What are good, routine, activities/outings for a family that do not revolve around food/drink/restaurants? Details
September 28, 2012 8:38 AM   Subscribe

I won't be able to eat normally for about a year, my family is supportive, but wants to continue to meet up weekly and would like to make sure I am as comfortable about it as possible.

I've been very overweight my whole adult life, I've decided to take steps to get my health back into my control and am having a weight loss surgery at the end of the month. I'm nervous but excited about the procedure and am very, very lucky to be surrounded by a very carrying and supportive family network.

One of the concerns that has been brought up is that our family bonding time is a weekly dinner out. My parents, my brother, and my family (including a kindergartner) meet almost every Friday and enjoy a meal. I am really hopeful that this won't be a problem for me after the surgery (not that I will be able to eat regularly for quite some time, but emotionally I HOPE that I will still be able to participate).

BUT - my family has already talked a lot about how they want me to tell them if I'm uncomfortable or if it's too hard to just sit there and chat while everyone is eating. They said we could "do something else"

My question is: What are some good ideas that that "something else" could entail? We enjoy movies, but that's not really condusive to visiting and being with each other. What can you do/ where can you go on a regular basis that the focus is on chatting/visiting but doesn't revolve around food.

We're in the VA suburbs of DC, my folks don't like going into the city and don't love things that are loud - also, there is a 5-year-old so it needs to be family friendly.
posted by dadici to Human Relations (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
GAMES! Buy up a big bunch of board games and puzzles and cards and such and sit around the table playing them. It gives your family an activity that everyone can participate in, fight about, and keep them occupied, but it doesn't require a meal.
posted by xingcat at 8:41 AM on September 28, 2012 [20 favorites]

Board game night! There is a whole wide word of amazing board games out there. The five year old may not be ready to play the really fun ones, but I bet they don't love sitting still through a long boring dinner either.

Some favorites over here are dominion, infiltration, euro rails (YMMV, that one's pretty nerdy), small world, seven wonders, puerto rico, and settlers of catan.

Congratulations, and how awesome is your family for being so supportive?! Good luck!
posted by kitarra at 8:43 AM on September 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Bowling is fun, somewhat active and VERY conducive to conversation, albeit conversation that's screamed over the noise of bowling. If you put the bumpers up on one lane, the five year old will have a BLAST.

Hanging out at a coffee house? You can have a decaf chai latte and sit on sofas and listen to the music and chat as well.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:44 AM on September 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

For the rest of your life, you're going to have to restrain your eating 'instincts' while watching other people eat with abandon. Might as well start developing that habit/willpower now, while you're most armed with willpower. Go for dinner.
posted by Kololo at 8:47 AM on September 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

Kololo: "Might as well start developing that habit/willpower now, while you're most armed with willpower."

Not to mention a supporting family! Will make it easier to get used to it before you try to start doing it with friends, business acquaintances, and/or strangers!
posted by Grither at 8:53 AM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Kololo is right to some degree but at the same time, you need to develop new habits that are not based around food. Bowling, board game night and other similar activities are good for socializing without food being the emphasis.

You didn't ask this, but you'll need to do this for a lot of socializing. Stop basing get togethers on food and on fun things to do instead like volunteering, flea market shopping, crafting, classes, etc.
posted by shoesietart at 8:56 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

After the first month you'll be able to eat "normal" food. You won't be able to eat the same portions, but you'll still be able to go out and have soup and salad or a small entree with everyone else.

But everyone is right about developing activities that don't involve food. Go for walks. Take up bowling.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:57 AM on September 28, 2012

Nthing the idea of game night. I think people in the U.S. in particular need to give a lot more thought to the sanity of family time = food. Hikes/walks at local parks might be a nice thing to do, too.

That being said, the other commenters who suggest you go to dinner have a good point too. People who abstain from other substances when their family indulges still show up for family time - and many abstain successfully over long periods of time. Maybe go to dinner sometimes and do game night other times? That way you won't have to cut down on your total family time.
posted by Currer Belfry at 9:04 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I also came to suggest game night. There is a dizzying array of games out there, a good portion of it kid-friendly both in theme and ease of understanding. Also look for card games that are played with special decks. My friends and I (a group of four) love playing Gloom, though that game is limited to four players. The Great Dalmuti is also an excellent game for anywhere from four players and up (though it really is best with six). Additionally, look for "Once Upon a Time" and/or "Mad Scientist University." Those are storytelling games that can either be serious or absurd, mature or fairytale-esque. Fluxx and all the variations thereof is a wonderful game.

Specific board game suggestions: Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan (I personally don't like it, but everyone else seems to be crazy about it), 7 Wonders, Arkham Horror (best for adults due to complicated rules, but an excellent game; maybe include the kid in a couple years when s/he can understand it), Dominion, Cave Troll (an older game for four players), Puerto Rico.

And traditional board games: Clue, Cranium, Taboo, Bananagrams (high-speed Scrabble), Pictionary.

I have also heard good things about a Lego board game. The base rules are simple, but there are loads of additional/alternate rules available online, and I have friends who have had loads of fun just building their own game board.

Look at boardgamegeek.com for further info.
posted by Urban Winter at 9:12 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have serious dietary constraints. When we had team building things at work that involved food and I couldn't eat it, I quietly showed up with my can of diet coke and styrofoam cup of polenta and was chatty and friendly while everyone else ate barbecue. Pretty soon, an obese and perpetually dieting coworker decided there was nothing wrong with bringing her own salad and limiting herself to a single slice of pizza. People stopped being weirded out. Life went on. (And, yes, she began losing more weight after she stopped "politely" eating so much barbecue and pizza.)

I recommend you go to dinner with your celery stick (or whatever works for you) and join the conversation. Deflect excess attention paid to your odd habits. People will eventually get a clue, butt out about your personal quirk and accept it as "normal" that not everyone eats the same.

I have been a role playing gamer. Everyone eats at long games and it is much crappier food than is served at dinner. Junk food heaven, actually (or hell if it is a problem for you). When people gather informally for more than a few minutes, they tend to eat. I wouldn't worry too much about avoiding that. Just deflect the social pressure to eat the same and deflect any excess attention given to your odd habits. I have brought my own diet drinks to social gatherings for years. I quietly explain that I have blood sugar problems and no one ever serves diet coke. No big. No one has ever freaked out on me or tried to insist I drink their stuff.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 9:13 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback so far. RE: Needing to get used to going out. Absolutely I agree, and I totally intend to do that. But what I was more asking (and several of you are answering, thanks!) is about specific activities that don't revolve around food.

My peer-based social time is spent improv-ing and taking photographs, I actually rarely dine with friends, which is kind of serendipitous given my new circumstances, but my folks aren't really into my hobbies per se, so I'm hoping we can all develop healthier patterns and maybe my daughter won't grow up associating "family time/affection"=food.

Love the idea of board games, if people have favorites (we play Catan and Dominion already, used to be huge Clue Master Detective fiends) to reccomend that would be great.

I'd also love any additional ideas that involve getting out of the house - there may not be a ton of great answers, but if you have a quirky one I'd love to hear it!
posted by dadici at 9:14 AM on September 28, 2012

Not year-round, but mini-golf is a lot of fun and social. Make your own pottery. Attending a family-friendly cooking class-- usually small bites for tasting. The kindergartner is going to love this change!
posted by charmcityblues at 9:24 AM on September 28, 2012

Game night is a terrific idea, and let me tell you what we have done/do with the younger players in our lives (like the kindergartener in yours) when the games are just a little over their heads: we have them play on a team with an adult player. The kid gets to play, just like everyone else, but with help from an adult. There's lots of secretive whispering and giggling when the team's turn comes around and the kids LOVE it.

Good luck with your journey, and I'm so glad you have a supportive family!
posted by cooker girl at 9:38 AM on September 28, 2012

Best answer: Awesome, good for you and wonderful of your family!

Game suggestions:
- Set -- Can be played with a large number of people and I have played games that included kindergartners and adults. Quite difficult to play if anyone in your group is color blind.
- Cranium
- Apples to Apples -- There are Junior and Kids versions.
- Blockus
- Anomia
- Fictionary -- Probably best for adults, depending on how far the kindergartner is in developing literacy

It might be fun alternate board game night with a more physical activity (as your family's preferences and mobility allow):
- Bowling
- Mini golf
- Walks in the park
- Catch/frisbee
- Geocaching
- Flying kites
posted by wiskunde at 9:49 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

While the weather is nice, any park with a playground. The kid(s) can run around and the adults can sit on a picnic blanket and chat and enjoy the weather. It's an extremely pleasant way to socialize with other adults when there are children along. The kids drift in and out of the adult conversation and run off a lot of energy.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:53 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A few game suggestions that should be more or less 5 year old friendly:
Spot It
Gulo Gulo
Enchanted Forest
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:14 AM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

You want to get out of the house. Indoors is a plus if you're doing this in winter and/or at night. Unfortunately a public space is generally for-profit, so they need to sell you something to make ends meet. Given that you don't want entertainment (show, movie, etc) you're looking for an activity, otherwise the product is food.
Most activities are too active to be simultaneously socializing, or are great for a one-off but not a sustainable routine... so none of these are as good a suggestion as bowling, but consider: minigolf, rock climbing, laser tag, trampoline places, bumper-car/whirlyball places, ice/roller rink, a dance lessons/social in a club/hall space (ballroom, salsa, folk, etc), paint-your-own pottery studio, umm... hmmm... flip through your local newspaper, look for ads that might give you ideas, and read through your town's event calendars.
You don't mind being around food, but you want it to not be the main point of the evening - keep an eye out for food-based venues that also have an activity: pub trivia night, karaoke, coffeeshops with a shelf full of board games or a big table you can use during their lull hours (dinnertime is often quite empty even if 4pm and 9pm are packed)
posted by aimedwander at 11:23 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Take up a craft! Knitting looks are super easy and you can make something very quickly for one. If you guys really get into it, you could donate hats to a charity or make a big afghan together.
posted by dawkins_7 at 1:44 PM on September 28, 2012

Best answer: Bocce!
Nature walks
Science or other interactive museums
A community garden plot (bonus, fresh veggies!)
Star gazing - bring hot cocoa and blakets in winter
Volunteering as a group. Go do the scut work like scrubbing pots at the soup kitchen
Yard sales, auctions, estate sales - 5 is a good age to start being thrifty. Also you can find super fun stuff.
posted by bilabial at 3:47 PM on September 28, 2012

I came here to say bowling as well. Almost everywhere has it, people can play on any level, it's conducive to conversation, and switching up the teams promotes bonding. Also, skating? Rollerskating? Depending on the season. Even friday night nature walks- or city walks depending on where you live. What does the 5 year old like to do? Bike riding?

I think you should definitely sit down as a family, maybe rotate suggestions. Just going out for a meal is not a good idea because eating will be the focus and there will be some discomfort level there probably for everyone, considering your situation. Weight loss involves lifestyle changes and I think this should probably be one of them.

I really think bowling is the way to go. Or board games.
posted by bquarters at 7:48 PM on September 28, 2012

Check the course catalogs of local community colleges and such. Often they include non-credit courses that run for a few sessions that are appropriate for family groups, including children. This could give you all a new shared interest to pursue together in the future.
posted by Corvid at 2:26 PM on September 29, 2012

Best answer: Hey, Congrats...this move will change your life! Hopefully for the better. I've had weightloss surgery myself, and my advice would be, attending the dinner as per usual will be just fine. You physically won't be able to eat as much, and I promise you won't be missing it. I personally have no problems being at dinner, usually my only problem is I can't finish a meal, so I usually will share with someone or just order a smaller app or salad. I say, go for it, and if it doesn't work out, brainstorm ideas with your family.
posted by ss448 at 7:56 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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