How to enjoy eating alone

eating alone

When you live on your own, you may feel that you will never learn how to enjoy eating alone, especially if you are used to huge family dinners around the dining room table. The steady flow of chatter about the day’s events is replaced by an intimidating silence. I generally enjoy my own company and I am not afraid of being alone but at first I found the silence quite overwhelming.

Family dinners may be over-rated

Family dinners are often the one time in the day when all members of the family sit down together. This is why they tend to have so much significance for most families.  Professors Ann Meier and Kelly Musick have discovered that their importance is possibly over-rated. Their findings suggest that the effect of family dinners on children depend on the extent to which parents use the time to engage with them. It is not the meals themselves that matter so much as the extent to which the family connects and communicates while eating.  Many families today do not even sit down at the table to eat together but sit around the TV instead. The fact is that not all family dinners are created equal. For some families they may be the highlight of the day but for others they may be fraught with arguments or lack of communication.

Does eating have to be a social experience to be enjoyed?

Eating is always presented as a social experience. We use food to celebrate all major occasions and there is no doubt that eating together with others is one of the most enjoyable experiences we can have. Food and socializing so often goes together that it is difficult to imagine really enjoying eating alone. If eating an evening meal with the whole family seated around the table was the highlight of your day, it’s understandable that eating alone just does not measure up. However, when you can’t do anything about it and you are forced to eat on your own, its preferable to find ways to try and enjoy the experience.

Are there ways I can improve the experience of eating alone?

Yes, here are just 5 tips for making the experience more pleasurable.

  • Expensive foods that you once avoided because of the cost for a big family, become affordable for one. A piece of steak or salmon are nutritious options that are easy to prepare. Here is a great recipe to try for spicy salmon with caramalized onions.
  • Prepare in advance.  If all the recipes you have collected over the years are for four or more, you can still use them. Make food for four and then freeze as portions for one. When you’re feeling lazy to cook for yourself, just reach into the freezer and pull out a healthy meal.
  • Turn on some music. Background music will help you to relax and aid digestion.
  • Try out new recipes and rediscover food your family did not enjoy. You no longer have to cater to the tastes of others and are completely free to experiment. I have discovered that I love curries.  I avoided cooking them for years because my children would not eat them.
  • Sit in a different spot. There is no rule that says you have to sit and eat at the table. I feel silly sitting at my large table on my own. I sit on my porch with my lunch and enjoy looking out at my garden. At night I tend to sit in front of the TV with my meal on a tray and often enjoy a glass of wine.

Maybe you are one of those people who never gets used to eating alone. Just remember that many people today are forced to do so, for one reason or another, and there are far worse situations to have to handle. Just because you eat alone, does not mean that you should feel sorry for yourself, eat unhealthily  or stop enjoying your food.  It also makes you really appreciate those times when you do have the opportunity to eat together with others. I never ever turn down an invitation to eat out!

Dining out alone

At first I was extremely self-conscious when going to a restaurant on my own after being part of a couple for 32 years. I imagined that everyone was staring at me and taking pity on me. I discovered that my laptop or a book was a wonderful piece of armour.  I have found that it’s perfectly acceptable to sit alone in coffee bars or restaurants and I am never the only one sitting there on my own with my coffee and my laptop.  Of course this is not a sociable activity but I find it pleasant to write in such a setting sometimes instead of always working in my home office. At least I can sneak peaks at all the activity around me.

I have only eaten out once on my own in the evening and I felt far too self-conscious to enjoy it. Other solo diners mention that it helps to sit at the bar or at a Sushi counter where it’s easier to start up a conversation with others. I was seated at a rather conspicuous table which was probably why I felt the way I did. I would like to feel free to dine out alone in the evening, focusing on the deliciousness of what I am eating instead of the stares of neighbouring diners. I would like to have the experience of tasting new foods, eating at my own pace and savouring every mouthful without having to wait for friends to invite me to go with them. One of the plus factors about dining alone is that you may have no one to share with but you also have no one to judge you on your order.

I know that just because I am eating out alone does not necessarily make me a loser. After all, I have noticed plenty of couples eating out who do not say one single word to eachother. Other diners spend all their time on their cell phones. I have come to the conclusion that many people are eating alone anyway, rather than together. Even as I convince myself with this sound logic, I still feel odd about doing it.  Perhaps you are an old hand at dining alone. If so, I would love you to comment and share your tips on how to make it a good experience.

 

17 Comments

  1. Branka

    Hi! I found this article very touching. I Don’t have experience but I believe this kind of situation can be very hard, mostly emotionally. Of course, every situation has new and different opportunities and positive aspects. It is very nice that you are shining a light on those. I really enjoyed this post! Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Erica (Post author)

      Thank you so much Branka for your encouraging comment. Its true that we can find the positive in whatever situation we are in.

      Reply
  2. Angela

    what a nice website, I enjoyed the article on eating along. It happens to many people with the changes in our families such as kids moving out (or in) spouses no longer in the picture, or for me simply that my husband and I work different shifts, so it makes it hard to eat a meal together. I never really thought for myself of being lonely while eating alone, yet you certain brought up some interesting topics and some wonderful tips. thanks.

    Reply
    1. Erica (Post author)

      Thanks Angela, I appreciate your comment. Yes, there are many reasons why people end up eating alone. For some people it is simply because they are at home at different times, like you and your husband. My spouse is no longer around and my children have left home so I have had to find ways to cope with it and make it enjoyable.

      Reply
  3. Diana

    Hey Erica,

    It took me a while, but now I enjoy eating alone. I used to be embarrassed to eat by myself so I would always take my food to go. Now, I embrace it. And like you said; it allows you to eat expensive meals that you couldn’t eat before when you had to pay for a family… especially mine which is a party of five. I also enjoy the silence when eating alone; conversation during a meal causes my food to get cold.

    Cheers,
    Diana

    Reply
    1. Erica (Post author)

      Hi Diana,

      Yes, it can take a while before you get used to eating alone but, like you said, the silence can be enjoyable.

      Reply
  4. Shawn

    How fitting to have run into your article today. This was on my mind all day yesterday.
    I am one who while I do not mind eating in groups occasionally, I really prefer to eat along.
    I have always been this way.
    I want to enjoy my food by myself for the most part and really do not like interruptions in the process.
    I was asking myself if that was weird yesterday but I guess I am not the only one.
    How about you?, What do you prefer?
    Great article by the way 🙂

    Shawn>>

    Reply
    1. Erica (Post author)

      Hi Shawn,

      At first I did not enjoy eating alone at all. However, I have now discovered how good it can be and I don’t think its weird at all! Thanks for your comment.

      Reply
  5. Rawl

    I’m on the verge of an empty nest in about a year. I’ve also blogged about it because it doesn’t have to be devastating.

    I like that you present the advantages to eating alone and the advantages to eating with the family. It is the camaraderie that happens at the dinner table that we benefit from moreso than the food.

    Its good to mention all the great and tasty foods you can eat now that you’re cooking for one. You can splurge a little on crab or lobster.

    Thanks for making an empty nest less intimidating.

    Reply
    1. Erica (Post author)

      Hello Rawl,

      I totally agree that it does not have to be devastating even though it is the end of a certain phase in your life. Look forward to splurging on crab and lobster!

      Reply
  6. Todd

    Excellent recommendations for learning how to enjoy eating alone. When I was a traveling Occupational Therapist, I’d always try to go out and enjoy a nice meal once in a while from wherever I was working.

    Something authentic, part of the culture or area I was working in. But you’re right, making the most out of the situation and enjoying a nice meal out was a way to make up for the lack of dinner companions or family.

    And sometimes you can make some new friends in the process. Great post!

    Reply
  7. Todd

    Excellent recommendations for learning how to enjoy eating alone. When I was a traveling Occupational Therapist, I’d always try to go out and enjoy a nice meal once in a while from wherever I was working.

    Something authentic, part of the culture or area I was working in. But you’re right, making the most out of the situation and enjoying a nice meal out was a way to make up for the lack of dinner companions or family.

    And sometimes you can make some new friends in the process. Great post!

    Reply
    1. Erica (Post author)

      Thanks for the comment Todd. A traveling Occupational Therapist sounds like an amazing job! Yes, life puts you in situations where you don’t always have family around and you need to make the most of it.

      Reply
  8. Kristena Calhoun

    I actually prefer to eat alone even though at this moment there is no such thing in my house. LOL!! I just find that when I eat alone I concentrate more on what I am doing than trying to hurry up and finish eating so that I can have a conversation with the person eating with me. I love the part you added in there about eating with someone at the dinner table is actually overrated. We have a big family and we have never really sat down at the table to eat together because, well, majority of the time not everybody eats at the same time. Parents work late, children have after-school stuff to do, etc., and my children have turned out just fine.

    However, I am going to need advice on how to cook for less people than you are used too. LOL!! I always cook way too much.

    Reply
    1. Erica (Post author)

      I know what you mean Kristena. I always tended to cook way too much when my children left and I ate way too much too because I didn’t want to waste! I gained some extra weight and had to really make an effort to learn how to cook the right portions.

      Reply
  9. Darren

    I’m an introvert and I love being alone. Overtime, you just get used to eating out at a restaurant by yourself or even watching movies by yourself. Don’t really understand why people just hate being their lonesome so much.

    Having a nice bottle of Heineken with steak and potatoes while listening to some music by my lonesome can be an excellent night in.

    Reply
    1. Erica (Post author)

      Thanks for your comment Darren. For me it’s a good white wine and some sushi!

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *