Family is to community as cells are to the body. Families are microcosms of the community at-large that participate in shaping society as a whole. The role of the family is to provide support to one another spiritually, emotionally, physically, financially and tangibly as food, shelter and clothing. The family is where love is shared, lessons are learned and where memories are made.
Our earliest memories about food were most likely with family, whether at home or at a family outing. Wherever it occurred, the family is where our food choices, eating habits, and health practices started. Family is also essential for shaping the reverence we have when selecting and preparing foods for our families. That same respect must also carry over in how we treat our bodies.
Statistics from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse revealed that 69 percent of families do not eat together on a regular basis because of work schedules and activities outside of school hours. Many meals are eaten in front of the television or on the go. Finding time to eat together at a table complete with silverware, glasses, china plates, and cloth napkins seems to only happen for some during major holidays. Between late hours at work, after school activities, or community commitments, it is no surprise that conve-nience foods are popular. Processed snacks such as chips and candy are plentiful and accessible, and families are collectively deteriorating in health. Because we have normalized this way of living, it is often difficult to see the world through another lens.
The state of the family has become increasingly fragile over time because of the economical pressures that have put families in survival mode. Job loss, high taxes, high interest rates, and the increased cost of living next to flat salaries have shifted the family’s focus on how to make ends meet. Such pressures can either break families up or make them stronger and smarter in their approach to living. The way families approach such challenges impacts the children, who are watching and learning how to deal with life’s stressors.
There’s no disputing the fact that families are facing struggles in purchasing quality foods and eating nutritiously. Collectively, many families are in the same state and there is no desire for our children to inherit diet-related health problems. If we can embrace the call to action to move in a direction where we are more focused on our families, we can begin to make small steps toward living healthier.
Small, gradual and simple changes for your family can make significant changes in your health and wellness. When considering nutritional changes in the family, buy-in and support are essential for the family to be successful. Oftentimes, one member of the family may be on a diet while the other family members watch to see if they are successful. Some families join in on the health crusade to give moral support and make personal changes as well. For a unified approach to a healthy household, the family would have to work as one in making nutritional lifestyle changes. The benefits of the collective are greater than the individual.
Health is a gift that should be treasured and protected. True wealth lies within good health. Poor health is costly — doctor visits, hospital bills, specialists — and occurs at a great price. What value does wellness play in your family? How important is healthy eating in your home? Only the family unit can answer these questions and determine whether it is time for a change.
Christine W. Thorpe, Ed.D., is a certified health education specialist. The above is an excerpt from her book, The Family That Eats Together: A Nutritional Guide for Healthy Living, available on Amazon.