Who’s in your tribe? (And why you need one)



Eating Tribal

“Tribal eating” means sharing food with people you would consider to be in your tribe.

For me, that means going to the doctor’s dining room for lunch. I get to spend time with people who are working with me to extend the lives of the sickest people in our community. We talk about patients, but also about community events and experiences. I always learn something.

I could eat my lunch privately in my office, and certainly get nourished and catch up on my charting. But there is a component of eating that must be communal. Sharing food with friends is an important part of living a long and satisfying life.

Eating should be a joyful experience that you share with your tribe. Being invited to someone’s home for dinner is an especially important act of community and tribal eating that I really like to do.

I have had some of my patients ask me, “Is it most important that I share exactly the same food as others? Or just that I am sharing a meal with friends?”

I never used to like to bring my own food to the table when I was invited to a meal at another’s home or office, even when I knew that the meal wouldn’t fit my preferences. Often, I was stuck eating foods I didn’t want to eat because I felt funny bringing my own.

However, I think when someone is sharing my table at lunch or inviting me to their home for dinner, they are most interested in dining with me, rather than sharing their food with me.

In fact, in the doctor’s dining room, there are several different entrées to choose from. I’m often eating with a group of people with entirely different choices on their plates. As it turns out, tribal eating doesn’t have to do with the food as much as the community experience that brings us to the table to share a meal.

I’ve transitioned, just this year, into the person who is willing to bring my own food to a communal table. We are all eating together, even though we’re eating different things.

I don’t choose to see eating communally as another opportunity to spread the word about healthy living, although I do take note of what individuals choose to eat and the patterns that emerge with their overall health. I’m sure that others note the same thing about my choices and my waistline.

Most importantly, I get an opportunity to share and learn with members of my tribe, and enrich my own life because of it. I’m grateful for the opportunities I get to share mealtime with my tribe. Now, with my new concept of bringing my own food to the table, I won’t have to compromise my own health or my values for that experience.

At the same time, don’t get too tied up in perfection. Eating tribally means eating with your community. That may involve you putting aside your lifestyle goals for an evening and enjoying your tribe, regardless of the food that’s being served. When I’m invited to a special event like a wedding or birthday party, I eat the food. I don’t insist that special measures are taken to assure that the food meets my needs. I am grateful to be invited.

Make your own choices about how you eat within your community, and recognize that your choices can shift and be modified based on your goals and your flexibility.

Dr. Mary Clifton likes to eat with others, especially when they bring hummus. Look forward to newsletters, webinars, recipes, and cutting edge willpower improvement skills from the Reset Revolution Team. We’re glad to see you at this table!



In 1921, a Stanford psychologist named Lewis Terman recruited 1,500 elementary school children to a study intended to last their lifetime. He followed the subjects until his death in 1956, where colleagues picked up the work until 1990. Then they crunched the numbers to see what leads to longevity.

One caveat here, you beautiful reader. This is a psychological study, not a nutrition study. Good psychology doesn’t trump a healthy diet, and you can’t make up for horrible relationships with dark green leafy veggies, either.

The sage old advice of working less, avoiding stress and exercising hard, turns out to be just bad advice. Here’s the real scoop.

  1. Have more fun in bed. It’s been long known that married men get a longevity benefit compared to singles. Women who spend more time being intimate with their husbands or who had a higher number of orgasms often lived longer, too.
  2. Men and women who liked to lend a hand, the people who folks turned to for advice, lived the longest. It’s what you do for your friends and family that counts, not the other way around.
  3. De-stress by working toward a goal. Subjects that persevered toward accomplishment despite high levels of stress and responsibility lived longer than the people with a more balanced lifestyle.
  4. Exercise moderately. Vigorous exercise is fun and challenging, but long walks, bike rides and moderate swimming are just as important to your survival. People were more inclined to stick with a moderate exercise program for a longer time, too.
  5. Too much optimism may leave you ill-prepared to deal with the inevitable bad outcome, such as trauma or illness. Be ready for the unexpected potholes along the road.


Stepmoms and Mother’s Day

By Dr. Mary Clifton

There are 15 million U.S. stepmothers who have stepchildren under the age of 18. Preparing this article about the trials and rewards of being a stepmother reminded me of preparing to start a diet.

When you first start a diet, your expectations and hopes are on overdrive. You imagine yourself losing pound after pound, melting away before everyone’s eyes, getting so thin that people worry you’ve become sick, or taken up modeling.

Similarly, when you first meet your stepchildren, a stepmother imagines a close, loving relationship.

It turns out that only 20% of stepchildren feel close to their stepmothers.

You can’t force or control anyone to make them love you, or even like you. All stepfamilies, and many situations involving poor health and weight gain, are formed from some type of grief and loss. There are so many factors that influence the situation – the family dynamics, the duration of stability or instability, and a host of many other subtle factors – it would actually take a lifetime to consider and balance and finally integrate. THEN they might like you.

If there is one day of the year that can trigger either elation or sadness for a stepmom, it’s Mother’s Day. Stepmoms feel all the pain, frustrations, financial strain, and difficulty of being a parent, but sometimes none of the rewards or joy. This holiday may reinforce a unique type of loneliness. This loneliness may be part of the reason why divorce rates for second marriages hover at 60 to 75%.

If you are feeling lonely or disconnected on Mother’s Day, treat yourself to a long hike. Hold your hand over your heart and feel your chest rise and fall with your respirations. Meditate on being a good friend to your stepchild. Kids already have a mom, however faulty or absent or incompetent she may be.

However, each and every person on this planet could use a really good friend. Instead of trying to be a mom or expecting to be honored like a mom, just consider yourself a really good friend. Consistent attempts to do the best by your little friend and putting your best foot forward in their presence will return in abundance.

I dated a fellow for many years that used this approach with my daughter, and it taught me an important lesson about setting expectations. At one point, a situation was escalating in intensity between them, and he told my daughter that he wasn’t her father. Nor would he ever be. Nor did he even want to be. She already had a father. He was just trying to be a good friend.

I felt hurt by his comments, but when I looked at my daughter, she looked oddly calm and serene. The boundaries of their relationships were established at that moment, and they’ve been pals ever since.

Like weight loss, if you have reasonable expectations and implement a series of actions, you can often achieve much more than you expect. Being a good friend with low expectations may be the shortest distance to a calm and serene state of mind, as you stepmother, as well as in any other journey you encounter in your life.

Posted on by Mary Clifton, MD

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