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Food and Family

By Hannah Alderfer, BA, CPT, FMSC

Food is not only a fuel. Food is not just for your taste buds either. Food can do so much more. Being a personal trainer and having completed a degree in exercise science, I rarely go a meal without thinking what I might create to make it healthier for those eating it. Being an avid runner, I have always been aware of the foods going into my body. Like many of you, I feel slightly bad when I give in to a sweet splurge and feel oh-so-proud when I make a healthy meal. In my naivety, however, I often fail to recognize the full value of food. I appreciate a colorful plate of healthful variety; I thank God for the bounty before me, yet I frequently fail in the effort to truly enjoy the food or those I am eating with or be thankful for its origin. I eat, oftentimes, too quickly. I think more (or not enough) about the nutrients than I do the pleasure or the company with which I am eating. Most of us rarely question the effort that goes into the preparation of the meal. Or what it means to gather together and pause for a moment to enjoy the people we are eating with. It is my ultimate goal to value all the benefits food has to offer; especially in the way that food brings people together.

A lot of people see food as an enemy or a supplement to good health—don’t eat this, try this new vitamin rich “blank” or stay away from “you name it.” It can become very confusing and sometimes frustrating. How can we better appreciate the simple act of eating? Instead of focusing on food’s nutritional value (or lack thereof) only, try re-educating yourself to see food as life-giving, pleasurable, and a way to show love to your friends and family. Stop using food as a reward or punishment. Food and eating is a time to connect with family and a way to educate them about how to eat right. In fact, family dinners provide ways to get your family to eat more fruits and vegetables, try new foods, and control portions… a loving act in itself because you are caring for the health of your family. When offering a plate of food to the hungry, as many people will do throughout the year, think about the way in which the food speaks of care to those eating it. This simple action of feeding others has a way of connecting people in a unique way; a prepared meal and dinner table tells those about to partake of their importance to you. Gathering around a table to dine is not as common today, but still very necessary for this reason. Eating is a time to rest, to relax, and to respond to those who sit beside you. As described in The Spirit of Food, a collection of writings on food and eating, one chapter depicts the waning family dinner as a way of loving, “It is sad how foreign it is to sit unhurriedly, to eat lovingly crafted food attentively, and to have meaningful, personal conversations during meals… Offering our hospitality is a medium of grace that opens hearts to deeper things. It is a simple way of loving.”
When you eat, realize that much more than a physical process is happening in your body. Try to grasp all the benefits of food—that it is much more than a fuel, pleasure, or diet tool. Food is a gift that can bring friends and families together to share in the nourishment of tasty food and the love of one another. Take a moment at your next family meal to reflect on the goodness found as you sit around the table with your loved ones and join together in good food and fellowship.

Food and Family

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