Who doesn’t like to eat?
Surprisingly, I discovered there are people who don’t care so much about the food at mealtime.
For them, eating is strictly a time to be social.
The fact you have to put fork to mouth is a distracted hindrance in the process of socialization for them.
Wish I felt a bit like that once in awhile!
Studies reveal that food is one of the most defining forces in all societies.
It brings people together and it divides.
Food is a big part of socialization.
We need food daily to fuel our bodies and give it nutrients in order for us to have enough energy to tackle the activities of daily living.
What we eat determines how we feel.
Short term - what we put in our mouth can energize or make us lazy. Long term - our eating habits can influence our confidence or lack thereof.
When we bring socialization into the mix, things get complicated.
For this column, we’re going to define socialization as ’the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.’
Simplified, those who aren’t really interested in the eating component of a meal have learned in order to behave acceptably at a dinner party, you have to eat.
You can’t just go and talk.
Socialization is at every social gathering.
What and how we decide to feed ourselves is influenced by those around us.
Basic skills like sharing and manners are intentional socialization.
For every intentional socialization, there are a myriad of unintentional socialization counterparts. Humans simply pick up things during social gatherings involving food they weren’t suppose to have seen or heard.
Many excellent eating habits are learned through socialization, however sometimes unintentional socialization teaches us about unhealthy eating.
Kids can be easily influenced by their parents to overeat or eat emotionally.
Food is used to suppress stress or anxiety.
Think of the plethora of eating disorders in the world - anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.
These are disorders that include extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviours surrounding weight and food issues.
Unintentional socialization to the extreme that result in serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences.
Bad eating habits can also be intentionally taught.
How many fast food companies use toys as a way to lure kids to chose their food?
You can’t get more intentional than that.
Many cultures in the world incorporate the socialization of food into their lives.
There are different staple foods; some foods are banned due to beliefs; different values of food/waste; value of preparation time; specific food or not around holidays and fasting.
Many cultures include the practise of passing down different recipes through generations.
So much intentional food socialization.
Back to those who see food as a means to socialization. Many cultures see family mealtimes as a tool for recounting narratives that convey moral messages.
They exchange accounts of personal or collective significance which become the central facet of the meal - food being a close second.
Mealtime for many is an opportunity to regroup and use conversation to mould children into morally preferred ways of thinking, feeling and acting in the world, helping develop their own socialization lifetime skills.
I read an interesting article recently published by The Family Dinner Project.
This is a nonprofit organization that operates from the offices of Project Zero at Harvard University.
The Family Dinner Project states research has shown over the past 15 years what parents have known for a long time.
Sharing a fun family meal is good for the spirit, brain and health of all family members.
Studies link regular family meals with the kinds of behaviour parents want for their children and society benefits from.
Things like higher grade-point averages, resilience and self-esteem.
The intentional socialization of food at mealtimes is linked to lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders and depression.
It also helps nourish ethical thinking.
So, get together, pick up your fork and start talking!
Socialization and food - yummy - a wonderful combination of the best things in life.
Nancy Revie is a Guelph author, motivational speaker, fitness instructor and entertainer. Visit Nancy at www.nancyrevie.com. Her column appears every other week.