What is the best position for dinner?

The French tradition is that a meal takes place around a table, round, rectangular or square, but never, ever, on the floor or even standing. But is this the best position?

When the clock strikes noon or 8 p.m., it is not uncommon to hear the eternal “à taaable”, the usual signal to indicate that the meal is served and ready to be swallowed, seated around the said four-legged piece of furniture. This Western configuration is not new; since the Renaissance, it has been an object of national pride. But beyond the simple culinary rite, is there a more enviable position in terms of health?

Because elsewhere in the world, there are many different ways of eating. In the Maghreb or Central Asia, eaters often sit lower down, from a cushion on the floor or on a sofa. Americans are black belts in the snacking, taken standing and on the go. Of all these habits, which is more worth adopting for the well-being of our backs and our digestion? Spoiler alertthe match may not be as bent as you think.

Stand up straight first

Whatever your preference, the specialists are unanimous on the fact that the attention must be above all focused on the back and not the seat. As Julien Scanzi, hepato-gastroenterologist at Clermont-Ferrand and at the Thiers Hospital Center, points out, it is important to keep your bust as straight as possible and avoid slouching. “If we maintain a stooped position at mealtime, our belly – more precisely the stomach and the intestines – will be compressed. However, for the food bolus to pass from one organ to another, it needs space. Thus, a bad posture will disturb the digestive work and will cause bloating”, explains the health professional.

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The sofa and the bed not recommended

Eating your meal sitting on your sofa is to be avoided, underlines Dr. Scanzi, because you can slouch there more than on a chair. And the digestive discomfort that accompanies this poor posture will tend to be accentuated in a lying or semi-lying position. “By lying on your side on the sofa, Roman style, or lying on the bed, it complicates the passage of the food bolus from the esophagus into the stomach”, observes the hepato-gastroenterologist.

If neither the sofa nor the bed are recommended for enjoying a good gratin dauphinois, it is also because this habit is often accompanied by another, just as harmful: screen consumption. By watching Netflix or our mobile phone, “we are no longer attentive to our plate”, notes Nicolas Meyer, osteopathic doctor and posturologist. To the point of disrupting the signals sent between the brain and the digestive system. “Hunger and satiety will then merge, we can end up eating more than necessary”, specifies the specialist.

On the ground, an effort to adapt

If the seated position on the ground, leaning on a low table, seems to be a good compromise, but not for everyone. Explanations: “For us Europeans, eating at the table is often a reflex inscribed in our bodies since childhood: we have adapted our joints and our muscles to this posture”, summarizes Nicolas Meyer.

Based on this observation, going from the table to the floor overnight would actually be more difficult because you lack the habit. “When you sit on the ground for the first time, the lumbar curvature, the ankles and the knees are solicited in an unusual way. This lack of flexibility can stiffen us when we get up, even cause joint pain,” notes the osteopathic doctor. Before adding: “We can adapt to it but it will be easier for children than adults”.

And why not stand up?

Would the meal at the table ultimately win the match? According to Dr. Nicolas Meyer, it is certain that this posture remains the least harmful. He also suggests improving it by adapting the height of the table to his size. “As you would for a desk, the worktop should be neither too high nor too low. If this is not possible, an adjustable seat makes it possible to adapt the posture, so that the forearms are located in the extension of the table”, he indicates.

The standing position would also deserve our attention. As sitting and prolonged work harms us, reminds the osteopathic doctor, it could be wise to avoid maintaining the position during meals. “While savoring a dish standing on a high table, you lean on one leg then another. This mobility injects movement into our very sedentary day”, assures Dr Nicolas Meyer.

Be careful, however, not to swallow your sandwich in five minutes flat, remind the specialists. For this meal to be beneficial for the body and the mind, you must devote at least 30 minutes of mindfulness to it, and if possible, share it with other people to promote relaxation. And why not add a walk at the end of the meal to further facilitate digestion.


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