait 10 minutes and see if you still feel hungry (chances are you won't). If you're at the store and are not sure if you want something, wait a few days, then come back.

Both of those have been shown to cut down on spending and eating, and will do more to help you than just sitting down.