• Dinner, The New Breakfast

    Growing up in the Ferrigno house, it was assumed that everyone would sit down for dinner every night. Although we had a large dinner table in the living room, we always sat at the small breakfast-size table in the kitchen. If you have ever seen the film ‘Pumping Iron’, you will notice that my father grew up eating at a similar table in his parents' home. It goes without saying that mom, dad, 2 growing brothers, and myself at a tiny table never lacked excitement. We talk loud, laugh hard, and love to eat. Although people always say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The Ferrigno clan begs to differ.

    To a Ferrigno, dinner is the most important meal of the day. This is because it is commonly the most calorie-heavy meal - threatening your efforts to stay healthy - and also because it is often the only time in the day when you can check in with your family. Ensuring that your health stays on track, as well as your relationships, is crucial to success in your life. So, dinner wins the title of most important meal of the day. Dinner is likely to be the meal most associated with emotional eating, considering the day's events are fresh in your mind, you're likely to be tired, and your will power and patience reserves are likely depleted.

    Meanwhile, breakfast gets you fresh and alert (hopefully). In fact, at breakfast you can over eat, and you still have the rest of the day to run around and burn off those excess calories. With dinner, however, you can make or break all the hard work you've put into your healthy lifestyle in one sitting. The feelings you have throughout the day can/will dictate what you eat at dinner. You may feel like eating extra calories at dinner because you “deserve it,” marrying your emotions and your food. Or, maybe you feel you "need" to unwind with a couple of glasses of wine (or more), building a habit that can be very hard to break and ingesting empty calories. 

    According to the Mayo Clinic, Whatever emotions drive you to overeat, the end result is often the same. The emotions return, and you may also now bear the additional burden of guilt about setting back your weight-loss goal. This can also lead to an unhealthy cycle — your emotions trigger you to overeat, you beat yourself up for getting off your weight-loss track, you feel bad, and you overeat again.”           

    "Food should never be your friend."

    This cycle of emotional eating is not exclusive to just adults with busy schedules but affects children as well, affecting their health. Statistics show that nearly one in five children aged 6-19 in the U.S. is overweight. That puts them at higher risk for many health problems later in life, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes -- as well as emotional problems.

    Dinner is a great time to address any issues a child is dealing with, set a great example of healthy eating, and inspire them to make good choices. Joseph Califano Jr., chairman and president of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) says, "One of the simplest and most effective ways for parents to be engaged in their teens' lives is by having frequent family dinners." A recent study by CASA recently reported that eating dinner as a family helped kids in many ways, including getting better grades and staying away from addictive substances.

      left to right: brent, carla, shanna, louie jr. and lou

    Our family is Italian and Irish. Culturally, we bond over food. With so much good food to eat, how do we stay in shape?  The carb, vegetable, and protein ratio is always balanced. Also, we don't rush through dinner. We take our time. Lastly, we avoid mixing our emotions with our food. Evenings can be a very emotional time. A glass of wine, a beer, or a cocktail should be considered a food item to be cautious about and not considered an additional food group at your meal or staple of dinner. If you often feel stressed at dinner and motivated to have a drink, try taking a walk before dinner.

    It will not only help burn calories and increase your appetite, but it will also help dissipate any angst you may have built up from the day's events. If you don't have time for a walk, take your evening bath/shower before making dinner. The warm water and break from the day will help ease you into a more relaxing state.

    Tips for Your Family

    • It's a good idea to limit carbohydrates at dinner - seeing that you have little time to burn any calories before going to bed.

    • Rushing through meals and standing while you eat is a fast way to gain weight. Have a designated place to eat at home to help avoid mindless eating in front of the television or computer.

    • Food should never be your friend. Food should be respected and celebrated with family and friends, not serve as a tool to alter emotions.

    The Bottom Line

    I am proud to say that my parents have been married for over 33 years. I believe they are still together because of how they communicate and spend time together. Although we are all grown now, we still try and make time at least once a week to get together at the same small kitchen table. It's a time when I can be myself and learn about what is going on with my brothers and parents. It is a tradition I will pass down to my children the same way my father has.

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