Oct. 07, 00:31 AM
By Gaye Bunderson
It’s a topic that’s been well-covered ― eating together as a family. However, new research indicates that shared meals have another highly valuable component. They can impact the mental health of children and adolescents.
In August, newly released guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics ― backed by research ― indicated that when parents and children gather around the table on a regular basis to eat together, it decreases the risk of eating disorders in teens.
While the idea of a warm family gathering sounds in and off itself like a solid foundation for a sense of well-being, there’s a bit more to it than that.
The website www.sciencedaily.com offers evidence-based strategies for combating the eating disorders that plague thousands of U.S. teens, especially girls. In a story supported by data from the Stanford University Medical Center, five primary recommendations are given to help teens avoid the serious consequences of eating disorders, as follows:
“Three recommendations focus on behaviors to avoid: Parents and doctors should not encourage dieting; should avoid ‘weight talk,’ such as commenting on their own weight or their child’s weight; and should never tease teens about their weight. Two recommendations focus on behaviors to promote: Families should eat regular meals together, and parents should help their children develop a healthy body image by encouraging them to eat a balanced diet and to exercise for fitness, not weight loss.”
While most of these recommendations sound like no-brainers, this study marks the first time meals together have been highly encouraged as a way to stave off anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. And here’s the crux of the recommendation: it’s about parents modeling good habits.
You may be thinking, “As if I don’t have enough to worry about as a parent. Now I have to eat right and exercise regularly or my kid could become an eating disorder statistic.”
First, there are no absolute guarantees about anything. No one can fully predict who will and who won’t fall victim to the temptation to diet to the point of unhealthy extremes. Second, no one expects you, as a parent, to be perfect. In fact, it may well be the idea of perfection itself that pushes people into the realm of dangerous behaviors. The idea is for you to do your best without making it an obsession, and let your children see that you are doing your best…without making it an obsession. Obsession is an adverse motivator.
These recommendations apply to both mothers and fathers, so just remind yourselves that they are based on research undertaken by people who see the dramatic effects of eating disorders frequently in their practices.
The article also makes note of the fact that dieting itself is not a healthy activity for young, developing bodies. It states: “Teens who diet in ninth grade are three times more likely than their peers to be overweight in 12th grade. And calorie-counting diets can deprive teenagers of the energy they need.”
Don’t lose sight of the good news here: it’s valuable to eat together and enjoy one another’s company. Make mealtime the least stressful part of the day, a great time to relax as a family. Just don’t pig out on bad food that will make everyone feel groggy (and guilty) afterwards.
There are a couple more ways moms and dads can work together for the benefit of their families. Both of them need to be aware of what is placed on the table and whether or not it serves as a source of good health. It shouldn’t just be Mom’s responsibility. Also, both parents can play a part in keeping dinner table conversation upbeat and positive, or a place where, when bad things happen in life, people support one another.
Perhaps even eating out once a month could be an opportunity for family together time, as long as portions are reasonable and food is nutritious.
“Pediatricians can encourage families to have family meals as often as possible. It doesn’t have to be every night,” Neville Golden, MD, professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine and a lead author of the guidelines, said in the article.
When you realize what’s at stake, it’s a no-brainer. (To see the full article, go to https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160822083404.htm.)
A new face at Idaho Family
Idaho Family Magazine has a new sales and marketing director, Kimberly McMullen. She replaces Melva Bade, who is retiring. This marks Melva's last edition.
Kimberly was raised in Idaho and has resided in Boise for 15 years. As an Idaho native, she has a deep appreciation for the state's wilderness areas. From hiking to camping, she is always eager for her next adventure in the mountains.
She is also a loyal Boise State football fan and loves going to the home games.
Kimberly is proud of her Idaho roots and is excited to be a part of Idaho Family Magazine, where she is helping us connect with our communities through her new position.
“As a mother,” she said, “I have a strong sense of family, and I'm enjoying getting to know our proud supporters who believe in the heart of our mission to promote the Idaho family.”
She may be reached at
or (208) 854-8345.
― Gaye Bunderson, editor