The idea of a 16-minute lunch really speaks to me: sitting out in the sun is nice and all, but when there’s deadlines looming it’s hard to switch off. According to a new study by Quorn, our lunch habits aren’t looking too healthy – many are taking just quarter of the time they’re supposed to and nearly half are dining ‘al desko’. Possibly the worst part of the study sees one in 10 eating the same thing every day, with the most popular being a plain cheese sandwich or a ham sandwich, which makes me far sadder than thinking of someone having a shorter lunch break. (Get yourself some Branston’s, for crying out loud!)
But is a 16-minute lunchbreak practical? I tried it out to see whether those 16-minutes are something I can get on board with.
This meal is one that needs prior planning. I can’t spend time dilly-dallying around the shops in search for the sandwich that takes my fancy. It’s kind of like going into The Crystal Maze but instead of gold tokens, it’s exclusively lunch items you’re looking to run out the door with as quickly as possible.
The time starts ticking as soon as you leave your desk, so I recommend having some flat shoes at the ready. I power walk over to the local Sainsburys, approximately two minutes away, like I’m a woman who has just been let through the doors at the Selfridges sale and is trying to get to the handbags first without breaking into a run. I pass some colleagues on route but avoid all eye contact as to not waste a second.
Choosing what to eat is kind of like preparing yourself for an eating contest: What’s easy to eat? What’s going to slide down a gullet with ease? What can I hold in just one hand that’ll free up my other hand to peruse Instagram/drink some water/dip into a bag of crisps? The 16-minute lunch is, after all, all about efficiency and multitasking. I go for the classic: a tuna sandwich and some Snack a Jacks (salt and vinegar, obviously), and hot step it back to the office – this isn’t a lunch break for going to the bank, or having a quick browse round Boots, you have to pick just one activity and stick to it.
I whizz into our hub, my vision a blur of dusky pink and neon lights. Seven minutes down, nine left to go. Healthline say you should chew your food around 31 times, which puts me in quite the predicament – I only have time to chew around eight times per bite. Let’s be honest, 32 times feels a bit excessive, but nutritionist Cassandra Barnes tells us it’s easier for your body to digest it the more you chew. Plus, she says, eating too quickly can be bad for digestion: “When you’re eating too fast you’re not chewing your food properly, so your digestive juices can’t efficiently break it down, often resulting in bloating and excess gas. For the same reason, eating too quickly can encourage nutrient deficiencies: if you’re not chewing well and breaking down your food properly, you won’t be absorbing all the nutrients, including valuable vitamins and minerals.”
Cassandra also says eating too quickly can also lead to overeating: “You’ve probably heard that it can take up to 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full, and the faster you eat, the more likely you are to eat in that 20-minute gap before you feel full. In addition, if you eat quickly, you don't taste or enjoy your food properly either; this could trigger the desire to eat more in order to feel satisfied.”
But it’s too hard to take your time masticating when you’re down to just five minutes and you haven’t even scrolled Instagram once yet. After two double taps, it was time to head back upstairs to my desk. The lunch break was a blur, and I’m pretty sure I’ve got a wicked case of indigestion coming my way.
It’s impossible. I work mere minutes away from a supermarket, and it was a real squeeze to fit everything in. But despite only having quarter of an hour, that extra minute gave me a moment to contemplate: why 16 minutes? I think the 16-minute lunchbreak is to be broken into four lots of four minutes: four minutes to walk to the shop; four minutes to choose your lunch; four minutes back; four minutes to eat. But in between the indigestion and the power walking, it doesn’t feel terribly productive. Why are people doing this to themselves? I understand the idea is to save time, but productivity does not come from longer periods sat at your desk. You need time to refresh. So, I urge you to rethink this new weekday eating regime and take a longer lunchbreak, your brain and your waistline, will thank you for it.
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