know that the dining environment itself is an influence of your weight status?
This is the finding of a recent study by Dr Brian Wansink and Dr Ellen van
Kleef, who examined the relationship between everyday family dinner rituals and
the BMI of 190 parents and 148 children. The body mass index (BMI) is a measure
of body fat that compares weight to height. Studies have shown that lifestyle
factors such as physical activity, eating breakfast every day and income are
associated with this frequently used measure of weight status.
participating in the study completed a questionnaire regarding the whole
family’s mealtime habits. They were asked a broad range of questions concerning
how many days they engage in mealtime activities, such as discussing their day,
during a typical week. After filling in the questionnaire, the weight and
height of both parents and children were recorded.
‘dinner rituals’ correlated with both the parents and the child’s BMI’s. The
higher the BMI of parents, the more frequent they indicated to eat with the TV
on. Eating at the table in the dining room or kitchen was linked to lower BMIs
for both children and parents. Girls who helped parents prepare dinner were
more likely to have a higher BMI, but there is no such relationship among boys.
Yet boys who had a more social dinner experience tended to have lower BMI,
especially in families where everyone stayed at the table until everyone
finished eating. This proved true in parents as well.
between BMI and these dinner-time habits does not necessarily mean that one
thing leads directly to another. A heavier girl who helps out with dinner might
want an active role in dinner, for example. What is important, however, is that
these results underline the importance of the social aspect of sharing a meal
as a family on BMI, since watching television, for example, correlated with
higher BMI in the parents. These interactions may replace overeating with
stronger, more positive feelings.
the reasons for the links are not clear, family meals and their rituals may be
an underappreciated battleground to prevent obesity. Where one eats and how
long one eats seems to be a driver of the weight one gains. Such behaviour may
be related to less distracted eating or more supervision. If you want to strengthen
your family ties and, at the same time keep a slimmer figure, consider engaging
in a more interactive dinner experience. A good place to start would be to eat
together with the television off and then asking the kids to list their
highlights of the day. After all, the dinner table does not just have to be a
place where food gets eaten!
Picture about family dining from Shutterstock