Simple solutions – Eat Together…

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Food, and our relationship to it in this country is all messed up. Think about it. Do you treat your meals like a featured part of your day or as something you need to get out of the way in order to get to something else?

I admonish you to change this. Look, my friends, this isn’t just about your health (which is important enough). This is about your family.

Over the past 15 years researchers have confirmed what parents have known for a long time: sharing a family meal is good for the spirit, the brain and the health of all family members. Recent studies link regular family dinners with many behaviors that parents pray for: lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem. Studies also indicate that dinner conversation is a more potent vocabulary-booster than reading, and the stories told around the kitchen table help our children build resilience. The icing on the cake is that regular family meals also lower the rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents. What else can families do that takes only about an hour a day and packs such a punch?
The Family Dinner Project

Do I really need to say more? How about this…

Family meals are an opportunity to reaffirm the values of sharing and unity. It matters little what people eat or how much; good conversation and the feeling that “we are one for all, and all for one” are what count.
John Rosemond

In my own household one of the things I am most proud of is that we eat dinner together five to six times a week. We started this pretty organically. My wife and I never sat down and decided we were going to have family dinners together. I cook because I enjoy it. One of the great pleasures of my life is making food for others. When we created this family the mealtime ritual just sort of happened. If you’re not a fanatical foodie like me though, that’s probably not going to happen. You’re going to need to make a commitment to this.

I will tell you some habits you need to eliminate immediately if they are a part of your daily meal routine…

Stop eating in front of the TV.
There is nothing good about this. There is no conversation, no interaction and nothing communal about sitting in the living room eating off of TV trays. Even if you have no children in your household, even if you live alone, stop doing this. Eating needs to be its own discrete activity.

Stop eating on the run.
Let’s forget about dinner with the family for a minute. Food has a social and cultural significance for a reason. Being conscious of what you’re putting into your mouth, savoring and experiencing the taste, the texture, the pleasure of the food you are eating is as important as anything you do with your day. Do not eat at your desk while you work. Do not eat in your car. Do not grab and go. Special secret – make this one change and you will lose weight like magic. Why? Because crummy, prefab food doesn’t survive this level of attention. If you eat mindfully you will eat better.

When you eat with others, slow down.
Most people shovel their food into their mouths and down the hatch before it is even tasted. If your purpose for having a meal is to slow down your life and appreciate and enjoy the company of the people you are dining with you will eat less because you will allow your senses to fully absorb what’s being tasted and swallowed. As a result of slowing down you will notice when you’re full, and you’ll eat less.

It is possible to overcomplicate food and make the prospect of eating healthier a chore. If you remember that human beings have spent centuries creating rituals around meals that involve a profoundly social element, and that we modern, techno-humans have only been screwing this up for about 60 years, it’s easy to see how our relationship with food has been screwed up. More importantly, our relationship with each other has suffered because we’re in too big of a hurry to eat.

Oh yeah, and it’s not just us, it’s our kids. Slow down and be with each other over food. It’s good for your health, and your family.

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