This page is about dining, the practice of eating food, especially eating with other people.
Dining is a topic that comes up repeatedly in Why This Way, and is an important aspect of life which connects to many different aspects of our belief system, not just our beliefs on food, but our core beliefs as well, such as those about a healthy state for people and society. Many of our meetings are preceded by a potluck dinner.
Our views on dining revolve around consent, and avoiding the sorts of negativity that go against our beliefs. This can include avoiding pressuring people to eat or not eat certain things. We also emphasize promoting sustainability by reducing wasted food.
Ways of serving food
When serving meals for guests, such as at a dinner party or event, we have discussed the advantages of serving a buffet-style meal, in which dishes are put out and people allowed to take what they want in the quantities that they want. This style of serving can lead to less waste than a serving style in which a fixed plate is made up for each guest.
Making food to order, as is commonly done in restaurants, can also achieve these same benefits, so long as the person ordering the food has adequate control over the portion and types of food prepared.
We generally agree that it is important to help children learn healthy eating habits, which include listening to their bodies and learning to select portions according to their needs, and selecting a broad enough variety of food to have adequate nutrition. However, we think that it is important to critically examine the ways in which people attempt to teach children healthy eating, as certain methods can create unintended negative consequences, such as contributing to unhealthy views of food or eating.
Forcing children to eat foods
We consider it unhealthy to make up a plate of food for a child and attempt to force them to finish the food on the plate. We believe that this practice can teach children to ignore or override their body's signals about satiety. This may lead to people eating foods out of a vague sense of obligation, a sense that they "should" eat certain foods, rather than deciding what foods they want to eat. This runs contrary to the sort of mindset that we believe is healthy and that we wish to cultivate in all people, the idea of bringing a person's desires into harmony with what is healthy for them, and encouraging people to act out of genuine desire rather than a sense of obligation or fear of punishment or stigma.
We have also discussed the importance of avoiding creating a confrontational or negative dynamic with respect to eating certain foods, such as trying new foods that children may be apprehensive about.
It is common and natural for children to be initially apprehensive about new foods, especially those like vegetables and herbs which have more bitter flavors. We think it is much healthier to introduce children to these foods by being positive about them and giving the children easy opportunities to repeatedly sample or try the foods in different contexts, than to try to force the children to eat them.
Culturally accepted meal times
In many cultures and subcultures, meals tend to be eaten at certain times or during certain ranges of time.
We have discussed the importance of considering meal times when scheduling activities. For example, if a society has a fairly standard lunch time around 12-1:30, then it would be best for activities scheduled during this time to allow for the possibility of eating lunch. For example, a lecture scheduled from 12-1 could either serve food or could be advertised as a "brown bag lunch" where people are encouraged to bring their own food.
If the activity explicitly prohibits food, like an activity hosted in a space where eating is not allowed, this can place an extra burden on attendees, and could push them to do something that they would not otherwise do, like skipping a meal, eating uncomfortably quickly, or eating less or a less healthy meal than they otherwise would. Especially when events are mandatory or required for some purpose, this could be outside a healthy state described in our beliefs, because people would be pressured to do something they would not otherwise do.