It is funny looking back at my childhood and realising how influential my upbringing is when it comes to raising my children. As a child, our family spent a lot of time around the dinner table so therefore this blog discusses how our life revolves around food.
Growing up in Australia with an Italian parent was difficult mainly because my father brought all of his customs with him when he migrated. He didn’t understand (or want to understand) the Australian traditions, and this was especially prevalent around the dinner table. When others were eating a Sunday roast for dinner, we were munching down on a big Italian lunch in the middle of the day, every day of the year!
Our life revolved around food! We ate when we were happy, we ate when we were sad, and we ate when we were bored, angry and for me “overwhelmed”. I wasn’t aware this wasn’t what everyone did; I wasn’t aware of how unhealthy this addiction can become. We were also told to eat everything on our plate, which we know today, isn’t the right way of eating.
I brought this philosophy into my adult life, sure I trained harder to keep off the weight but back in my mind (until a few months back) I still used food to bring our family together. I hadn’t realised that you could visit people without having a massive meal in front of you! Sure, eating together is fun, but it isn’t always necessary and here is why!
I am not always hungry at the time we are catching up, so instead of eating (for the sake of eating), why not meet somewhere other than a great restaurant? You can chat as easily at the local park and do a quick few laps, or better still visit a friend in between meals so that food isn’t the focus. I have now stopped bringing dessert when visiting instead opting for flowers or something that isn’t edible.
I stopped pushing my old beliefs onto my children, and they are only eating when they are hungry rather than when I believe they should be hungry. Sure they can come sit the table when dinner is served but why force them to eat if they aren’t hungry? We have ditched the dinner table as our focus point (which it always was), and in its place, we have opted for a board game after dinner to ensure we tap into the day’s activities.
I am not embarrassed to admit that I was diagnosed with an eating disorder at the age of 19. This disorder had warped my opinion of food and has somehow carried out my fears onto my children. Sure, I have given them the gory details about my struggle with my eating disorder, sure I cook as healthy as I possibly can during meal times. But, what I didn’t realise I was doing was pushing my unhealthy habits onto my children because our life still revolved around food in some way.
Yes, there will be plenty of sceptics out there who still believe that dinner should be the focal point. Yes, I have also learnt to stop wasting my time convincing others of my beliefs, instead allow them the luxury of believing what they want, and allowing myself the luxury of not caring.
I am not saying that we have stopped going out to dinner all together; I am just saying that we aren’t doing it as the only option to socialise. Making food as a focal point (for me) can cause unnecessary overeating, or eating on occasions that I am not hungry.
I wonder if my children take on the same values I am now trying to instil in them or will the next generation have a new subtle way of doing things?