Most people go on diets for the express purpose of getting healthy. Yet, most diets are very unhealthy. Imagine implementing a healthy eating regime and NOT dieting.
You can. It’s called Break Bread Together. As simple as it sounds, when you break bread with others, you literally change the chemistry of your eating experience.
Cascade of Benefits
Eating with others has a cascade of health benefits. Eating socially helps us feel happier and more satisfied with life. We feel more supported and connected. Think about friends and
acquaintances you meet when you go out to events or to a restaurant. This interaction creates connection and social bonding in your community.
A simple evening meal with others can create closeness, laughter, reminiscing, and satisfaction with life.
A research survey in the UK tested whether eating with others provided social or individual benefits and concluded that the causal direction runs from eating together to bondedness rather than the other way around. It is eating together that creates the bonding we feel at mealtime. (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40750-017-0061-4)
I came from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.
– Erma Bombeck
Meal Rituals Work
The family meal was a normal daily ritual in homes for generations. Over the past few decades the picture of the family sitting around the table chatting and communing together over a home-cooked meal has lost its focus.
There were many benefits for meal time. One of the main benefits was closer family ties. Yet, due to the day to day demands, it’s not a priority for many people.
It’s a real balancing act for children with busy schedules and even busier parents to gather around the table at the same time. Many families seem more like a circus act trying to juggle all the activities. It is a grab-some-grub-and-go scenario too much of the time.
Less Drug and Alcohol Use
A number of studies showed that children who regularly ate dinner with their families were less likely to get involved with drugs and alcohol than those who did not. They also tended to get better grades, exhibited less stress, and ate better.
A study by the Columbia Center showed that compared with teenagers who ate five or more family dinners a week, those who ate two or fewer family dinners a week were three times as likely to try marijuana, two-and-a-half times as likely to smoke cigarettes, and one-and-a-half times as likely to try alcohol.
It IS a Juggling Act
It wasn’t long ago when my three boys were playing baseball in the spring and were on different teams, practicing and playing their games miles apart and at different times, and each had three weekly practices at different times and locations. And that was just baseball! There were scout meetings, school events, clubs, work schedules, a daughter involved in a lot
of activities, and… well, if you have children, you know, don’t you?
We ate a lot of hurriedly made tuna sandwiches during the week, though we ate them together. I planned ahead and made special meals on Sundays and non-baseball nights.
Be flexible, but make family meals a priority. It’s worth it to grow deep family ties and add more enjoyment to your meals. You might find that weekend breakfasts or lunches are the best times to eat together. The time of the meal isn’t as important as gathering everyone around the table.
Turn your television off, put mail and reading material away, and turn your phones and computers off. Clear off any stuff that has collected on your table. Involve the family in setting the table and preparing the meal, or just keeping the cook company in the kitchen while they are doing so. Keep conversation on a positive note. Take heavy or stressful subjects that need to be discussed elsewhere, away from the table.
Zen and the Art of Cooking is a beautiful book by Jon Sandifer. It’s about drawing on Eastern principles of feng shui and using the elements of energy in our relationships with food and cooking.
Sandifer wrote that cooking, preparing, and serving a meal can be like a meditation.
If you value devoting some time every day to meditation or self-reflection, then you can save time by including cooking as part of your spiritual practice.
Without the distractions of the TV, radio, or telephone, you have the opportunity to reflect on who you are cooking for, and what kind of chi (good energy) you would like to energize the food with. You can even visualize the outcome of the meal.
Make family meals a habit. Create your own traditions around preparing and eating food to love, honor, and nourish yourself and others.
Make Meal Time a Priority
Unless you make family meal time a priority, it’s likely not to happen. Yet, when you consider the benefits, isn’t it worth getting into the habit of this practice.
Rather than going from no meals together to seven days a week, start with one day where meal time together IS the priority. Sunday is likely to be a good day to start the practice. The following week try two meals together. Work up to whatever fits for your lifestyle.
The bottom line is this; breaking bread together is good for your relationships, your children’s grades, emotional wellbeing and overall health. And aren’t these good enough reasons to make the change?