The blessings and benefits of eating together

  Hi there, everyone. I'm Jared. And I'm Zenita. We are your hosts of Record Live, a podcast where we talk about church, faith, and living well. We believe as followers of Jesus, faith is more than just a set of beliefs. It's a way of life, something we put into practice. Let's go live.

 And we're back.

We're going to talk today about eating together with Zanita.

The concept of how eating together can be a benefit to your health. So let's start looking at that, unpacking that. How is that possible? It's not necessarily intuitive, you know? If you eat an apple, start your day with an apple, you think, well, that's a good, healthy thing to start with, but why does it matter if, whether or not you eat with other people?

Yeah, good question.

I suppose there's a lot of studies that have been done on the benefits of connecting with people, , and socializing. Like we know that Actually does affect our, especially our brains, like it affects our serotonin levels and our dopamine levels and things like that. It gives you this endorphin buzz when you spend time with people.

And I guess the problem we have is that we, we live very busy lives. And so we actually don't. Have time to connect with people and so we have these like moments of the day where we need to eat like to survive and it's kind of the most ideal situation like we have to stop to eat so we may as well do it with people and I think that's why it's kind of been carried down for so long because it's the one thing that forces us to stop like I often wonder if I used to wonder why God designed us to need to depend on food.

Like sometimes it seems a bit inconvenient. Like it costs money, it takes time. But if he didn't, like we would just never stop and we would never have those opportunities to eat together. And yeah.

  So we'll split this up a little bit because it seems like there's mental health benefits that we've sort of touched on. But also physical health benefits. In your article, you quote the, which we will include in the show notes are linked to that article. You quote the journal of pediatrics, which says that families. Who prioritize eating together, rank lower in obesity and health problems. That seems fascinating to me because often you think of a big family meal, like there's more food when you have people over.

There's more, you're likely you're more likely to eat seconds. I don't know, church lunch, potluck. You've got a lot of options and you're more likely to eat more, but it seems that this study shows that it's actually the other way around. If you're eating as a family, That's good for your health.

Good. For things like obesity levels. Do you know, Why.

I suppose, because I think sometimes we undermine the health benefits of socializing and how that impacts our physical bodies. It's often we, I know I've done this in the past. I have excluded myself from eating with other people because of like dietary requirements or because I'm trying to eat healthy.

, when in reality it's like you're actually doing damage to your body because you're isolating yourself and that has really big implications that we often don't think of when it comes to eating. , but yeah, there's, there's been a lot of studies, especially with families on the importance of eating like with your children.

In terms of like, people rank lower in obesity and health problems, and they're less likely to be depressed and have anxiety in the future, and there's reduced risk of, like, substance abuse and, um, better communication skills, like, there's so many studies that have been done specifically with families with young kids.

, and I'm sure that that trails on to other age groups, it's just hasn't been the focus,.

Yeah. Right. I guess it's like, we hear about reading to your children and things like that. So, That's a time that kids might feel prioritized. There's an opportunity to chat around the table as a family and to interact with each other. That's really interesting. One of the teases in your article was that, , once upon a time dinner changed the world,, or the dinner table, and the idea of eating together, can it do it again? Can you unpack what that means?

How does eating dinner together? Change the world. And how do you see it changing the world today? Obviously we can see that in a family level, but what about on a global level?.

Yeah, I hope it still can. , there's this really good book someone once gave me. It's called Surprise the World.

It's by a man called Michael Frost. And he, in the book, he talks about how eating, eating together transformed the Roman Empire, which is a really extreme thing to say., And it turns out there was this Emperor Julian, and the thing that got most under his skin was the fact that Christians were so good at hospitality, and they were hosting these things that he referred to as, like, love feasts.

Which was basically just them being intentional about inviting people over. For meals, like people, maybe that they wouldn't usually associate with. And, , so and for Julian, he decided to do the same thing. And so he got his men to all of a sudden start hosting these like elaborate banquets and these elaborate feasts.

And it was actually a bit of a flop because, , their focus was on the food and the party, whereas mostly focusing on, Oh, we just want to like love people and bring them. into our home and make them feel included. , and so, yeah, they were really successful in that because they, it was something they were known to do almost every day.

And, and their focus was on the people versus on the food, basically,

And I imagine that we're eating with friends and neighbors, possibly undesirables or people who are lower socioeconomic status. There was a chance to feed the poor, the outcasts, , because of this is in the Bible, there's a number of Bible passages. I think that touch on the. This sort of idea in the new Testament.

Yeah. So if you look in Luke, there's, there's a number of instances, , where Jesus spends time with people eating. So he's eating with everyone from like tax collectors to fishermen, basically. , and he doesn't even he doesn't even think about the food. , you see him feeding the 5, 000 just on a patch of grass and he doesn't even have anything.

He just depends on a little boy's fish and bread. And yeah, so the focus again, wasn't for the food. It was mostly on , showing people hospitality and spending time with them and connecting and, I guess breaking down those barriers where we often are like quite exclusive in who we have for dinner or, , who we sit and eat with because it's quite like a intimate thing, .

Yeah. I've found that when you share a meal with someone, it really deeply. Deepens that relationship. You talk about things you don't normally talk about, or if you know someone in a work context or even in a church context until you invite them into your house and eat with them, you're not really getting to know them.

It's like, sort of. level conversations. .


guess that's why so many people go on dinner dates.

Right. Yeah. Yeah. To break down barriers in the dialogue. Tell me you've had some experience in this as well. You're not just like, I like this when our authors are not just writing about a topic, but they are practitioners of that topic. You've used some anecdotes in your, in your story, but there was one particular young man who you and a friend group were eating with and it really impacted their life and their journey. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Yeah, so I used to go to a 7 Eleven around from where I used to live.

, just a normal petrol station, and there was this guy who started working there from India, and he was about the same age as me. , and so when I would go into the petrol station, I'd just have like a brief chat with him. And one day, I must have asked something specific, and he answered that he was feeling really lonely in Australia and finding it really difficult to make friends.

And I reactively thought, Oh, like I have heaps of friends, like this is no problem. Like, and I believe it was my birthday, either that day or the next day. And I told him, I was like, Oh, my friends and I we're building a. a beach, like a sand couch on the beach. And we're having hot dogs. You should come. Like it was the simplest, cruisiest thing.

It wasn't going to affect me at all. Like we were already doing it. So I was like, Oh, I'll just invite him. , and he came. And then after that, it was like, whenever my friends and I would have a meal together, we would just invite him along. And often he wouldn't arrive until nine or 10 PM because he would always work up until that.

So he would come for. 30 minutes, eat the leftovers and leave. And then every day, like the day following, I would get these messages of him, like thanking me so much for inviting him at , he really appreciated it. , And then we had , we had this other dinner event thing just with my friends and I, where we made like chai and we made Indian food and we were eating it with our hands and roti like they do in India.

And. , he came to that and at that time he had family members in India who had died from COVID or who were really sick and so he was feeling like especially homesick because he was so far away from them and because he was grieving on his own. , And that night for him was like the tiniest slice of home, like, that he hadn't experienced in Australia and it just was brought a little bit of comfort for him because it was like a memory of home.

And he actually like told us that we were eating incorrectly with our hands and he taught us how to do it properly and like kind of showed us how it really is over there. , But yeah, for him, that was a really big deal. And, and he ended up moving across the country like a few weeks later and the night before he left, we all went to seven 11 and we just had, like slushies, like the frozen slush machine things with him.

And that was the meal that we shared with him. And he kind of told us like, kind of with like tears in his eyes, how much. Us inviting him into the group had meant to him and that that was the best thing that had happened to him since being in Australia. And so for us, it wasn't really a big deal. We were just like inviting another person to have dinner with us.

Like it was something we were already doing. So, but for him that like changed his life.

And so,

Yeah, something as simple as like inviting someone to join you for dinner can have a really big impact on them. Like you never really know where they're at. And I think a lot of people are really craving like that connection and that, yeah, that social interaction.

, Um, it reminds me of some neighbors of ours. We are in an apartment building where we live. And, someone used to come to church and bring cheese cakes from the cheesecake shop. No one would eat them. , all there was too many for dessert at the lunch and there was always leftovers. So we'd take a half or a quarter or something of this cheesecake that was leftover. And we go next door to our neighbor and knock on their door and say, Hey, do you want some, do you want some cake?

Because we'd tried other types of food and he wasn't really interested in other foods. He had a very specific, he was Fiji and Indian and he would only his curries for dinner. , and it was sort of the same dinner that he would have each night, but when. We gave him this cheesecake. He just loved it. , and I remember at one point. I think his father died and they had a big feast for the family and he brought around all these leftover curries and all sorts of. , the breads and everything. , and I discovered he a week we were talking and he discovered I was a vegetarian. So whenever they would have these feast days, they would be fasting days.

And so they would only cook vegetarian food. They wouldn't eat meat on those days. And he would bring me the leftovers because he knew I was a vegetarian. And it was just really nice. It really deepened our friendship as neighbors. It made us closer.

and that experience, it really did diminish some of his loneliness and things like that. When we first met him, he was single living by himself, away from his daughters. And he was just able to share with us. We watched, state of origin together. We. We had a few nights where we invited him to events that we had parties that we had birthdays and things. , it wouldn't have happened if I can claim this, it wouldn't have happened without the cheesecake. That was the thing that opened the relationship.


Yeah, yeah, I had another situation where I was, my family and I were in Germany and we had gone to this church where, no one spoke English except for this one man and he, insisted that we come over for lunch.

He kind of said I don't have much to feed you, but, I would love to have you over. And so we went to his house and we didn't know, but he had just gotten back into the country the day before. , the only thing he had in his house was flour and a little bit of leftover birthday cake from his daughter's like fourth birthday.

And so he made what he could with flour and water. Like he just made crepes and gave us jam and that's what we had for lunch. And that, and it's, a few spoonfuls of cake and it was the most like It's probably one of my most memorable dining experiences like not because of like the fact that we just got crepes but because he was like so hospitable and he just like Was so grateful that we were there and we felt really welcomed in this like foreign country And we also felt, I think, really like touched that he invited us, even though he didn't have anything, , much to offer us and yeah, like five years down the track, he still emails us and like says, Oh, I'm so glad we met and that you were able to come over.

, so yeah, I think that also emphasizes that it's not necessarily about the food. Like, I'm sure even if I asked you now, like, can you remember five of the meals people have made you when you've gone to your house? You probably can't list them, like, I thought about it earlier, and I was like, I don't know, I can think of three, maybe, , that being one of them, and yeah, so it's not, it's not the food that's as important as the company, I suppose.

I think you're right it doesn't necessarily matter about the food. It can be quite simple or whatever you've got in the cupboard. , but I do find that it's easy to make excuses not to eat with people. Oh, my house isn't clean. I don't have the right food. I don't know. I've been busy. , I need some me-time like, how can we overcome some of those blockages? .

Yeah, I suppose one solution is, like, you don't have to cook, like, you can always go out for food, or, you can order food, or you can literally have , toasted sandwiches or smoothies, like, going out has the same effect, , you're still sitting across from someone eating and connecting, , it does the same thing.

As for being busy, I guess it depends on like what your, , what's the word? Priorities?


yeah, but it could also be overcoming like social fears or,, yeah, just getting out of your comfort zone a little bit. Like you might even be asking like, who do I ask or who do I eat with? ,

I'll, just share this comment from Linelle who's talking about when they were young pastoral couple and an elder. An older man with a not so well, wife took us home. For seventh lunch, can't remember the mains, but we had dessert, a bowl full of rice, bubbles, and peaches from McCann it's sound. It sounds kind of like your simple crepes with jam meal.

, and it's just, it's just a beautiful picture of hospitality and the joy of, I guess, sharing. With others, even if it's a simple sort of. Fair people aren't looking for extravagant. Three course meals. They're looking for connection.

There's another really good book.

called, , The Art of Gathering by a lady called Priya Parker, and her whole book is talking about, , how to make meaningful gatherings that people remember and that people feel safe at. , and in it she doesn't mention the importance of food at all, not because it's not important, not because it doesn't matter, just because it's not really a big factor when it comes to building connection.

, we tend to focus a lot of time and a lot of worry and a lot of money on inviting people over for a meal, but nobody really expects, , restaurant level perfection when you come over for dinner, like, they really just want to connect, , and really, I think sometimes if you have a more, , simple meal, it makes people feel more comfortable.

And it probably makes them more likely to invite you over for a meal because there's like less pressure.

Right, right. Because they don't feel they have to live up to the standards that you've sort of set. W with what you were sharing about eating with your housemates or with your family or whoever? , I guess there'll be people who listen, who don't live with their family. Maybe they're single living on their own.

How can they involve themselves in this kind of behavior? Because as you mentioned, it's really beneficial for us as humans to have this sort of opportunity. Are there any tips or tricks you could share that might help someone in a situation where they don't have a family to eat with every night? , For whatever reason, they're in a season of their life where they don't have people around that they can do that with.

Yeah, I would just suggest thinking about the people. that are in your life for whatever reason, like whether it's friends or whether it's like people you work with or whether it's people you see regularly at your local shopping center, , that might be more daunting but like I'm sure most people have a friend , that they, they, Hey, let's go get lunch or dinner or, Hey, would you like to come over?

, yeah, I would just simply start by just asking one person and then make it a long term goal to like, Eat with someone, like, two different people per week, or three different people per week. , Yeah, I would just start small.

Make the effort, yeah, and set something up.

Social stretch, like a social exercise.

Right, right, I like that. Stretching yourself socially.

Yeah. Exercising. Is a muscle really like connecting with people is a bit of a bit of a social muscle. And so that might seem for some people really daunting first off, but that will get easier. I think once once you exercise it.

Yeah. I know. After some of the long lockdowns that we experienced through COVID it was really hard to go into public places. Again. Not because,, Well, It's like a muscle when it's not used, we're not familiar with it anymore. And so it became hard to socialize. Because we hadn't been using that skill.

Here on record live. We like to get practical, to find a way we can apply some of these principles. Into our lives. And we've talked about a little bit about some of the tricks we could implement, but can you just share with us, first of all, what's a good starting place. If you haven't done this. Intentionally before, how can you start to make a practice of this. in your life?

A regular practice.

I'd probably say the same. I , just said for your last question, like just start with one person next week, ,, whether that's , look at your schedule and see whether that's going to be less daunting to go out for dinner somewhere, or whether you really want to stretch yourself and invite someone to your home, because there is a more like intimate connection or.

, mm-Hmm. , uh, I guess a warmer atmosphere when you invite someone into your home, but it doesn't have to be that, like I said, you still get the benefits going out. , so I would just start with one person and then bit by bit, build that up to two people per week. , yeah. Yeah. And if you already have, like, if, if you are already eating with people, just think about like inviting someone else along to that.

Yeah, and many of our listeners are going to be church members. Are there spiritual applications for this? How can we see this as a practice of faith? , we started. In talking about how Christians we're changing the world , through eating together.

But what about a modern day Christian? How can we express and impact the world through this practice?

Well, there's actually this really, , I don't know if, if you've ever noticed this, , In the gospel, it says that the son of man came dot, dot, dot, like it has this three different times. And I think the first one is like, , to save the loss or to not to serve, but to be served.

And then the third one is the son of man came eating and drinking, which is a bit like, wait, what? I didn't expect that. Like,, first to tell of his purpose. And then the third one tells of like his method. And so I think ministering table is. Quite simple. Like you just sit with them, you just like show interest in them.

, Yeah, you just, you feed them spiritual food, I guess, by just loving on them. And so in that way, we just like reflecting what Jesus did, like just through our actions, not, not through preaching. And there might be a time for that, but , it might not be necessary.

Yeah. Uh, and Jesus clearly spent a lot of time. Hint. Copped a lot of criticism for eating and drinking with people in many ways, he changed the fabric of society by eating with people that other people look down their nose at. , Zaccheus tax collectors. And others. But he was committed to that as part of his ministry.

Can we make the same impact in today's society or do you think the world has changed too much?

Oh, I think you absolutely can.

Like, I think there's still people who are considered outcasts or people who you wouldn't necessarily like want to bring into your home or your circle. , I think I've brought people to parties who they haven't necessarily like fitted in with my friendship group, or they haven't really had similar interests or anything to what the rest of my friends have, but, they're pretty used to me bringing those people now, but yeah, it's like, there's always those people that don't necessarily fit in and yeah, I think that has a really big impact when you bring someone in like that.

Hey, Zanita. I think this is a really good, simple, and practical thing we can do in all of our lives. , both with our own families. Being intentional about sitting and eating with them. But also with those that we meet those who are in our circles of influence. , even those as we've discussed today, who are outside of our circle, but it's a good opportunity to invite them for a meal to bring them into that sphere of influence so we can grow, , closer relational bonds. , so I think it's really good if we can do that. , and it just starts with one invitation.

Try it and see where it leads. You. Do you have anything to leave us with Sanita, some sort of nutshell statement that we can cash in this week? , that we can live out or that, you know, what should we be thinking about or focusing on.

Yeah, I guess most of us already eat three times a day. And so The time we need to connect, which is really good for us in many ways, slots right in there with the time we need to nourish our bodies, and so, I don't know, I would just encourage people to just think about, , who they can invite in, and that'll be a blessing to both you and to the person you're inviting, maybe it'll be more of a blessing to you than the other person, who knows, but, yeah.

True. I would just, , encourage people to maximize that meal time that they're having to feed their soul in other ways as well.

I'd like to echo that. And I'd like to add from my perspective, sometimes it's the fear. , it's daunting to do it, but it usually always turns out better than you think it will. One part is to be bold and courageous, you know, as the Bible says, just give it a go and see if you can make a connection with someone. To eat with them.

As we said, this article will be in the show notes. If you'd like to read more or learn more about what we've been talking about today. It's been great to have this chat with Sanita. Thanks so much for joining us. Hope you've had fun Sunita.

It's been awesome.

We'll catch you all next week. So join us if you can. God bless.

The blessings and benefits of eating together
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