The Importance of Family Meals in Eating Disorder Prevention
November 25, 2013 by Nancy Albus LPC NCC CEDS in Eating Disorder Treatment Thanksgiving is only a few days away, and families everywhere will be gathering for a day of relaxing, reconnecting, and eating. This is a time that loved ones can celebrate each with other, build relationships, and enjoy the gift of food. However for many families, eating together on a regular basis is now a rare occasion.
Recent studies have looked at the impact of the family meal in the prevention of eating disorders. Our society has largely moved away from regular family meals. Family members now eat at separate times, or dine in front of the television, or eat meals in the car on the go. Few families make their meals together a priority. When families do eat together, many are on cell phones or other devices, and don't connect inter-personally with each other.
This poses problems for individuals with eating disorder tendencies. Without the family meal, parents are no longer able to set examples about nutrition, proper meal portions, or following hunger cues. There is no feeling or emotion surrounding meals and eating; families don't gather at this time to talk about their day or connect with each other. Abandoning the family meal has also created isolation around eating. Individuals become accustomed to eating alone, and they don't know how to make themselves eat in front of other people. Eating has become mindless, and not the celebration it was in years past.
At Castlewood, when we work with clients with eating disorders, it is important that we work through all the issues surrounding their eating habits. We help clients connect to their hunger cues, and help them develop positive emotions associated with eating. We help them become mindful and connected to their body, which will help the person determine if they are hungry or full. When someone does not learn to follow their body, an eating disorder can step in and control what the person eats and when they eat. We help clients regain a sense of normalcy with food, and encourage intuitive eating.
Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family to prepare and enjoy food and time together. Families who make eating together a regular practice can help each other develop healthy eating behaviors and make the process of eating a positive experience.