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  1. #1

    Girls benefit from family meals

    Girls benefit from family meals
    November 10, 2004

    MINNESOTA, Minn., (United Press International) -- Minnesota researchers say the frequency and quality of family meals have a great deal to do with preventing eating disorders in girls.

    A University of Minnesota team has found the importance, structure, and atmosphere of family meals may help steer adolescent girls from eating disorders.

    Girls who ate regular family meals in a structured and positive environment were less likely to exhibit extreme weight control behaviors, such as diet pill use, vomiting and chronic dieting.

    The meal itself provides an opportunity to model healthy eating habits to children, and it also gives parents the chance to talk with their children, said study author Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, an epidemiologist.

    She found that: [list][*]Girls who ate three to four family meals per week were at about one-third the risk for extreme weight control practices; [*]Girls who ate five family meals per week were at about one-fourth the risk for extreme weight control practices; and [*]Boys also benefit from family meals, but the association was not as strong as it is for girls.[/list:u] The study is summarized in this month's issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

  2. #2

    Girls benefit from family meals

    Yes, I've heard something about that before. When I was a young girl my family ate dinner together every night. However, when I was in high school, and my mother was working, I started making my own meals because I was hungry by 5:00. In late high school, when I started going to the gym and I lost some weight, I started thinking more about fat in food. I discovered that I could cook my own meals which were lower in fat and which I believed to be healthier. My parents were getting annoyed that I wasn't eating as much meat anymore. However, I don't think that just simple independence when it comes to cooking will contribute to an eating disorder in just anyone. Probably the person has to have some sort of vulnerability to it.

  3. #3

    Girls benefit from family meals

    I don't disagree with you, Diana. I suspect the link is that having family meals puts the emphasis on socialization rather than food per se... and there are of course several other potential benefits from eating together and spending time together as a family. For one thing, this might (potentially) increase self-esteem and feelings of security, which in turn may be a protective factor against eating disorders.

    It's possible that family meals may also put more emphasis on nutritious meals rather than "pure taste", "instant cooking", and calories, which may be also linked to the results in that study.

  4. Girls benefit from family meals

    I think this is true if you have a good family structure and the members want to spend time together. But if any of the family members hate each other, forcing them to interact can sometimes make things worse.
    My family always did the "eat together" thing, and I resented it.

    Also, I'm not sure about this waiting to eat. The pressure for everyone in a family to synchronize their eating, seems weird to me. When I was in school I seldom ate lunch, so I was always starving when I got home and wanted to eat dinner then. Instead I had to wait for hours, hungry, until my parents were ready to eat, which wasn't until 6 pm or later. Other times I would eat earlier and then not be hungry for dinner, but force myself to eat just to "please" them or get them to stop complaining or whatever.

    My parents were also very traditional in forcing me to eat breakfast. (Even if they didn't eat breakfast, lol) This seems sound, but really I can't eat in the morning... To this day I have to wait a few hours after I get up.
    So at school I would end up with a stomach ache, gas, or sometimes rushing to the bathroom with diarrhea. I told my parents this, but of course they didn't care. Oy. (Is it any wonder I got an eating disorder? lol)

    Ok, so that's OT, but it's kind of part of the idea that parents often try to control a child's eating habits, and it's not always for the better. The same goes for parents who demand that kids clean their plates and eat everything, even if they're not hungry. I think kids should be encouraged to listen to their bodies, not other people or the clock, when it comes to food.

    Well, I guess I have nothing to add to this topic except lame anecdotal evidence, but in conc I think the family meal thing can work, but only when the kids are at a less-independent age where their individual schedules won't conflict.
    It seems like something of a moot point, too... Since Eating disorders are more about control issues and family problems, parents being Dinner Table Nazis may not be effective prevention. Plus, I think that at a certain age (9 or 10 maybe?) the roots for an eating disorder may already be established, so it may be too late..?

    I can't tell from these statistics whether eating as a family actually prevents eating disorders, or if the lack of eating disorders would just be a natural result of a happy family structure where meals together would be commonplace anyway.
    Of course, I guess it's easy to question a stat when my family might be the rare exception.. :o)

  5. #5

    Girls benefit from family meals

    Hey Sea Swirl, you're making some good points there. When I got a little bit older and my Mom was working late hours I'd end up having two or three dinners, because I had to wait also. That can't be healthy, but my parents felt even worse if they didn't make me eat what in their minds was a healthy supper. I have a good family, and they were only doing what they thought was best. I think what happens with some families is that whether they get really busy or not, they tend to stick to uniform ways of eating. I guess it's a little difficult to make a different menu for everyone. However, sometimes parents need to be more flexible and experiment with different ways of eating. For example, in my family we ate meat every night, and red meat on many nights. I liked meat, but sometimes I just really didn't want it. When I was a small child, sometimes I couldn't swallow steak for some reason, and it would end up in my mouth for a really long time, and then on the plate. How difficult would it have been to have had something else on hand for the nights that we ate steak, and then ask me if I felt like steak that night. What's the big deal if one night a child has a few more pieces of cheese and no steak? But, parents tend to think that if you don't eat a certain way all of the time that it's not good for you or something. Well, guess what? I'm a vegetarian now!
    I certainly don't blame my parents for my eating disorder. I just think that parents could put effort into some small tactics to get their kids to eat food they enjoy and that's healthy at the same time. For example, if a child says he/she absolutley hates fruit, maybe it's just the fruit that the parents buy. Bring the kid to the grocery store. Ask the kid what looks good - maybe you can try this?

    Anyway, I'm sorry if your parents were hard on you at the dinner table. I'm sure your family isn't the rare exception - there are probably still many families like that even though families have become so busy.

  6. Girls benefit from family meals

    Quote Originally Posted by Diana
    my parents felt even worse if they didn't make me eat what in their minds was a healthy supper. I have a good family, and they were only doing what they thought was best.
    Yeah, it's so true. They really think they are doing the right thing. That can make things even more frustrating in the aftermath, because in the end it's only ignorance to blame, and can't be fixed.

    they tend to stick to uniform ways of eating... How difficult would it have been to have had something else on hand
    Yes, and I think it is part of the whole "traditional family" stereotype to sit down to dinner together every night. I tend to think that is something from history that needs to be abolished or at least amended. Just as the traditional family has evolved, the eating habits have, too.
    Children are viewed differently now, too, and should be given more respect and consideration generally. That goes along with the scheduling thing, and how parents should consider the kid's schedule now that no one is there when he/she gets home from school.

    Well, guess what? I'm a vegetarian now!
    lol. It's funny how parents parent indirectly. I often find myself naturally doing the exact opposite of what my parents did, too. :o)

  7. Girls benefit from family meals

    Quote Originally Posted by Diana
    my parents felt even worse if they didn't make me eat what in their minds was a healthy supper. I have a good family, and they were only doing what they thought was best.
    Yeah, it's so true. They really think they are doing the right thing. That can make things even more frustrating in the aftermath, because in the end it's only ignorance to blame, and can't be fixed.

    they tend to stick to uniform ways of eating... How difficult would it have been to have had something else on hand
    Yes, and I think it is part of the whole "traditional family" stereotype to sit down to dinner together every night. I tend to think that is something from history that needs to be abolished or at least amended. Just as the traditional family has evolved, the eating habits have, too.
    Children are viewed differently now, too, and should be given more respect and consideration generally. That goes along with the scheduling thing, and how parents should consider the kid's schedule now that no one is there when he/she gets home from school.

    Well, guess what? I'm a vegetarian now!
    lol. It's funny how parents parent indirectly. I often find myself naturally doing the exact opposite of what my parents did, too. :o)

  8. #8

    Girls benefit from family meals

    You're right about the traditional family changing, and how the eating habits have to adapt as well. I really see it here in Korea. This is a society that has undergone a tremendous amount of change in the last 20 years or so. Many mothers (not the majority I don't think) are working, kids go to so many different private schools for numerous subjects, divorce rates have risen, most people don't live on farms anymore, etc...
    Now they're finding through studies that children on average have become bigger and weaker(as far as stamina goes). Well, they are eating so much more crap and processed foods now - they're easy, quick and attractive. Kind of like what happened in North America, just a little longer time ago. Therefore, I think it must be so hard for a parent to decide what is right/wrong. Some parents might decide that no matter what happens in the family, they will make sure that their children only eat home cooked meals in the traditional way to keep them healthy. I can understand that reasoning, except that in most cases today it's impossible (every night at least). There have to be different ways of adapting. It might be kind of cool if there were cooking classes on the weekends that young children and parents could take together, or something like that. Anyway, transition in society is always difficult, even when wonderful.

  9. #9

    Girls benefit from family meals

    You're right about the traditional family changing, and how the eating habits have to adapt as well. I really see it here in Korea. This is a society that has undergone a tremendous amount of change in the last 20 years or so. Many mothers (not the majority I don't think) are working, kids go to so many different private schools for numerous subjects, divorce rates have risen, most people don't live on farms anymore, etc...
    Now they're finding through studies that children on average have become bigger and weaker(as far as stamina goes). Well, they are eating so much more crap and processed foods now - they're easy, quick and attractive. Kind of like what happened in North America, just a little longer time ago. Therefore, I think it must be so hard for a parent to decide what is right/wrong. Some parents might decide that no matter what happens in the family, they will make sure that their children only eat home cooked meals in the traditional way to keep them healthy. I can understand that reasoning, except that in most cases today it's impossible (every night at least). There have to be different ways of adapting. It might be kind of cool if there were cooking classes on the weekends that young children and parents could take together, or something like that. Anyway, transition in society is always difficult, even when wonderful.

  10. #10

    I agree

    Hey i also agree on that study mostly because well i have heard of it and in my therapie my doctor told me that it is best that I eat with people cause then I am not focused on what is in my plate but rather the people around me .. and when your in a familly meal there is always something to talk about like school or work but then again if the familly does not talk and stays quiet I think that it may make you feel like well eating is a punishment ..no???
    love always
    ashley-kate
    Life is all a perception. Do you see what I see? ...
    The more I fade away, the more they want me to stay...

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