Healthy Eating: The connection between good health and community

As this TED Talk indicates, relationships are more important to your health than diet and exercise.

January is almost gone and we have two more months of winter. When all we seem to be getting is rain, rain and more rain, then comfort foods beckon, right? Those of you who made New Year’s resolutions regarding exercise and diet have probably abandoned them by now. Don’t despair — that’s normal. Willpower in any part of our lives is challenging and as we all know it is tough to change our habits. As with parenting, think of your actions about exercise and eating as doing the best that you can and always strive for small improvements. We all make mistakes, eat too much, eat the wrong things…and then have even bigger regrets about our “bad” decisions.

If you are constantly berating yourself about the way you eat as well as the what that you eat, then I am here to recommend that you stop. No don’t stop eating, just take a break with the demoralizing self-talk. Think of the way children eat in a day (especially picky eaters)…most of us would freak out. But if you look at what children eat during the course of the week then you know that in general they get everything that they need.  Unless…you are taking them to a fast food place for every meal.
Taking a guilt-trip every time you eat a delicious dessert takes away any pleasure. If you view dessert as bad, then why are you eating it in the first place? Remember Snackwell cookies? When they came out people gave themselves permission to eat the ENTIRE package in one sitting. They were labeled as guilt-free. I would rather eat one deliciously decadent chocolate chip cookie and enjoy every bite — ounce for ounce it probably has the same amount of sugar, carbs and calories. But I get more satisfaction and joy out of one cookie.
I have to admit that I love ice cream. But I only eat high-quality ice cream made with REAL ingredients and then in small amounts. There seems to be a new craze with a new type of “frozen dessert” (they can’t call it ice cream) where the whole pint only has 300 calories. Guess what happens?…folks eat the whole pint right out of the carton. Read the labels…it’s not even close to ice cream.  But the food marketers have convinced us that the fake stuff is guilt-free, which somehow makes people feel better about consuming the whole pint. Remember, it “doesn’t count” if you eat it standing up, right?
I invite you to listen to this TED talk about the predictors for a long, healthy life: The secret to living longer may be your social life. You may be surprised to learn that weight and exercise are toward the bottom of the list. This does NOT mean that you shouldn’t continue to pay attention to these aspects of your life. What is at the top? Close relationships and social integration. So think about that — our relationships with our family and our community have a major impact on our longevity.
So when you think about going for a walk, call up a friend and have them join you. Take a group exercise class and introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you. Cook a delicious and healthy meal and invite another family over to join you for dinner. You can help yourself change your daily habits by welcoming other people into your life that SUPPORT those changes. It’s a win-win for everyone.
My dear readers, if you have a healthy recipe that you would like to share with our community, please send me an email at so that I can include it in next month’s Healthy Eating column. Let’s build a generous community of people who want to create positive change in their daily lives. Blessings of the table from mine to yours.

— By Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share her experiments with her family and friends. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and freelances around town for local chefs. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at

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