April 16, 2015

You might wonder why so many recommendations concerning health and weight include sitting down to eat at the table. Apart from nutrition, sitting down, eating mindfully and eating together provides psychological benefits that are extremely valuable in optimising health and wellness.

It seems that many people in our fast-paced lives have resorted to eating in a fast-paced way: in the car, at their desk, in front of the TV, while checking Facebook (after photographing their food?). The list of potential distractions is long. With many parents treating their mealtimes in this way, it’s no wonder that the messages children get about food and eating are not positive.

Family meals are, in some households, a thing of the past. Gone is the time when eating together provides time for conversation, perhaps argument, and connection with other family members. The bonds of family are strengthened through shared meals. Dinner on your lap in front of TV denies these wonderful family opportunities. Food is becoming a tool to appease hunger, rather than a delightful part of the day to enjoy and to nourish.

Eating while distracted leads to overeating. Having your focus on something other than food turns the act of eating into a mindless task, akin to washing the dishes. It’s something that needs doing rather than a part of the day that should be enjoyed. Mindfully eating increases your enjoyment of the meal, and allows your body to tune in to its hunger and fullness signals. You’ll taste the food in a way that eating mindlessly does not allow.

Eating together at the table increases the likelihood of the meal being home-cooked. It exposes children to a wider variety of foods which are more nutritious than take-away and convenience options. Good eating habits are established, good nutrition is provided, and kids are happier and healthier. Kids also behave better due to the shared understanding of family values, and perhaps also because of the better quality nutrition.

If you’re not already doing so, make eating a priority. This sounds strange to most, but as a priority you’ll make it an important part of the day, you’ll take the time to prepare and enjoy the food, and you’ll connect in a more meaningful way with family or friends.

Through all these benefits, you might even notice a difference with your weight and health.