Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Simple Step to Improve Diet, Weight and Mental Health

Human behavior can be a funny thing.  At times it is so complex, yet some very seemingly simple things can change it in positive ways.  A new study looking at one simple logistical factor about eating has demonstrated this point well.  The complex part of human behavior examined was trying to change eating and activity behavior to a healthier pattern. 

Almost endless government and other organizational guidelines have had little success in that area.  The same for public service messages, public health programs and more.  
This is where a very simple answer has performed better.  The study looked at the relationship between eating meals as a family during adolescence and in those who became parents during the next 17 years.  Participants were from mixed socioeconomic and racially/ethnically diverse households.

Both those who had regular family meals as adolescents and maintained that as young parents, and those who began the practice as young parents ate healthier foods, participated in more healthy weight-related behaviors such as exercise and had higher psychological well-being scores compared to those who reported never eating family meals together.

It appears that the family mutual support group reinforced by the simple practice of eating meals as a family has profound positive effects on health behaviors that a mountain of guidelines and policies have not accomplished.  Human behavior has always tended to have a “tribal” nature which is highly influential on all parties.  Try regularly getting your tribe together for meals.  It is not just an old custom but also a healthy behavior.

Berge et al.  Intergenerational transmission of family meal patterns from adolescence to parenthood: longitudinal associations with parents’ dietary intake, weight-related behaviours and psychosocial well-being. Public Health Nutrition, 2018;21:299-308. 

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