Shared Meals Matter Blog

Oct 22nd

Shonda Rhimes describes finding her “happy”…do you know how to find yours?

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Anti-depressants are on the rise. In this article by Harvard Health, the National Center for Health Statistics show that there was a 400% increase in anti-depressant use by adults (defined as ages 12 and older) between the years 1988-1994 and 2005-2008.   So sad to see “ages 12” included in this statistic.  I fully recognize that there are people (including in my own family) who have a medical need for anti-depressants,  but I do wonder if with the support of our doctors we could try harder at natural remedies first.  It couldn’t hurt, right?

For many of us, we can ask ourselves some questions such as…

What is our lifestyle? (Is there balance or chaos?)

How do we spend our time? (Do we spend the most time on our priorities?)

How do we care of ourselves? (What daily habits do we practice to care for our bodies and hearts?)

How do we find our “happy”

Sometimes friends call me “PractiCarol” and that comes from the fact that I am quite practical about most life matters.  Growing up, my father told me frequently that there’s really no secret formula to living healthy.  Just live a very ordinary life in order to live extraordinarily well.

My father said if you want to feel happy, do these things every day…

happywoman

  • Get enough sleep
  • Spend some time outside, breath in the fresh air
  • Find something to do around the house or neighborhood that exerts you physically
  • Challenge yourself mentally by doing things like reading a book, or completing a challenging crossword puzzle
  • Don’t chase after one fad diet after another; choose whole foods and eat in moderation
  • Spend time in conversation with people you love, every day.

wholefoods

On the topic of finding your “happy”, I was reminded about an interview of Shonda Rhimes, fabulously talented writer/producer/creator of some amazing television shows including “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder.”  Shonda is someone presumably with as much money as a person could want, and a high level of professional achievement and career success.  But she didn’t say money and success made her happy.

Look at what Shonda said about finding her “happy”:

“I saw my happy. Or, actually, I was made to see it. I was having dinner with a group of close friends, a lot of us around a table, talking late into the night. There were candles on the table and we had so much wine and perfect cheese. Stories were told that began with ‘remember that time when. . .’ and we laughed until we cried. And there was a moment for me when the food was eaten and the chairs were pushed back and I was leaning to blow out a candle, a moment when I just . . . paused. I looked around the table at the faces of my loved ones, and I was hit with a realization. This is what happy looks like.”

eatingwithothers

Like Shonda, I agree that “This is what happy looks like.” That’s why I find my happy every day by following the advice of my very wise father, and especially through spending time in conversation, sharing meals with people I care about.

I make sharing meals a part of my life for my health, and happiness.

How do you find your happy?

If you’d like to learn more how to connect with people you love by creating a shared-meal plan, pick up my book, “The Shared-Meal Revolution” and visit my website.  Any questions?  Just write me at carol@shared-meals.com. I’d love to hear from you!

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Oct 15th

5 easy ways to create workplace “power lunches”

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Sharing meals is not just about traditional families.  We create families in many environments. And since many people live alone, a great way to get their one daily shared meal is through the relationships they nurture at the office.

I’ve got a few ideas that will help you use the opportunity of a shared lunch (or breakfast) to help keep you refreshed during the day, and feeling connected with other human beings. Aren’t you done with that routine of eating a sandwich with one hand while you answer emails in your office cave? Who wants to spend 8+ hours in the office feeling isolated and glued to their computer and phones?

desk

Here are some tips to help you refresh and “power up” your happiness during the workday.

1. Invite someone new to share a meal with you.
You don’t have to go to lunch with the same people every day.  It’s refreshing to get a break from the faces of people in your immediate department. Why not invite someone you met at a meeting last week, or someone who works in a part of the company that has intrigued you, or even a former colleague who works nearby?

2. Stick to your plans
It’s easy to let a work issue bump your lunch plans, and that’s going to happen, but reserve the cancellations happen only when they are truly urgent.

3. Take turns choosing where you’ll go for lunch
Taking turns helps keep the ritual fun and fresh. When someone else picks, you’re more likely to discover a new place you never knew has the best pad thai in town. Sometimes when it’s my turn,  I’ll opt for getting outdoors on a patio or at a nearby park. Since you want to maximize the time you have outdoors,  plan ahead and bring a salad or sandwiches.  Keep a blanket  in the trunk of your car so no one’s work clothes get grass stains. You might get comments like, “We don’t have enough time for a picnic” but if you plan ahead, you’ll be soaking in sunshine in less time than you might have been  fighting in traffic to get to a restaurant.

Businesspeople Having Lunch in Park

4. Put your smartphones away
It’s so tempting to want to monitor work emails, but if something is that urgent that you can’t keep off your phone for an hour,  then reschedule lunch for a different day, or have a shared breakfast before your work day and priorities heat up.

coworkerslunch

5. Resist the shop talk
How many times have you been to lunch where someone is relentlessly gossiping, complaining, and talking shop? I’m all for helping people bounce off ideas and work through challenges, but just be careful that it doesn’t turn into a complaint-fest. The point of a shared meal is to keep connection, nurture relationships, and welcome some joy into your day.

Follow these tips and soon you’ll be enjoying a brand new kind of “power lunch”.

* * * *

If you’d like to learn more about how shared meals can help you reclaim life balance and preserve connection with others, visit my website or pick up my book The Shared-Meal Revolution by clicking here.

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Oct 7th

Restaurant meal experiences have you bummed out? Here are 10 tips to better dining out

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My son John and I have a Sunday morning tradition of brunch out at a local restaurant.  I meal plan for the week early on Sunday morning and tend to do a lot of errands, so at this point in our lives, this time works best for our 1:1 meal together. Last week we ate at a chain restaurant (which we rarely do, but I was craving certain lettuce wrapped Asian tacos).  We left a little later than usual, so it wasn’t the more ‘chill’ environment we had experienced on a Sunday morning. The restaurant was crowded, hot, loud with TVs blaring, tables were unusually close together, and the service was not great (it took almost 20 minutes for the waiter to acknowledge we were seated; our order was wrong, then when we asked for our bill, it took another 20 minutes and we were given another customer’s bill along with their credit card)  These are experiences we all have from time to time and it’s understandable that mistakes happen, but I’ve been noticing lately that the conditions for sharing meals out has been on the decline.

Sharing meals out at a restaurants is part of my shared-meal plan, but it’s not a daily event.

In part, that’s because it’s not always easy to find a restaurant that is hospitable to guests taking their time, fully relaxing, and having the environment that is best for shared-meal conversations.  This is particularly true of chain restaurants which I try to avoid (because of the questionable quality of processed ingredients, and the high sugar-fat-salt ratio often used in the food.)

Here are some tips to keep in mind when you are dining out:

diningout

1. Go at a time when it’s less likely to be crowded
-call the restaurant in advance and ask about their busy peaks; even a half hour earlier or later might change your dining experience for the better

2. Ask to be seated in a place where you can relax and feel comfortable; if tables are ridiculously close together, politely point that out to the host or manager.
it’s unnerving to try to avoid accidentally bumping elbows with the people to your sides. If we speak up about too-tight tables, owners will get the message we don’t want to be packed in like sardines.

3. If a host tries to seat you near the Restrooms, ask for another table
-this will encourage owners to remove tables near the restrooms…(ew…gross…who’s with me on this?)

4. If there’s a TV blaring (unfortunately more and more common), ask the manager to lower the volume or turn it off (exceptions for sports bars/events, of course)
-it’s a reasonable request that if no one is listening to the TV that it be turned to a volume to allow you to socialize with your guests, and if it can’t, ask for a table further away from the TV

5. Slow down the ordering process to set a relaxed pace to your meal
-resist giving your entire order (drinks, appetizers, entrees, etc.) the moment you sit down.  See what you feel like ordering as your meal progresses

6. Don’t be shy about asking questions about how a dish is prepared, or the type of ingredients used
-if you have special dietary restrictions such as low salt, dairy or gluten free…or if you want to use a smaller amount of oil in the preparation of your vegetables, it will only enhance your dining experience if you address these upon ordering

7. Tip your waiter well for good service, and request seating in their area the next time you visit that restaurant
-waitstaff work very hard and many make most of their pay from tips. So tip them well for good service.  If there’s a problem with your meal or your bill, it might not be due to the waiter. Let the manager know in a respectful tone what your experience has been or what the problem is.

8. Review your bill for accuracy; nobody likes these kinds of surprises
-Recently a friend was out with her family and added a $60 tip on their bill. However, upon arriving home, they discovered that the tip had already been included, so they accidentally double-tipped. The restaurant hadn’t published that the tip would be included in the bill, nor had they been informed

9. Talk it up with your friends about new places they’ve discovered
-word of mouth is the best way to hear about places with good service, quality ingredients, and a relaxing environment. Support restaurants that staff with enough personnel too. It’s sad to see cooks and waitstaff running around like their heads are spinning off because the restaurant owner doesn’t want to pay for enough staff.  I’m personally willing to pay a little more for a restaurant who staffs with enough employees. How about you?

10. Ditch the tech devices at the table (my favorite tip)
it doesn’t make for an enjoyable meal out if you hear a chorus of dings and special sound effects; enjoy having uninterrupted time together

If you’d like to read more about how to create the best shared-meal experiences, in and out of your home, sign up for my blog Shared Meals Matter by clicking here. 

I‘d love to hear from you!  Please contact me at carol@shared-meals.com to ask me any questions or share your meal experiences.

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