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July 2, 2015

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The Positive Impact of Family Dinners on Teens

School, work, after-school activities—the demands of modern-day life can easily decrease the time we spend together as a family. But sharing a meal with the entire family each evening is great for the mind, body and soul. Some busy parents may consider sitting down as a family for dinner a luxury but, many professionals consider family dinners the most natural form of family counseling. Touching base with your children nightly has been proven to have both a positive psychological and physical impact, and as a result should be made a true priority.

When asked when they were most likely to talk with their parents, dinner was the top answer among American teenagers. This time for open communication, paired with fresh and healthy foods, creates a winning recipe all parents should consider as food for thought.

Psychological Impact

Studies continue to prove—time and time again—that sitting down regularly for a family meal has immediate and long-lasting effects on youth as they navigate through the rocky waters of adolescence. Here are some quick facts:

  • Multiple studies connect regular family dinners with lowering multiple high-risk teen behaviors such as: binge drinking, smoking, drug use, problems at school, violence, eating disorders and sexual activity.
  • Regular family dinners have been associated with lower rates of depression and suicidal thoughts in teens.
  • Victims of cyberbullying have been shown to recover more quickly if they participated in regular family dinners.
  • Adolescents who eat dinner with their parents often experience less stress and have better familial relationships.

Physical Benefits

In the fight against obesity, family dinners play a major role. Consider gauging your teen’s interest in growing and preparing healthy foods alongside you, and try to incorporate key nutritional education. Increasing participation in all aspects of family dinners will only serve to amplify these physical benefits listed below:

  • Children who regularly eat family dinners consume more fresh and healthy foods like vegetables and fruits, as well as micronutrients and key vitamins.
  • Teens who eat regular family meals grow into young adults who are less likely to be obese and more likely to eat healthily once they live on their own.
  • Adolescents who share family meals three or more times per week are more likely to be in a normal weight range, have healthier dietary and eating patterns, and are also less likely to engage in disordered eating.

Making the Most of Family Meal Time

When considering implementing more family dinners, it is important to approach the situation from a positive place. There will always be excuses as to why you can’t make it happen. “There’s just not enough time in my day to cook a wholesome meal,” or “My family’s schedule is just too overwhelming” are valid sentiments, but they can be overcome and you can make dinner a household staple. The Family Dinner Project provides a free guide that includes simple healthy recipes, dinner activities and conversation starters to help you enjoy more quality time with your teen. They also host helpful parent groups where members can share their challenges and successes in a supportive environment.

At Pacific Quest, we know the importance of fresh and healthy foods, as well as a healthy familial unit. Our Wilderness Therapy program incorporates wellness plans unique to each and every student that outline specific components for overall health and wellness. All students go through the process of learning the basics of nutrition, and they even cook and prepare all of their own food from natural, organic ingredients. Meals at PQ provide a special time to converse and connect, while nourishing a healthy body. It is our belief that for adolescents and young adults to feel energized for optimal engagement in family counseling and other aspects of the therapeutic process, they must eat nutritious food. If you have questions about our approach, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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April 30, 2010

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Wellness lesson

Wellness class in Malama this week focused on the 5 pillars of health how they have evolved for each individual during their journey at PQ.  The lesson emphasized nutrition and the reasoning behind the PQ diet in terms of whole, unprocessed food.  The group discussed the role different nutrients play in the body as well as how to optimize digestion. The lesson also discussed the health benefits of regular exercise, consistent sleep and breathing. Finally, the student’s shared personal examples of the mind/body connection with  the group.  The class ended with chi gong and deep breathing.  This is always a “crowd pleaser” because the students are able to tune in and feel their own chi!

Wellness class in the Ohana camp touched upon nutrition, diet and the mind-body connection. We discussed healthy, organic, sustainable food choices as well as the food industry as a whole. Also discussed were the manifestations of stress on the body, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, the role of stress and stress management techniques. We ended the class with chi gong and deep breathing exercises as well.

The assignments given to each student was

1. write down 3 major stressors in their life, 3 physical, emotional or mental manifestations of their stress and at least 2 ways to relieve stress when they perceive it.

2. Create a recipe for the PQ cookbook including how to prepare with specific healthy ingredients

November 6, 2009

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Dr. Zimmer’s Wellness Topic on Strong Immune Systems

This week we discussed the pillars of health and how they contribute to strong immune systems. The pillars of health are:

1.The Mind/Body Connection

2. Digestion / Nutrition / Water

3. Sleep

4. Breathing

5. Exercise / Movement

At Pacific Quest all five of these pillars are reinforced daily leading to healthier and happier students.

Stay tuned for a more in depth bloq about these five pillars.

With the arrival of flu season in the northern hemisphere a discussion about the swine flu was sparked.  Receiving the vaccination and proper hygiene are important and seem to be the main focus of the news reports regarding the swine flu. But how about also emphasizing a healthy, robust immune system to lessen your chances of contracting the swine flu and to mute the course of the flu if you happen to catch it.

I asked the students what weakens the immune system and their answers were:

Sugar, Stress,  Poor sleep, Eating junk food, Not exercising, Stuffing your emotions, Smoking,  Alcohol

That’s Correct!

They have learned about the negative effects of these elements over the course of their wellness classes.

I asked them what they are doing here at Pacific Quest on a daily basis to keep their immune systems strong and healthy and they replied:

Exercising every morning, Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, Talking about our feelings, Sleeping at least 7 hours a night, Breathing fresh air, Drinking a lot of water,  Breathing exercises, Eating garlic, Getting vitamin D from the sun and Not eating all of our favorite junk foods.

A Recipe for Health!

I was very satisfied with their answers because one, they have learned these concepts during their stay here and two, they are engaging in these activities daily- creating healthy immune systems ready to withstand the flu season back on the mainland.

Yours in health,

Dr. Britta Zimmer

October 13, 2009

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Healthy diet may decrease depression risk

Spanish scientists revealed research findings today that suggest a healthy diet lowers risk of suffering from depression.  The research results are aligned with a trend in recent years, associating nutrition with improved mental health.

New York Times article “Nutrition: Lower Depression Risk Linked to Mediterranean Diet” highlights aspects of the Mediterranean diet that are play a role in staving off depression.  Included in the list of essential components of the diet are “fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil and fish.” Scientists emphasize the role that healthy fats play in neurotransmitter funtioning, noting that the membranes of neurons are essentially fat, and thus depend directly on a diet with a high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fats.

As with all research results, looking at methods with a critical eye is important.  This particular study does not prove a correllation per se, but rather an association between nutrition and lower risk of depression.  It is virtually impossible to create an empirical study that eliminates outside variables.  With this in mind, this study provides yet another association between nutrition and well being, consistent with research being done gloabally.

This article drew my attention for several reasons.  First and foremost, nutrition is a cornerstone at Pacific Quest.  We recognize the importance that diet plays in well being, as we have observed this first hand (with the students and ourselves!).  Secondly, the aspects of the Mediterranean diet noted in the research results is remarkably similar to the diet our naturopath created for PQ students.  In fact, PQ students rely on fruits, veggies, nuts, legumes, and fish as a major part of their diet.  They eat olive oil too, however, coconut oil is the primary source of oil – and it is local too!