The Family Dinner

(Editor’s note:  I am very pleased to present a new posting written by one of our third year psychiatry residents, Dr. David DeVellis. -  DR)

by David DeVellis, MD

David DeVellis, MD Resident in Psychiatry

David DeVellis, MD
Resident in Psychiatry

How often do you find yourself saying “I’d do fill in the blank if I only had more time”?  Exercise, sleep, and eating well–all vital for mental and physical health–are often among the casualties of a jam-packed 24-hour day.  But time spent with family, particularly around the dinner table, is perhaps one of the greatest losses in a fast-paced society.  Creating the family dinner is an emotional issue for many parents who struggle to carve out time among the competing demands and schedules of their families.

Dinner: A Love Story (DALS) is a blog and cookbook written by Jenny Rosenstrach with contributions from her husband Andy Ward and their 2 young daughters (disclosure: they are friends of mine).  DALS celebrates the family dinner as “an emotional anchor” to our day and aims to inspire readers to approach and embrace it as such.  The benefits of the family dinner have been well studied.  Among the potential benefits is that parents will know much more about what their children are doing and eating–or in the case of restrictive eating disorders–not eating, if family meals are part of the daily routine.Dinner

However, you won’t find scientific research cited on DALS. What makes DALS so readable and enjoyable is the empathy, support, and encouragement it provides its time-starved readers.  There are no unrealistic or unachievable goals to meet: our challenges as working parents are their challenges, and there is no shame in not preparing gourmet meals each night.  Their earnest conviction that dinner is an opportunity for families to “put down our Blackberries and Polly Pockets Shimmer and Splash Adventure dolls” and share our experiences and reconnect with each other amidst the chaos of everyday life is downright inspiring.  Changing our thoughts about dinnertime and making family dinner feel like an indispensable part of our day can lead to changes in our approach to and execution of dinner.  Come to think of it, the website is really a fun form of cognitive behavioral therapy.  DALS provides practical strategies that can make preparing for family dinner less daunting.  And, of course, they have lots of recipes for flavorful meals that are designed to be relatively quick and made with ingredients you likely already have at home.  In addition, as well-read professional editors with daughters who love to read, Jenny and Andy provide many great recommendations for children’s books.

Although “family” is not explicitly in the DALS title, it is understood, and I believe, wherein lies the love story.  We espouse the family-based approach to psychiatric treatment here in Vermont, and the family dinner (or any meal really) is a good place to start.  To learn more, go to http://www.dinneralovestory.com/ .

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