There are so many diet programs and meal planning tools available on-line nowadays. They are a great help to start a special diet or lose weight. However, looking at these I noticed one common problem: nearly all of them focus on individuals.
This seems to be okay, most people are dieting alone.
Hold on a minute. Is it right?
What about family meals?
Dieting in family
Only single people want to lose weight?
I haven’t come across a diet program what wasn’t tailored for a single person. When I was single it was a blessing. In my weight loss diet, all meals were created for one person: the calorie content, the shopping list, everything.
What about those who live in a relationship, who share their home/kitchen/fridge with their close family members?
Usually, the rest of the family is not on a weight loss diet, but they are – more or less – affected.
Should dieting family members keep away from the family table, from the so important family meals?
My own life experience that when you have a family under the same roof – dieting is very challenging. Just to give a general picture:
- Sharing kitchen/fridge with others (who are not on a weight loss diet, not even on a healthy diet) means continuous temptation
- Cooking high-calorie food for others while you are on a low-calorie diet is torture
- Watching others eating sweets, crisps, chocolate etc. – what is forbidden or limited in your diet – is just unbearable
- Discovering that others eat secretly sweets, crisps, chocolate etc. – because they want to be thoughtful to you – makes you first grateful, then frustrated
- Putting together 2-3 different mains for every meal – one for them, one for you – does not work on the long-term
Does it mean that impossible to keep up an eating style completely different from the rest of the family’s?
Well, the answer is yes. We cannot separate one or more extremely different eating style within the family on the long term.
Whatever is the reason for a “secret eating” hidden from others – it cannot be done: everybody sees what is in the shopping basket/fridge, every family member sees what food package goes into the bin, everybody smells the takeaway shop on other’s clothes… Even little babies/toddlers can recognise the signs of “secret food”. If mum/dad is eating lots of chocolate, children eat lots of chocolate – it does not matter how careful mum/dad is, they just know. Indeed, “secret things” are even more attractive for them.
Family meals: peas in a pod
That is the reason why we should look at families as a unit. If there is an obese, a gluten-intolerance member or somebody with eating disorder in the family – we have to think of the whole family as they all have a strong effect on each other.
So families are a fundamental and really important unit in nutrition.
We should think in family unit always
- when we plan meals ahead
- when we want or have to make changes in one or more family member’s diet (because we want to eat more healthily, or because of food allergy, eating disorder or other health problem in the family)
- when one or more person in the family want to lose weight
- when we want our children to develop healthy eating habits.
So, yes it is hard to separate our diet from the rest of the family’s.
The good news is that this is a good thing, we all benefit from this.
First and foremost is it good because it means that parents have an influence on their children, they are able to make positive changes through everyday habits. This power is very often underestimated, and we think that healthy eating habits can be learnt only by verbal messages from a specialist. Well, nothing can be ever so effective than the personal example of parents.
We, parents also benefit from the family nutritional unit: our children are the best and more powerful reason to think about our healthy and our lifestyle. I think the best time to review our lifestyle when we start a family. Obviously, we all want healthy babies, and we do all our best to give them the best start. Introducing solids to our babies open up a new chapter in a family’s life. So this is a great opportunity to make little but important changes in our eating habits as well – like reducing salt and fat, eat more fibre, veg and fruit, reducing alcohol and sugar consumption etc.
This does not mean that we cannot carry out a weight loss diet within a family. But obviously, we need a different strategy. Eating always different food – sometimes separately from the rest of the family- makes us isolated from them. This is not a good feeling for any of us. It makes the situation unbearable – and as so brings us closer to giving it up. We need to make our family an ally and also we need to share most of the good points with them. As resources proved that those weight loss diets where people are part of a group of dieting people are more successful than single dieters. The power of the group and the unconscious social influence can help to get over the hard periods and gives extra charge to the dieters.
Bringing closer our diet make us realise that – even we are all different with different nutritional needs – we are a special group sharing lots of family tradition, food adventure-discovery and memories. Food does not mean to separate us – it gives a special platform to enjoy life together. I do not say it is easy. But it is possible and it worth the effort.