Tuesday, 10 February 2009

A Social Eating Approach, Back to the Future Solutions for Health

January is firmly behind us, and the traditional Christmas day lunch is just a happy memory receding comfortably into the background to be replaced by a whole raft of resolutions some of which have been broken, such as: losing weight, going to the gym, and finally getting the eight hours sleep you have promised yourself since this time last year.

Research shows however that we are missing a trick, and we should be eating more. More? Yes, more often as a family, more often with friends, and more often around other people generally.

Eating, studies have found, confers pleasure, not just as one would expect, from the sensory aspects of taste and smell, but from the social aspects. These aspects which are heavily determined by those present, set the mood and atmosphere, allowing a range of social and psychological benefits to be derived. In short the message from this is: for good mental health eat with others present.

If we examine why this should be, the advantages of this approach become so obvious that one can be forgiven for feeling a little foolish for not recognising the benefits earlier as our eating regimen compete for space within our busy modern lives. It seems that as with so many things we can learn from echoes of the past. Over 150 years ago the first “celebrity chef” Mrs Beeton was expressing the view that dining is the privilege of civilisation. A case perhaps of: your grandmother teaching you to suck eggs.

Another reason why it is important to practice social eating is that socialisation of children through habits ingrained in childhood often determine their future eating behaviour. Healthy patterns of food consumption therefore at this stage, learned around the family table, can have a massive positive impact on an individual throughout their lives.

The tendency to eat vegetables and foods containing Essential fatty acids amongst other things can help protect one against the onset of many insidious diseases such as cancers, heart disease, and the growing scourge of obesity related diseases, like type 2 diabetes. With all these facts at our disposal then it is worrying that the charity “raising kids” found that of the families in the study they conducted, only 20% ate together once a week. 25% of families did not even own a dining table.

It is clear then from all the evidence available that the most important New Years resolution any of us can make, is to spend some time enjoying the preparation and consumption of food with people around us; and best of all it’s a little bit easier to keep to than the one about pounding away at the gym.

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