A few months ago, I challenged myself to wake up at 5 a.m. every day for 30 days. It was definitely a difficult challenge, but I’m glad I did it, and since then I’ve been wanting to find another month-long challenge.
Challenges are a great way to kick off a new habit, try out something that you’ve always wanted to try, or push your limits a little to see what you’re capable of. Because they have an end date, it can be easier to push yourself through difficult moments since you know it won’t last forever. Challenges often create long-term positive changes in our lives, and they’re a fun way to experiment with something new.
I’m feeling ready for a new challenge, so I’ve decided that I’m challenging myself to eat only at a table for the entire month of July. (I realize my title says 30-day and July has 31 days. Just go with it.) Now, that goal likely either really resonated with you, or made absolutely no sense at all, which is why I’ve got a Why.
As you know, I always find my Why before I start something new. Knowing why you want to do something helps you to push through when you don’t want to. It brings the benefits and results of your actions to the forefront of your mind so that you can focus on the things that matter to you, rather than the momentary discomfort of whatever action it is that you’re taking.
It can be so easy to overlook the little rewards that result from our actions, but being mindful of them makes them easier to spot. Noticing those little rewards is motivating and helps us keep moving forward, and finding your Why means you’ll know what to look out for, making that process of mindfulness easier.
Before I did my #5amwakeupchallenge, I wrote out a similar list of reasons why I was doing it. Writing that list of whys was one of my favorite posts to write, and I’m pretty excited to write this post now. If you’re considering taking on this challenge with me or doing a different challenge of your own, I highly encourage you to write out your list of Whys.
But before I get into my Whys, here are some ground rules so you know what I’m holding myself to. Feel free to modify these to fit your own life if you’re joining me on this challenge.
All food eaten in my apartment has to be eaten at the table, snacks included.
No phone. My phone isn’t allowed to be within arm’s reach of me when I’m eating.
No laptop, either. Or books. No distractions at the table. Just me, food, and maybe Bennett.
Drinks can be consumed anywhere. I’m not too concerned about those and I don’t want to discourage myself from drinking water. I don’t drink sugary drinks anyway, so those calories aren't a concern.
Any time I eat somewhere aside from my apartment, I will make a reasonable attempt to eat at a table. All of the other rules still apply.
Soylent and protein shakes count as food and have to be consumed at the table.
And now, my Why!
1. To push myself to finally finish painting my kitchen table. (I bet this wasn’t something that you expected me to say.)
My kitchen table and chairs are secondhand from my FMIL, and while they’re sturdy and I like them, the finish was looking a little rough and they didn’t match our decor, so I’m painting them. At this point, I’ve been working on them for the better part of two months and it’s time to wrap it up already, so I’m using one of my own tactics and creating a solid reason to finish the project by July 1st.
2. I want to develop a more mindful relationship with food.
My relationship with food is a little weird and always has been. I’m a boredom snacker, and a thinking snacker, and a stressed snacker. I graze constantly and wander into the kitchen looking for food all the time. I can also tell you the calorie count of most foods without looking at the nutrition label.
A bad habit that has only continued to get worse lately is mindlessly inhaling my food while something else holds my attention. I nearly always watch YouTube or something while I eat and pay little attention to the things I’m eating. And, not to brag, but given how well I can cook, it’s quite a shame.
Along with developing a more mindful relationship with food, I want to eat more slowly. I used to be a slow eater, and I still often am when I’m not distracted while I eat, but I inhale my food without noticing it when I eat in front of a screen. I want to appreciate my food, and I hope that eating more slowly and enjoying each bite will help me feel more satisfied after meals, as well as help me eat a little less. It’s easy to overeat when you aren’t paying attention.
3. It would be nice to lose a few pounds.
This Why isn’t something I care about quite as much as the other reasons listed here; I’m not overweight and weight loss isn’t something that I’m generally concerned about. That said, July 25th will mark one year since I first set foot in a gym. Since then, I’ve gained a couple of pounds, mostly in muscle. It would be pretty great to celebrate a year of working out by returning to the weight I started at, but with significantly more muscle definition.
And, in general (in case you missed it), fitness is important to me. Staying in good shape makes me feel happy, healthy, and energetic, so losing a pound or three of fat definitely wouldn’t be a bad thing. Given the other things on this list, like eating more mindfully and snacking less, I suspect that it’s likely that I will lose a bit of weight.
4. I want to cut down on my snacking.
I’m a snacker. I’ve always been a snacker. My dinners often consist of a random assortment of snacks. I wander into the kitchen looking for a snack about eight times a day. I often snack while working, reading, watching TV, whatever. I love a good snack.
The problem is, these snacks often consist of me mindlessly reaching into a bag of popcorn and downing the whole thing without noticing. I snack even when I’m not really hungry because I need something to do with my hands. I’m definitely a boredom eater, and it’s not a good habit to have.
Most of my snacks aren’t that big, and they’re fairly low calorie, so luckily my snacking habit hasn’t posed too much of a problem, but I’d still like to break it. That boredom-energy could be directed into something more useful, like reading or cleaning.
I suspect because my snacks are never eaten at a table, that eating only at the table will nearly eliminate snacking. Part of why I snack so often is because it’s convenient, so making this bad habit inconvenient will help me break it. I’ll have to consciously decide that I want a snack and take time out of my day to eat at the table if I really want a snack.
5. I’m a grown-ass woman and should probably stop eating all of my meals in bed or on the couch.
For real. You’re an adult, Abby. Enough crumbs in bed. Enough crumbs on the couch. It’s about time that you adopt adult habits, like eating at a real table.
My parents made it look so easy. They eat all of their meals at a table and always clean the kitchen at the end of the day. Turns out, it’s not that easy. Props to them. Time to follow in their footsteps because I’m not 16 anymore. I can still keep my child-like sense of wonder while eating at a table like a grown woman.
I’m sure that this challenge will come with plenty of difficulties. It wouldn’t be a challenge if it were easy. I know that it’s going to be a bit of a struggle at first to avoid snacking. The 5 a.m. challenge was difficult at first as well, but it got easier as time went on, as I expect this one to. I am curious to see if I decide to skip snacking entirely or snack mindfully at the table.
Meal times are also typically when I watch YouTube or Netflix. I don’t watch a ton of either of those, but I do have a couple of channels and shows that I like to watch, and I know it’s going to be a challenge to find other times to fit that into my life. My schedule is fairly full as it is.
As with my 5 a.m. wakeup challenge, I hope some of the benefits of this challenge continue on past the end of July. I don’t wake up at 5 every day anymore, but I do still wake up pretty early most of the time, and I’m much better at sticking to my morning routine and staying off of my phone because of that challenge.
I’ve only got a few days left until this challenge starts, so I’m speedily trying to finish painting that table in the meantime. If you’re planning to join me, make sure you’ve figured out your rules and written down your Why! I’ll be sure to post an update or two about the challenge on the blog, although most of my food content ends up on Instagram, so follow me there and use #eatingatatable if you want to join me on my journey.
Are you going to take on a challenge in July? If you are, I’d love to hear about it in the comments! Let us know your rules and your Whys so we can all support each other together.