Standing up to eat could make you fat.
That’s what nutritionists and doctors say about eating big meals upright — that shameless habit you have of feasting on takeout over your kitchen counter, or at trendy new standing-only restaurants.
At Ikinari Steak, a Japanese joint that opened its first U.S. location in the East Village last week, customers eat the steakhouse’s grub standing up.
But you may want to think twice about trying it out.
“Eating while standing up allows people to continue to eat and drink because you’re able to digest faster so you consume more,” says Dr. Prem Chattoo, a New York-based Gastroenterologist.
“It’ll eventually cause weight gain.”
At Ikinari, diners order thick slabs of meat like ribeye and filet mignon at a counter and dig in while standing at high top tables. Meals last around 30 minutes, and you don’t feel full like you would after leaving Peter Luger.
But that’s the point.
“You can eat a lot because your stomach is not bent,” Ikinari owner Kunio Ichinose tells the Daily News through a translator.
Thank gravity. It helps you digest faster and even reduces acid reflux pain because it’s keeping the acid where it should be, down in the stomach. Standing can also burn around 50 calories in an hour compared to sitting down. So short-term-wise, it’s not so bad.
“For one night it would probably be beneficial. You’re not going to feel that heavy steak in your stomach, but it’s not something people should do for every meal,” advises Chattoo, who says liquid meals, like soups and juices, are fine to eat upright.
The concept, when it comes to restaurants, has more of a business and convenience advantage. For fast food eateries with extremely high volume, chairs get in the way. At Papaya King’s original Upper East Side hot dog institution, around 6,000 people a week wait on long lines for tube steaks and tropical drinks, according to its owner. Dogs are devoured by standing crowds rubbing elbows at countertops.
“It works for us because it’s a quick service restaurant,” Papaya King owner Wayne Rosenbaum says. “Our food doesn’t require silverware, everything is meant to be eaten with your hands.”
Same goes for fancy food halls like the Great Northern Food Hall inside Grand Central Terminal, Urbanspace Vanderbilt in Midtown, and even your no-frills, pizza joints where eaters flock for quick, cheap meals on the go.
Industry insiders say it’s practical for busy New Yorkers, and a brilliant way for business owners to take advantage of small spaces.
“It’s a good way to maximize the real estate market,” says restaurant consultant Clark Wolf. “You’re already standing in line, why not at your table? Maybe Mario Batali will throw you a pair of Crocs next.”
Sure, standing-room-only eateries feed the need if you’re in a hurry, but chowing down quickly sends your tummy the wrong message. A 2008 study of Japanese adults published in the British Medical Journal found that eating fast is associated with a higher risk of being overweight because your brain does not alert your stomach that you’re full until after you’ve overeaten.
And in another study from 2013, Canadian researchers divided subjects into two groups: One ate food out of plastic containers standing up, while the other ate the same meal on a plate sitting down at a table. When presented with the next meal a few hours later, participants who previously ate standing up consumed 30% more calories than those sitting down.
“People are more likely to feel the psychological satisfaction of having a meal if they are sitting down,” says nutrition therapist and registered dietitian Theresa Kinsella, adding that people typically eat slower when seated.
“I recommend a mindful eating approach that usually includes sitting down and taking the time to experience the food in the mouth and tuning in to hunger and fullness cues,” she adds.
There’s also the comfort factor.
If people complain about being on their feet during meals, Ichinose says there’s enough space in the restaurant to add chairs. But he says the whole point is to stand out from the hundreds of other competing chophouses in New York City. For now, he knows the hype and a little spectacle will lure people into Ikinari Steak.
“If there were chairs,” he laughs, “you guys are not going to come.”