Eating alone is not something that humans are used to doing. Our ancestors, the cavemen and cavewomen, did the hunting and the eating together. We evolved as social creatures, and since then we have assigned the sociality to eating. Cultures have built their cuisines around the dining tables, with plates to share and food to enjoyed together. Therefore the solo diner is often looked down upon, or more accurately, furtively glanced at, with a bit of pity, and sometimes, contempt.
So – what happens to our modern lifestyles where most of the times we have to eat alone? We know that breakfasts and lunches are often eaten alone, with the exception of “free food” sometimes masked as work lunches. And surprisingly many dinners now are eaten alone too, badly devoured sometimes when one’s still at the desk in the office (just bad, I have to tell you, for your mental wellbeing as well as your waistline), or in front of Netflix (another bad habit) or, in the late night, when one’s secretly gulping down a chocolate bar or a McDonalds because “I was so stressed today”.
Our lives and routines today require us to eat alone. It is inevitable and should not be treated as a subject that raises concern. So what do one do when one eats alone – either in the comfort of home or at a restaurant?
1. Watch your speed
If you notice, meals when shared often have a healthy “flow” of going back and forth between you and your company. Either you share a dish, or even if you each enjoy your dish it is more likely you will chat about it, slotting in the intervals and the mini breaks between eating. Eating alone is stripped off of that. No more back and forth, no more tidbits of conversations between bite sizes of food. Just be mindful of this and slow down our eating and even taking breaks between dishes, your tummy will thank you for that.
2. Keep an eye on portion size
Do you know that portion size is on the rise? Over the past 30 years restaurants, retailers, markets… have increased portion size and been charging more for it. So in a way, yes, we grow bigger and stronger (if we always eat healthily and exercise and keep our stress levels under control and have absolutely no hormonal problems whatsoever but who does that?) but in reality we only grow fatter and spend way more on food. Eating alone takes away the opportunity to share plates, and you will without doubt find you are eating more of whatever it is being served or that delicious dish you have cooked, because you don’t want food to go to waste.
I know – all eyes are on you! Breakfast and lunch in a cafe is okay, but dinner at a restaurant, where all tables around have families or couples locked in an invisible embrace over the table – you will feel the pressure. Relax, and focus on how tasty your food is, how nice it feels to sit there, because if you don’t relax, you can’t digest, you will have an upset tummy and a hard time sleeping at night, which just feeds you more stress, sorry.
4. Strike a conversation
Many times when I eat alone in restaurants people will leave me in peace (especially if I bring my book or magazine – I try to limit the use of phones because I know it’ll give me indigestion). But sometimes another person will decide to talk to me – or I to them. And conversations with someone outside your normal everyday circle – albeit just a one-timer – are still good and healthy. Chat up, talk about the meal, talk about the book you are reading, or if you are traveling then talk about the trip. It’ll spice things up.
I like eating alone especially because it gives me the freedom to do what I want before and after a meal. I can decide whenever I want to sit down and eat, what I want to order, and what I want to do after the meal. All too often when you dine with other people the after-meal thing to do will be desserts or drinks and for me that is something not high on the priority list. I like a good walk after a meal, some fresh air and time and space for the food to go down. So even if you have failed to watch your speed, control your portion or relax, you can still always go for a walk after that big, “solitary” meal you’ve just had 🙂
So chin up when you say “Just one please!” because another day, you might say “Table for two” or “Can I reserve a large table for 10?” Haha!