What were your experiences growing up around meal times? A new study published in Science Direct by Annette S. Kluck from Texas Tech University found that family dysfunction and negative family food-related experiences increased risk for disordered eating.
Other studies have reported similar findings. Individuals who were humiliated, neglected or abused or who were teased at meal times were more likely to have disordered eating. As well, those who didn’t have at least one family meal together may be at higher risk.
Perhaps you grew up in a family where these types of things occurred. You may have continued to feel stress or distress around meal times. What can you do?
1. Separate your life from your meals. That means, don’t rush from your busy, stressful job to shove food down at a restaurant or fast food joint. Take at least 5 minutes no matter where you are to center yourself, take a few deep breaths, read something inspirational or do whatever it takes to leave the stress behind and begin your meal with calm.
2. Establish your own rituals around meals. Try different things – use candles to set a different, more relaxed mood; play calming music; set the table with fine china. Or simply, start your meal with a prayer or other reflective practice.
3. Honor mealtimes as a time to nurture your body, mind and spirit. So, don’t eat standing up at the kitchen counter or eat while on the run between appointments. Even if you have only 15 minutes to eat, sit down, put a napkin in your lap and eat quietly and calmly.
Patterns from the past are difficult to change, especially those around food. The first step to change is to become aware of what you were taught about food / mealtimes by your family and how you want mealtimes to be now, as an adult. Perhaps as a parent, you may want to involve your family in coming up with ideas about how they’d like their food experience to change.
Eating, along with sleeping in the US are the two most neglected but necessary functions. We often don’t expect to put these into the schedule unless we have nothing else to do. This results in poor nutrition and an epidemic of fatigue. Stop, eat, smell the roses and get to bed on time and I can promise your life will dramatically change for the better!