Why Eating Together is so Important #NutritionMonth
This topic is so close to my heart. I grew up in a family who ALWAYS ate dinner together. So when I moved out on my own, it left a huge hole in my soul.
My natural sense of hospitality kicked in, and I started learning how to cook, to invite my friends over and eat together. I also taught myself to do meal prepping for busy exam times, to share my meals with my best friends and keep us fueled. This was a hallmark in my relationships, and became a big part of why we grew closer. To this day, we still look out for each other, good and hard days, we share meals as a core part of our friendship.
Now how does this apply to you? Let’s dig deeper.
What’s the Sitch?
Imagine this: you’re just finishing up some work before your lunch break and you can’t wait to eat. You pull out the leftovers you packed for lunch, put your earbuds in, and start to eat while staring at a screen. Whether it be scrolling through social media, checking emails, or watching our new favourite series on Netflix, this is something we all (including myself) are guilty of at one point or another; in fact, 40% of Canadians regularly eat lunch at their desk!
Nowadays, life is so busy, we tend to get caught up in all the things we need to do. With “the grind” being glorified, it is easy to get sucked into a “go, go, go” kind of mindset. Unfortunately, this busy mindset often bubbles over into our relationship with food, which we might not think about often. Although we may not reflect on it all the time, food is so much more than just sustenance! It is a universal language that brings people together. It is a medium to tell stories, share cultures, and build relationships– a medium through which we express love and care, not only for those around us but also for ourselves.
Why Eat Together?
Eating alone can lead to feelings of isolation or loneliness, which can increase rates of heart disease, stroke, anxiety, and depression.
Each meal carries with it a rich social and cultural background. It is an opportunity for us to
and take a step back from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.
When we eat with others, we support the emotional, physical, spiritual, social, and intellectual aspects of our wellbeing.
By taking the time to sit down and share a meal with our friends and family, we feel more connected to them and build a sense of belonging, community, and support. These positive actions lead to the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which relieve stress, improve gut function and nutrient absorption, and motivate feelings of happiness and satisfaction.
Making Eating Together Easy
With our busy lives and habit of eating alone, eating with others regularly can be quite the challenge (trust me I know)! Here are my top 3 tips to make eating with others often a reality:
1) Carve the Time
Life can be unpredictable sometimes, but by setting a regular time to sit down and eat together with friends and family can help integrate social eating into your life. Whether it be breakfast before you send the kids off to school, lunch with your coworkers, or dinner as a family, try to set aside a specific time each day for you to eat together and enjoy the company. One tip I give my clients is to get used to “Say No” to doing work during your breaks, and especially lunch breaks, even if it’s just you making that decision & agreement with yourself.
2) Make it a Ritual
Make it a goal, NOT a rule, for yourself or for your friends/family that everyone eats together at the table, not in front of a screen. Use eating with others as a way to create a culture of togetherness, allowing time to listen, be present, and enjoy the time together. A great way to do this is to create a “conversation jar” filled with fun topics or questions to start things off!
3) BE with Yourself
You know the saying “everything in moderation, including moderation” right? The same thing applies to eating with others! It is totally okay to want to have a meal by yourself every once in a while, and in fact, it could be a good thing to get some alone time if you eat with others regularly.
Spending time with others is just as important as spending time to focus on yourself. Take this opportunity to focus on yourself, and your experience of eating… practice eating mindfully. I walked you through what it would look like. In the free downloadable of the mindful eating blog, I have a 5-minute exercise to practice mindful eating with all your senses.
Although eating with others can be challenging with our busy schedules and habits of eating alone, it can be a wonderful way to improve your mental health and overall wellbeing! By taking it step by step and making changes here and there in your daily routine, it makes building social eating into a habit so much easier.
To learn more and have a conversation about reconfiguring your food and eating habits, book a free 30-minute phone call with me — I’d be more than happy to chat with you!
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This blog was written with the help of UBC nutrition student, Gilbert.
“Almost 40% of Canadians Eat Lunch at Their Desks, Research Shows” [February 18th, 2019]:
“Eating Alone Could be Making You Unhappy, Finds Study” [February 18th, 2019]: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/eating-meals-alone-unhappy-link-sainsburys-research-mental-illness-health-a8363291.html
“The Benefits of Eating Together For Children and Families” [February 19th, 2019]: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthy-eating/eating-together
“Mealtime and Mental Health” [February 19th, 2019]: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/m/mealtimes-and-mental-health
“Benefits of Breaking Bread Together — At the Table” [February 19th, 2019]: https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/apr/14/health-benefits-eating-together/