Shared Meals Matter Blog

Jan 30th

New study shows ‘kids unlikely to outgrow baby fat’

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A new study by the New England Journal of Medicine was just published regarding obesity.  The study emphasizes the  importance of healthy lifestyle messages from an early age, and role modeling by parents.  And as a new U.S. News article reports, “Five-year-olds who carry around extra weight may face four times the risk of being obese at 14, compared to their normal-weight peers, the study found.” Having a shared-meal ritual with your children, starting from the very earliest of ages, makes good sense to prevent a pattern of obesity into their teen and adult years.

Here’s the full U.S. News article if you’d like to read more:

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2014/01/29/kids-unlikely-to-outgrow-baby-fat

Since I discuss this topic in some detail in my book The Shared-Meal Revolution (in the chapter about “physical development benefits”), I wanted to share with you an excerpt from my book.  Sharing meals with your family, or with anyone who focuses on generally eating healthy, only further enhances your shared-meal experience. 

healthyeating

Here’s the excerpt from my new book The Shared-Meal Revolution:

“Parents may not serve the most nutritious meals 100 percent of the time, but dinner together gives parents a regular venue to talk about good nutrition, acceptable portion sizes, and the use of food as energy. Most importantly, according to Dr. Michael Rosenbaum, associate professor of clinical pediatrics and medicine at the New York Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia University, when parents select nutritious food in the presence of their children, it is a far more effective method than simply talking about abstract rules. Parents don’t need to demonize fatty or sugary foods to teach that such foods are best eaten sparingly; they need only serve these foods in small quantities to send that message. Adults who demonstrate moderation, pleasure, and mindfulness when eating can help children build a healthy, lifelong relationship with food. This role modeling will help counteract the powerful media influence of unhealthy food products.”

To learn more about this topic, and many other benefits available through a shared-meal ritual, please join The Shared-Meal Revolution here:   www.shared-meals.com

 

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Jan 21st

Why I wrote a book about sharing meals

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My motivation for writing my new book, “The Shared-Meal Revolution” was many decades in the making.

In my childhood, my family had a robust family meal ritual.  There were eleven of us children (six boys and five girls — I’m #10 with a twin brother who is #11) plus my parents. There were so many children that we spanned two generations.  My father liked to joke that after my twin brother and I were born, it was time to stop having children because we were coming out in twos.  Dinnertime in our home was a daily event.  It happened like clockwork every weekday at 5:00pm.  There was never a conversation about whether we would all sit down for dinner together; it was expected.  Our schedules catered to preserving the dinner hour.  It was sacred. We frequently had a special guest for dinner, which was always a fun feature to experience as a child. During the weekends, my mother had special meal rituals — such as making her family-famous French toast on Saturday mornings.  On Sunday, we would have an extended meal at a relatives house — at 2pm, and all the aunts, uncles, cousins and neighborhood kids would join.

When I was married in the 80’s, my husband and I would share meals with each other, and then also with our kids after they were born. Our schedules didn’t keep us away from the table. Our lifestyles were busy but nowhere near as busy as most families today. Unfortunately my husband and I were divorced in the 90’s; and I entered the world of being a single parent. I was concerned that my two kids and I would lose touch with one another, and also lose traditions in the home.  Having a shared-meal ritual was one way I felt I could provide a steady presence of stability for my kids.  It also gave my me and my two children the benefit of watching over one another.

As the years passed, our lives started to feel overscheduled, more complicated in many different ways, and it was simply harder to get together.  At the time I didn’t consider a plan for sharing meals.  We flexed in lots of different ways to make daily meals happen, and most evenings we were lucky enough to enjoy time around the table. But I could see that there was a seismic shift in how people were spending time at home.  I could feel that sharing meals was becoming something that was considered an expendable activity.  There were plenty of other activities ready to take its place.  And, with the steady growth of technology, it would only become more challenging.

In 2000, my mother passed away from Alzheimer’s.  As the saying goes, “A person is born twice; first at birth, and then when her mother dies.”  This was true for me. After my mother died, I was a little lost. I started thinking about my values and priorities.  Besides putting more daily emphasis on having meals with my (now) teenage son and daughter, I started having more meals with other people too as a way to reconnect and move forward.  I rediscovered the power of sharing meals again.

In my fourties, I went back to college.  For a master’s thesis for a human development degree, I did a study of the family meal ritual and how it changed over generations. I studied my own multi-generational family. Because I had such a positive experience at the dinner table growing up, I assumed that all of my older siblings did too. But during the writing of my thesis, I was quite surprised to learn that several of my older brothers and sisters (those siblings almost a generation older than me because of the wide span of ages) had a very different experience.  That was because in the early days before I was born, my parents had more restrictions at the table; children were to speak when spoken to, and my parents sometimes disciplined their kids at the dinner table.  Fortunately, my otherwise very loving parents’ rules around our family table became less strict over the years, and more enjoyable each year.  By the time I was sitting in my special spot, to the right of my mother, it was a very joyful experience.

It was then after researching this topic for my thesis that I realized that not only having a shared-meal ritual was important, but there were “best practices” to how the meal is experienced in order to get the benefits.  I became passionate about sharing what I learned. I decided to turn my research and thesis paper into a book:  “The Shared-Meal Revolution” was born.

FrontcoverI feel strongly that a shared-meal ritual can help us preserve important connection with each other, and truly feel a sense of life balance.  A shared-meal ritual is something that is especially important — and truly relevant — for all of us.  It’s especially important for families with growing children, but its a meaningful activity for all.

Technology is something that I fully appreciate.  It’s exciting and useful.  I spent time every day using technology, but I am very mindful not to overdepend on it.  The truth is that no amount or type of social media can replace in-person interactions with each other.

If we don’t have some kind of a plan to connect with each other every day, then we may lose a vital type of interpersonal communication — the kind that you get from being around the dinner table together, enjoying each other’s company, and being a part of each other’s lives through daily conversation and support.

I offer that sharing one meal a day with someone you care about will help you to reclaim that much needed balance we all crave.

I hope you will join me in spreading the word,  and helping to preserve the shared-meal ritual.  As you learn more from my blog and articles, I trust you too will feel it deserves a place in 21st century.  Now, more than ever.

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To join The Shared-Meal Revolution:  visit www.shared-meals.com, and to sign up for my (free) blog “Shared Meals Matter.”

*Please feel free to share with me your story of your shared-meal practice.  I also always love to see pictures of people sharing a meal, and would love to feature your picture on my website.*

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jan 15th

Reality Check for Women

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Maria Shriver published a report this week called The Shriver’s Annual Report on Women in America.  It’s getting a lot of buzz because it contains many important (and sobering) facts about how women are doing from a career, family, and economic standpoint.

I want to take this opportunity to loudly applaud all of the courageous women I know who work so hard each and every day in the name of making a good life for themselves, their children and their families. You inspire me.

Many women are faced with challenging situations that impact every aspect of their lives.  For single parents, there are even more challenges (generally speaking) due to less resources and support.  I have first-hand experience with being a single parent from the time my children were in elementary school.  I was lucky to have the help of loving friends.

What becomes especially burdensome for women is the ideal of perfection that society often demands we achieve.  The reality is there aren’t an infinite amount of hours in the day, and endless amounts of energy.  Forget perfection – it’s one of the single most overrated concepts!   Instead,  do what is reasonable, with a loving attitude, and know that your efforts are enough.  Isn’t it time to stop carrying around a heavy handbag of guilt over too high expectations?

Some women feel sad or ashamed because they don’t manage to put a gourmet meal on the table every evening. This is true for women who have families and those who are just part of a couple.  This is true for women who work in the home, and women who work out of the home.  Many women feel too much responsibility for  getting breakfast set for their children, or dinner on the table at the end of everyone’s busy day.  The reality is there are a lot of ways that your spouses, partners, and children can help get a meal on the table — working together,  in ways that make sense for your family — is possible.

Ask your partner to shop for the ingredients, assign (age appropriate) tasks for your children, such as setting the table, or putting salad ingredients together in a bowl.  A shared-meal does not ever need to be fancy.  Look for simple ideas.  For single mothers, start a rotating pot luck in your neighborhood with other women so you only cook a meal one time a week.  Consider using crockpots frequently, and get help from markets that offer healthy, pre-made (non-processed) foundations for meals, like a roasted chicken, or a vegetable lasagna.

The Shared-Meal Revolution project I developed is about getting everyone involved to help with one meal, one time a day.  It’s not about asking women to put “one more thing” on their schedules.  When everyone works together, a shared meal can become that one cherished part of the day when you feel fully human again.  And not only just human, but fully alive. 

Isn’t that better than “doing it all”?

Positive family preparing lunch together

If you’d like to join The Shared-Meal Revolution, please visit my website: http://www.shared-meals.com

And, if you are interested in reading more about Maria Shriver’s Report, click here:

http://nation.time.com/2014/01/13/11-surprising-facts-about-women-and-poverty-from-the-shriver-report/

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Jan 8th

What’s a sign that you love yourself?

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I believe that most of us work very hard to effect the best intentions we have for our lives.  Still, in this complicated world, our focus can be become very blurry as January, February, and the months pass.

It remains a popular idea to start the new year with resolutions.  Many people believe this will help them see their goals with renewed clarity.  I generally feel that resolutions can be useful in the right circumstances, but they’re not for everyone.  I tend to make one or two intentions instead each year (this year I’m focusing on more hiking and a little less worrying, something I did too much in 2013). Whether you choose to formalize any resolutions or intentions, it is important to our personal growth to set some goals. It keeps us honest with with our actions.

It comes down to this:   Taking steps to meet goals you set for yourself are a sign that you love yourself.

LoveYourselfIf you’re like me, reminders (such as this one pictured here) seem to appear out of nowhere. I spotted this on a sidewalk in a San Diego, CA neighborhood a few months ago.  These reminders help to turn on that little (and often sensible) voice which urges you to slow down and evaluate how you are spending your time. These messages re-ignite your commitment to your intentions.

But even if you don’t see a blatant sign like this as you are walking down the street, keeping a plan fresh for how you will love yourself just a little (or a lot) each and every day, will help you truly make the most of your year.

As you know from reading my blogs or my book, I feel strongly about the value and benefits of a shared-meal ritual. In fact, I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate how to love yourself than sharing a delicious meal with someone you love.

If you’re still looking for a goal for 2014, consider a shared-meal ritual as a fruitful, satisfying, and spectacularly generous way to love yourself, and others, every day. 

For more information about my book, and to join The Shared-Meal Revolution, please visit my website at www.shared-meals.com.  I’d love to connect with you.

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