As a nutritionist, I am curious about what people eat. But I am also interested in how and where they eat. When I began my nutrition schooling and started food journaling, which is something I would later ask my clients to do, I made notes of not only what and how much I was eating, but I also started recording where and how my meals were happening too.
For starters, being the busy person I am, I certainly wasn’t giving myself enough time to eat at all, and I was even eating while standing up or driving in my car. Sometimes when we’d come together as a family to eat, I found that even though we were sitting around a table — as opposed to standing, walking or driving as I often did — we weren’t relaxed. Instead, we often saved difficult conversations for mealtime, and there was added stress during what should ideally be a sacred time.
With children, there is potential for different kinds of stress as well. My kids don’t always like what is on the menu, and since their mom is a nutritionist it means vegetables are always included, which can lead to some hems and haws.
The level of stress in preparing and having a meal has a lot to do with how our bodies assimilate nutrients and digest, which has ramifications well beyond that specific meal time. I had never connected of my poor digestion and even food sensitivities to this harried approach to eating, but after becoming aware and slowly changing my habits, so many of my symptoms lessened or went away all together.
In spite of being aware, there are still many opportunities for hurried mealtimes (like when breakfast happens standing over lunch boxes, then lunch gets skipped and dinner is a struggle), but given how and where I eat, just as much as what I eat, is a direct indicator of how I am doing as a whole, I am invested in doing my best to create a cozy and comfortable what, how and where.
And I do that in a very little dining room in our San Francisco home. In fact, our dining room is a mere 80 square feet. But, within that 80 square feet, I can comfortably seat eight, I have what I call a mini-mini-bar which usually has lovely cocktail glasses and a few pretty bottles displayed, and we have a mini kitchen that my six-year-old still loves to “cook” at. Can you see a trend with the word “mini”?
Its smallness doesn’t mean I am too limited in creating a joyful place to eat. I change out my linens each season as I endeavor to use less paper napkins and more cloth, and I also enjoy adding seasonal decor, making the room feel cozy rather than cluttered.
One of my very favorite elements of holiday decor is the card wall I create with card garlands (we recently received our first holiday card in the mail, so keep them coming). It is an easy project we do with baker’s twine, a 1/8th-inch hole punch and some small nails. So, today, the baker’s twine came out, and I will be able to start threading and displaying those smiling faces onto my dining room wall, which we will enjoy until after Christmas.
Wherever you’re eating today, I hope it’s comfortable, joyful, vital and light, because even more so than what you are eating, how you are feeling during your mealtime is the key.