I grew up in a household that didn’t believe in family dinners. I learned to eat alone, scrounge around for myself, and mostly give into the desires of my eating disorder.
Suffice it to say, I didn’t understand the concept of eating with other people. Eating without judging, rushing, or fighting. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of eating together while talking about the day, praying out love, and passing around food. Although I had read of something somewhat similar in my Beverly Cleary novels, I didn’t think families actually ate dinner together like that.
All that changed when I was “adopted” into two very different families who share meals together. Soon I was spending holidays, brunches, and Taco Tuesdays with lively, loud, sparkling sets of personalities. I was completely unable to hide any longer.
Through this, I’ve discovered the amazing power that sharing meals with loved ones can do for your recovery. Whether they are friends, family, or adopted “family”, there’s so many benefits of eating with others.
6 Reasons to Share a Meal With Loved Ones
1. It can be a shame free zone
Eating around others is about the act of uncovering your “shame” (your need and desire for food) and seeing it’s not actually shameful. It’s normal! Others love food too! They think you’re normal for wanting food! What good madness!
2. You see food in a different way
Food is not supposed to be just about calories. Food is also about health, nurturing yourself, and allowing love in. That can happen whenever you cook, bake, and eat with loved ones.
Think about the care it takes to teach someone to make meat loaf from scratch. It takes forgiveness when they possibly set the oven on fire trying to make taquitos (I was a bit rusty…).
It takes selflessness to pass a salad bowl around and ask how their day has been. Devotion shows its form by making special mac and cheese for a sick sister. A blessing can be given and received simply by savoring a well-made quiche. Allow yourself to be loved, cherished, and fed as you share a meal with others.
3. You can nurture you inner child
It’s easier to let go of false guilt over eating and perceiving yourself as “weak” for needing love and help when you have a whole clan telling you to grab the good food when it’s hot.
In my case, I actually let the mother figures in each family know my past. So, they know it’s okay to give me verbal encouragement to eat. Maybe you need that too. Just saying. It’s okay to be mothered.
4. See good examples
If you’re eating with family or friends who aren’t currently struggling with an eating disorder, you can learn a lot by just watching what others eat. Now, I know this can also be dangerous.
So, I’m not talking about when you’re with a group of people who are indulging in some kind of disordered eating. Check in with yourself, check your honesty meter. Are the people you’re with healthy? If they are, overall, it’s nice to be able to see what normal size meals look like in community.
5. Group-tackle fear foods
Sometimes it’s nice to conquer a fear food by casually slipping a bite onto your plate…poking it with a fork during discussion…watching others stay calm and healthy while eating the same food…then finally tackling the morsel monster in between the decaf-coffee-round and piling into the living room to watch Netflix.
6. It’s Legit Psych (I think….)
Positive Reinforcement. You know psych 101–rewards for desired behavior (for example eating, eating in public, eating with family, etc.) condition it to happen again. Eating with others gives you new, positive mental and emotional associations around meal time.
I must say, getting compliments around a dinner table, laughing at jokes while making tacos, feeling loved when making a salad. It has an immeasurably positive effect on my relationship with food and eating.
So, dear heart, let yourself be loved and fed by others. Share a meal with someone you love.