September 2015

The Devolution of Dinner By Robin Miller, MD MHS

I have noticed that over the last several years, dinner has changed. As I look around in restaurants, and even at my own home at times, rather than talk, people are often sucked into their phones. My favorite thing to do with my children and husband is to get them off their phones by texting them to put it down.

Beyond being rude, it has curtailed meaningful discussions. More disturbing is what it is doing to American family dinners, which are significant for the development of healthy children and families. A recent study found that when moms used their cellphones at dinner, there were twenty percent fewer verbal and thirty-nine percent fewer nonverbal interactions with their children.

Research has found that the family dinner is important for helping to develop healthy behaviors.  Lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, depression, and high grade-point averages and self-esteem can all be attributed to regular family meals. Studies have also found that dinner conversation is even more important for boosting vocabulary than reading. Researchers counted the number of rare words that families used during dinner conversation. Children learned 1000 rare words compared to 143 from parents reading storybooks aloud.  A large vocabulary enhances reading skills.

Unfortunately, the average American eats one in every 5 meals in the car. Twenty-five percent eat at least one fast food meal every day, and the majority of families eat a single meal together less than five days a week.  When we do eat together, many are missing out on incredible opportunities to connect with each other.

It is time to plan regular meals, and put down the phone. Look at your children and connect with them.  Listen to them, engage them, and the odds are you will have a healthier family, and a lot more fun. There is a term my son taught me about the feeling that Facebook often elicits.  The term is FOMO or fear of missing out.  When it comes to Facebook, smartphones, and the web, if you get sucked into them during family dinners, the main things you are legitimately missing out on are the most important people and interactions of your life.







How To Avoid Shlepper Shoulder By Robin Miller, MD MHS

When I was growing up, my grandmother had a huge, heavy handbag. The reason I know this is because I was the designated shlepper of that handbag. Since that time, handbags have become purses and have gone through many size changes. We have seen the tiny purses; the medium purses, the backpack purses and we are now all lugging around the huge, heavy purses or handbags (which are really shoulder bags!) again. The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Designers are combining purses with computer bags, which can weigh up to ten pounds. As a result, doctors have been diagnosing women with shoulder strain because they are schlepping these bags. This can cause permanent shoulder damage and chronic pain. If women can keep their posture aligned while carrying their heavy bags, they have fewer problems. Those that do have shoulder pain may find relief with the use of anti-inflammatory medication, massage and physical therapy.

Now that children are back to school, they will be carrying very heavy backpacks. In the interest of looking cool, many will be throwing them over their shoulder.  This can cause injury.  It is important that you instruct them to wear them properly. The backpacks are to be worn with two padded shoulder straps or pulled on rollers.

As for you, if you are a busy woman who keeps her closet, computer, and spare shoes in her purse, the best way to prevent this problem is to change things up. Keep your purse light and change the weight and size of the purse frequently. Be sensible and prevent “shlepper shoulder” today!



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