Hit Pause Every Once In A While

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

I am writing this column from the Magdelan Islands in Quebec, where my family has spent the past few days vacationing.

Although prior to leaving home I had my doubts about spending an entire week with my family, I have appreciated the past few days of family time. They have been an opportunity to reminisce on an exciting summer and to catch up with my mom, dad, and little brother, who I seem to have less and less time to spend with as time goes by. We’ve spent them driving around, visiting museums, seeing the sights, listening to my mom’s stories and my dad’s jokes and sitting down for family meals, a tradition that I’ve missed while away this summer.

Although my family doesn’t set aside time for board games and trips to the park like when my brother and I were little kids, we do eat meals together a few times a week. Which is a good thing, considering that several studies have found that teens who eat more often with their family eat healthier and that they even are less likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, get poor grades, and have depressive symptoms and suicide involvement, according to a study published in 2004 that urged public education on the benefits of eating with family.My mom pointed out early on in our trip that family meals seem to be prominent here on the Islands. Families of tourists and locals can be spotted in restaurants, often passing the salt and pepper to several generations of family. The laid-back atmosphere of this region seems to promote slowing down and carving out time for eating with others.

At home, the rhythm of everyday life is so much more rapid and so much less conductive to eating or hatting with family. A breakfast or lunch longer than fifteen minutes is seen as wasting time on most days, although supper is typically longer. When I was in elementary school, the prospect of not having to see my little brother as often was relieving. Now, when everyone’s different schedules mean that I speak to my sibling every few days, we bicker less and I find it a bit disappointing that our lives don’t overlap more.

Is living life on fast-forward detrimental to human health, destroying beneficial traditions? Maybe. Dr. Angelo Tremblay when he spoke at the 2ndNational Obesity Summit earlier this year (I didn’t attend–I saw it online. You’ve got to love the internet.) suggested that our time-limited, work-driven world is what is causing us to forget our good habits, dining with loved ones included.

At seventeen, nearer to the end of being a teenager than to the beginning, I can’t say that family meals are something that I particularly prioritize. After all, shouldn’t young adulthood be spent away from the familiar, trying to integrate new and promising ideas into a perspective already strongly influenced by family? That said, I am grateful for the family meals and activities that my younger sibling and I had the opportunity to enjoy when we were younger and will continue to appreciate time spent with my family, no matter how old I am.

Originally published in the Times & Transcript on August 13th, 2011.

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