Family Mealtime can help you Stay Slim


family mealtimeWhen it comes to weight loss, there is always so much emphasis on diet and physical activity – what, when and how much to eat and what, when and how much to exercise. It’s rare that anyone talks about other lifestyle factors that may be impeding your ability to lose weight and like I always say, small changes can make BIG differences. As a parent, mealtimes can be tricky. You may be preparing multiple dishes to feed multiple bellies or you may be rushing to feed the family before baseball practice, dance lessons or skating. Between housework, homework and work work, you may find sitting down for family mealtime to be an overwhelming challenge.

When I work with weight loss patients, I always give the same 3 tips and those who implement them find great success, not only as a way of accomplishing their goals but also as a way of enhancing family bonding. Challenge yourself this month by implementing one or all of these strategies and see if you notice any positive changes.

3 Tips for Weight Loss Success

  1. Do NOT eat in front of a screen. This is the main reason why sitting down for family mealtime is so important. Eating in front of a screen includes your iphone, ipad, laptop, television or any other electronic device. Most people become so consumed with what’s in front of them; they forget to be mindful of what and how much they are eating, resulting in the consumption of greater calories. Take the time to sit down, relax and focus on your food and family. Not only will you have more family bonding time but you will also likely eat less, feel more satisfied and of course, lose weight.
  2. Eat slowly and pay attention to serving size. Have you ever noticed that when you go to a fancier restaurant, the portions are so small you may wonder if the dish will fill you up? With music in the background and a small portion on your plate, you take your time eating each bite, mostly because you don’t want your dining experience to end so soon. Somehow, by the end of the meal, you feel satisfied. You don’t feel hungry but you also don’t feel as if you’ve over eaten. This is what mealtimes should feel like. Portions should be modest and dinner conversation should be “light and fluffy.” When it’s all said and done, mealtimes should be a family experience that everyone looks forward to. Eating slower also gives your stomach the opportunity to send hormonal signals to your brain, letting you know you’re satiated. Eating too quickly results in consuming more food and you know that means more calories.
  3. Chew your food 20-30 times before swallowing. If you’re like most people, you’re likely not mindful of how many times you’re chewing your food per bite. Believe it or not, if you don’t chew your food you are not only eating too quickly, you are also missing out on some important digestive processes which can later make it harder for you to shed those pounds. My suggestion? Challenge yourself: Time one of your meals (i.e. dinner) to see how long it takes you to eat it and use this as a baseline. The next day, time yourself again during the same meal but be mindful and force yourself to chew five chews per bite. Note the time difference between the two days and do it again on day three but now increase your chews per bite to seven or ten. Continue doing this until you reach twenty chews per bite. What did you notice? How long did it take you to eat that meal by the time you reached your goal? What you’ll notice is that chewing more means eating slower and the end result of both is feeling full and satisfied without consuming extra, unnecessary calories. You win!

At the end of the day, successful weight loss is the result of a number of things. Diet plays a major role and exercise is essential but being mindful of your day-to-day behaviors and making small changes can go a long way. Implementing family mealtime and creating an atmosphere where meals can be fun and relaxed will not only bring your family closer, but help you lose those extra inches.


About Author

Dr. Shelly Reitkop, N.D. works to inspire health by educating, motivating and empowering people to take an active role in their health care journey. She has a specialized clinical focus in digestive and hormone health, as well as pediatric health and women’s health including weight loss and cellulite reduction. Shelly uses a number of therapeutic modalities including nutrition and nutritional supplementation, botanical medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture, homeopathy and lifestyle counseling. Learn more about Dr. Shelly at

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