Poor thing! Aw, doesn’t she have anyone to eat with? Must be lonely. What a sad sight…
Eating alone is viewed as a “bad” thing, whether you are eating lunch in a middle school cafeteria or Saturday night dinner. It’s assumed that the person has no one that wants to join them, that they themselves are feeling sad and down, and that we should feel bad for them and their situation. The response of the hostess: “Only you? Just one? Oh ok, this way…” doesn’t help this stigma either.
When people eat alone, they often are multitasking. They bring a book, they’re on their smart phone, they’re doing paperwork. There is something else that makes them (and onlookers) feel more comfortable with their solo dining. If I’m occupied, I won’t get looks of pity and curious glances. If they’re busy, we don’t have to concern ourselves with why they’re alone and whether we should strike up a conversation or invite them to sit with us.
What if eating alone wasn’t an event worthy of condolences, but rather an opportunity for peace, enjoyment, and mindfulness. What is we change our perception and see all the potential in this experience–one can really tune into their hunger and fullness signals, take their time and savor every bite, close their eyes and use all their senses to get the unique nuances of the dish and figure out how it was made, have time for a quiet moment with a delicious meal, be uninterrupted and free from the influence of others’ comments and food choices.
The next time you see someone eating alone, put the pity aside and imagine the wonderful experience that person could have.
The next time you eat alone, put away your phone and leave your book at home. Create the experience that that restaurant, that meal, that forkful wants to give you.
Do you eat alone? Do you find that you are able to eat more mindfully when alone or with others?