Saturday, October 11, 2014

Eating Alone

What with Michelle Obama’s war on childhood obesity, it’s good to discover, finally, how parents can best help their children control their weight.

Strangely enough, it does not involve Michelle Obama’s efforts to nudge schoolchildren to eat healthier by banning supposedly unhealthy foods.

There’s a lot more to maintain a proper weight than dieting, an obsession that probably does more harm than good.

The solution to obesity: more family dinners.

Teenagers who eat dinner with the family two or three times a week may reduce their risk for obesity in young adulthood.

Researchers surveyed the eating habits of 2,287 girls and boys in their teenage years, and then followed up 10 years later, when 51 percent were overweight and 22 percent were obese.

After controlling for sex, age, race, socioeconomic status and initial body mass index, they found that, compared with those who never had family meals, those who ate with their family three to four times a week were about half as likely to be overweight. Even having one or two meals with the family was protective, reducing the risk by about 33 percent. The study appeared in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Note well: children who have regular family dinners take the habit with them into adulthood.

As always, it’s not about a set of blinding insights into how you were weaned, but about developing good habits.

You will recall—probably you would rather have forgotten it—that the last time we were all debating family dinners, a certain number of malcontented mothers were complaining that they did not want to make dinner, did not like making dinner and felt that it was unjust that they should be burdened with the task.

Perhaps the new study will motivate them. And perhaps it will motivate other people to attempt to control their weight by eating with others, with family, in a group… as you like it.

Diet or no diet, eating alone is not good for your health.


Ares Olympus said...

It looks like a serious well-designed study.

It seems like my family usually had dinner together, at least until my parents divorced when I was 12, but the 1970's seem like a different world.

A vast majorty of the families I've known with kids in the last 15 years, might eat dinner together, but the television room has become the center of eating, rather than the kitchen table.

In my 20's I went through an extended period of proudly not watching any TV, and that has gotten easier since TV program quality has gone down so well, but netflix is a troublemaker, so I admit I'll eat in front of a movie or something more than not.

And now-a-days we have smart phones and laptops also as distractions that adults or kids could abuse while still "eating together." I'm sure some parents might ban such things, but its an open question what sort of "manners" are expected in a daily meal, versus special occasions.

So I'm interested to know what qualifiers can be made. Is it better to eat one uninterrupted quiet family meal per week, or have 7 days a week eating together in front of the TV?

I also think back as a kid, we were too poor to eat out a lot, but we did get McDonald's, cause "You deserve a break today..." Eating in a restaurant, even fastfood might count, BUT then there are drive-thrus so parents and kids eat together in the car, again kind of crazy.

Anyway, in a quick look, I don't see anything in terms of "quality of communal environment" considered, although it would seem important.

Ares Olympus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeannette said...

Many elderly people lose the inspiration to cook when it is only for themselves and quality of eating deteriorates if it is always to be done ironically it could perhaps also be shown that there is liability on the the other end of the spectrum if one is eating alone.