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The great eating debate: Dig in at your desk or take a lunch break?

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There are essentially two kind of lunch hours: The one where you follow the advice of all those health gurus, take a leisurely stroll around your office building, savour the breeze on your face and slowly enjoy a meal with a good friend, where you actually take the time to taste the food.

And then there's the lunch style of many employees (especially those with the daycare clock ticking): The meal you wolf down at your desk, while scanning files on your computer screen.

Two writers at recently engaged in a debate over which kind of lunch they prefer (though of course, we all know which one is better for our mental health.)

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Leisurely lunch advocate, Rachel Levy penned an essay lauding the French (in a continuation of recent French-loving) for their lunch practices, which extend for hours, and involve fine dining and erudite chatting. Ms. Levy didn't quite go so far as advocating a multi-hour timeline, but she did argue that everyone should make the effort to replicate this practice if only for 30 minutes a day.

She cited – as further evidence that lunch gets short shrift in North America – a recent decision by a California court that rules that employers do not to have make sure that their staff take lunch breaks. In defence of a more leisurely lunch away from your desk, Ms. Levy says, "there is something to be said about living our days to the fullest." A more relaxing lunch, she says, will "make us happier, more productive workers in the long run."

On the other side of the debate, Rachel Larimore defended the practice of eating at her desk, not least because she'd rather use the extra time a quickie lunch break afforded to end her day sooner, and free up family time. (Ms. Larimore, however, usually works at home, so presumably eating at her desk also involves a quick trip to the kitchen fridge to whip something up.)

But to facilitate, her desk-bound approach, she says, "I bought a desk with a special pull-out section where I can lay a placemat and coaster," which is actually far more civilized than dripping mustard from your sandwich onto your keyboard."

"My workday is intense and all-encompassing," she writes. "I really don't see the benefit of extending it by an hour just so I can break for lunch."

Ms. Levy would seem to have science on her side, given recent, foreboding research on how all our sitting around leads to an earlier death. But surely running late to grab the kids also spikes the blood pressure, no?

In the end, weary workers might also argue that if they have a half-hour in the middle of the day to use freely, they may not want to spend it eating. They might prefer a nap.

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Do you eat at your desk? Is there pressure in your workplace to take a lunch breach - or skip it altogether?

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About the Author

Erin Anderssen writes about mental health, social policy and family issues. More

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