By Guest Blogger Tracy Huneycutt

In January of this year, I published a blog titled My Personal Experience with Intermittent Fasting, in which I detailed my journey with the health and weight loss benefits I experienced with the timed-meal eating plan. It has been close to a year since I began incorporating intermittent fasting concepts into my lifestyle, and I have lost 50 pounds so far. One of the most unexpected challenges of making health and dietary changes has been altering the dynamics and circumstances in regards to family eating and meal times.

Over the last year, as I changed how often, how much, and what I ate through intermittent fasting, my family had to adapt to the new lifestyle as well. Even though our meals and meal times may now look more non-traditional, I can honestly say I have come to terms with the changes, and wish I had been more comfortable doing so many years ago. I no longer stress about whether how we eat is “conventional,” and would now challenge the notion of whether there is such a definition of a “typical family eating plan.”

Some mornings when I am not hungry, I will only have coffee with a splash of cream for breakfast. For years my son showed signs of having a natural intermittent fasting appetite, which I used to fight. After reading multiple books on the subject (the most prominent being “The Obesity Code” by Dr. Jason Fung (reference my previous blog for more details,)) I do not fight him on this.  If he wants to eat first thing in the morning, he can; if he insists that he is not hungry, we let him eat breakfast later in the morning. Some weekends this may mean our first family meal of the day might be a brunch or early lunch together around 10:30 or 11:00, which translates to an early dinner around 4:00.

We try to eat dinner around the table as a family as often as we can, but there are some evenings when one of us gets hungrier before the others. Instead of snacking until we’re full (and then not wanting dinner at all,) we eat our meal when we’re hungry, then join the rest of the family at the table while they eat their meal, so we can still talk and catch up about our day.

At one time I had sworn I would never rely on fast food for family meals, but I now have no shame in hitting up the drive-thru before or after sports practice or on busy nights, if it means that we’ll have more opportunities at home to spend quality time as a family (Watch for my upcoming blog on the healthy choices that most fast food restaurants now offer!)  I also keep healthy snacks and freezer meals on-hand for nights when only one or two of us is hungry for dinner; through intermittent fasting, I have found that it is not always necessary to eat a large supper when you are truly not hungry for one. Having a small salad or a bowl of Greek yogurt with berries is perfectly acceptable.

When I told my husband earlier this year that I wanted to try more Keto-friendly meals, to help with some of the stomach discomfort I was having with refined and processed carbs, he was willing to try new recipes and foods with me (especially since he has Celiac disease and has to eat gluten-free.) We have now opened up a whole new world of eating Keto together (I could also write a whole blog about “chaffles!”) We both enjoy the new way of eating, but it does require a degree of planning to be successful.  We now love being in the kitchen together creating new Keto dishes, like swapping our frozen pizzas on “pizza-movie night” for homemade ones with a cheese-based crust.

The modifications of routines, the extra steps, and the accommodations we have made in regards to family meal times have all been worth it to me, in order to be healthier now than I was a year ago. And while your present issue may not be health or diet related, there may be an area of life that has become more prevalent lately to cause a shift in regards to how your family eats.

Over the past year, I have learned what is truly important when it comes to family meals:  Are we eating when we are truly hungry? Is my child getting consistent servings of fruits and vegetables (and overall healthy foods) every day? Are we all eating foods we enjoy and that have nutritional value? Are we less-stressed in regards to eating because we are doing what works best for us as a family? Are we still spending time around the dinner table every day, even if it is not to share a meal? If the answers to these questions are “yes,” then we are still being nourished well as a family, and to me, that is all that matters.

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