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How To Create Deep Connections At Mealtime

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

"A great meal is an experience that nourishes more than your body"

~Ruth Reichl, American Food Writer Hi Wellness Enthusiast- If you're anything like me, you're still trying to process our new reality. So much uncertainty and uncharted territory with COVID-19! On top of the unknown, being indefinitely homebound is daunting. Perhaps it's an opportunity to actually slow down and reconnect with our loved ones. On a typical day, we're on autopilot, rushing around to accomplish everything on our "to do" list. Often, we miss the beautiful opportunities to unite with our family, which may create distance. Now, we have fewer distractions and many of us have more time than usual to engage. I've spent the past several days with my three teenage daughters immersed in the kitchen. We're taking time to prepare nourishing meals and desserts while enjoying lengthy lunches and dinners around the family table. What a beautiful gift to sit together and eat mindfully with more awareness. I'm reminded that how we eat is just as important as what we eat. Many of us have forgotten how to truly enjoy the dining experience. When we slow down and engage the senses while dining, it's remarkable how much more satisfied we are with a meal. We also have the tendency to eat less and have fewer digestive issues. Feeling lighter and sleeping better are benefits as well. Have you ever noticed? Many of us, including myself, are fast eaters. This is simply a habit that can be shifted with practice. Following are a few tips to help you move from mindless to mindful meals: 1. Minimize distractions such as television and technology. Create a zero tolerance for electronics at mealtime (that includes us parents, too!). When consumed with screens, we eat quickly and without awareness. Changing this habit is challenging, though worth the practice. We are satisfied with less when we chew our food well and eat more slowly. Our bodies don't need nearly as much food as we believe and are accustomed to consuming. 2. Create a serene, uncluttered environment at the table so it's comfortable and we're likely to sit longer. Light candles, listen to soothing music and use cloth napkins. 3. Take a few deep breaths before eating. This helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows our body to prepare for rest and digest functions. Your body is typically in the sympathetic nervous system, sending blood flow to all the parts of the body to fight, flee or freeze, so it's critical to wind down before jumping in to mealtime. Then, our body can allocate resources to properly digest food. 4. Engage with thoughtful questions and allow each member to have a turn speaking. No matter the age, everyone deserves to be heard and seen. Take this opportunity to model for children in how to ask caring questions, listen and engage. Offer compassion and attention to all. 5. Allow the family to assist with age-appropriate tasks such as setting and clearing the table, pouring water, chopping veggies and grocery shopping. If each family member taps into their creativity to contribute, they will feel more connected at mealtime. This is especially valuable for the more selective eaters. 6. Pause before eating. Take a moment to offer gratitude to the farmers, truck drivers and chefs that have all contributed to the bountiful meal. Yes, this is a challenging time in our lives, though we can choose to bring harmony, patience and connection into the process. Sitting together as a family around the table creates lasting memories and improves self-confidence. Studies show that teens who eat regular family meals together are less likely to have eating disorders and drug/alcohol addiction. Take time now to practice some of these tips, so when we get back to our usual mode, we'll have new habits in place. Feel free to reach out for complimentary support on where to begin. Taking baby steps is the best place to start! With love and gratitude, Jen jendorfwellness - mind body nourishment

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