Note: Learn more about the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program here or at www.amihungry.com.
Last week I saw an article about the “solution” to dining solo: a website for women who are traveling by themselves to connect, so they can eat together in restaurant and thereby avoid the dreaded prospect of eating alone.
Why is this idea so horrible that it needs a “solution”? According to one woman, she worries that others will judge her on her presumed status, thinking that she’s a “sad, lonely spinster” or someone out to “pick up a man”. Another woman said she overheard others commenting on the fact that it was too bad she was on vacation alone.
But what particularly caught me is that some women simply won’t eat if they don’t have company.
It makes me wonder what relationship these women have with food, and with themselves. As Dr. May pointed out in a recent “Am I Hungry?” newsletter, “Whether eating by yourself conjures up boredom, embarrassment, anticipation, or fear, it gives you a little hint about the state of your relationship with food.”
That’s certainly true for me. The only times that I’ve been worried about what other people think of how I’m eating, or didn’t eat because I was afraid of what they’d think, was when I was heavy. I was so ashamed of myself that I didn’t want to put myself in a position where others would see me.
In an odd way, perhaps that gives me an advantage. I now realize that most people are far too concerned about themselves to worry about what’s going on with me as a complete stranger. And if for some reason they want to notice what I’m doing, it doesn’t bother me. I’m happy with myself - why should I worry what some random person in a restaurant thinks? I suspect I would laugh if I overheard someone talking about me. Are their own lives so dull that they have to pick apart others? And why aren’t they focusing on enjoying their own food and company?
What the article also made me realize is that in all my travels by myself, both for work and vacation, I’ve never hesitated to go to a fancy restaurant to eat alone. In fact, often I prefer it to going out with other business people and having to be “on” and talk shop.
What I like about it is that when I’m alone, I can be completely absorbed in the experience. I admire the table settings, the presentation of the food, the atmosphere, the aromas. I can eat at my own pace, not waiting for anyone else or making anyone wait for me. Without having to keep a conversation going, I can focus on the food itself, the tastes and textures, and how (hopefully) delicious it is. As Dr. May recommends, I try to have a date with my food.
That being said, it can sometimes be nice to have company if you are traveling alone, and this might be a good option, even offering the possibility of making a new friend, which isn’t a bad thing. My only concern is that if a woman is so afraid of eating alone that she would rather go hungry, there’s much more to worry about than what others are thinking of her.