As someone with a family therapy background who is dedicated to fighting obesity, I am happy to see studies such as this one. It is always nice to see the work we do backed up by hard, scientific data.
One of our recommendations for Mindful Living is to eat more meals as a family.
Consistent with our philosophy of “small changes, big results,” this study found that even one or two family meals together per week had a positive effect. So there is no need to worry about music lessons, soccer practices, or job demands getting in the way. Start where you are: add one family meal. Perhaps you can begin on a weekend?
What is it about family meals that is so positive? I am fond of saying that “food is rarely just food.” We can clearly see how other parts of our lives are problematic as they manifest in obesity. It is not merely the food: it is the stress, the habits, the emotions, and so on. When you have a family meal, you slow down, connect, process the day, develop family rituals, keep to a schedule, take a break from “screen time,” laugh, and avoid “endless eating” (eating with no pre-determined end).
This is especially true with children. Changes in family behaviors are very helpful in addressing childhood obesity since they don’t simply target the food. They address behaviors and habits at the family level, and encompass the Five Areas of Weight Loss.
This quote from one of the researchers, Dr. Berge, sums it up:
“…coming together for meals may provide opportunities for emotional connections among family members, the food is more likely to be healthful, and adolescents may be exposed to parental modeling of healthful eating behaviors…”
Give it a try!