What We Eat When We Eat Alone

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Table for one: how eating alone is radically changing our diets

Lone meals are more likely to be sandwiches, breakfast cereal not just at breakfast , soup, and eggs; compared with, the nearly always, sociable occasions where roasts, curries, stews and fry-ups are served. However, those who live alone are more likely to cook for their lone meals and are less resentful of doing so. They also spend longer eating them, suggesting at least two different forms of eating alone depending on domestic circumstances.

Analysis of eating experiences from qualitative interviews allow for more colourful interpretation. In line with our survey results, people commonly report morning meals as solitary affairs conducted in a hurry. This is explained by a context of early starts due to long commutes, kids who need somehow to be transported to school beforehand, and the staggered work routines, which dual-earner families deploy to coordinate these journeys. Anthony, a freelance teacher in Preston, devours a yoghurt standing up at 6am while his partner, who starts later, lies in.

Charlotte a therapist from London, feeds then drops her rather fussy, she admits child off at school, then scoffs her toast in the car on the way to work. Bridget, a part-time local government administrator, has four different types of breakfast to prepare, as well as eating hers, and on the days she works four different destinations to reach, all before 9am. The possibility of a shared meal under certain conditions, then, is not enticing. At work few interviewees regularly eat with their colleagues.

Many of those in offices eat at their desks, and continue working through lunch — two said they would go for walks afterwards to escape the office, preferring to use their break to leave the working environment entirely rather than spend it with others in the same position. Again, with lunch breaks short in length the implication is that in many workplaces there is little to synchronise with , often no appealing dedicated space to eat, and company one might rather avoid than deliberately engage with!

However, the survey data and interviews both show that lunches shared sociably with colleagues are much more common for one-person households.

20 Foods to Eat And Avoid on an Empty Stomach

The dynamics of work and the time-space demands of the morning rush create situations where eating together is difficult and hardly worthwhile. The phenomenon seems partially explained by respondents from multiple person households prioritising the evening meal as a family occasion, truncating other eating occasions in the day. Of those living with others, nine out of ten people surveyed eat an evening meal with companions. Yet these occasions rarely conform to the ideal of the bourgeois family dinner, with all the members of the household enjoying interactions over a shared meal around a table.

See a Problem?

Households with children usually have consecutive meals, with kids eating first, often with one adult — either home-maker or the one working fewer or earlier hours, the other arriving later to eat the same food some time afterwards. Often meals become shared through a form of bridging — one member sitting with a latecomer, remaining available until the latter concludes their meal. This is regularly facilitated through the television, which can conveniently be ambient and ignored, a source of distraction and entertainment, or a mixture of both, where programmes are interrupted for interaction and chitchat.

The sharing of meals with others is thus tenuous, fragile and a patchwork. No longer is a home-cooked meal the only way to get comfort food.

'What We Eat When We Eat Alone' by Deborah Madison

Now you can find frozen entrees and fast food with the same taste as a homemade meal, but with fewer nutrients and more artificial ingredients. There are also dietary patterns that tend to occur with isolated eating such as stress eating and binge eating. Without social influence people tend to engage in behaviors they would normally refrain from if they were in the presence of friends and family.

So if eating alone is associated with poorer dietary habits, what does the research show about eating with others? In short, communal eating not only activates beneficial neurochemicals, but also improves digestion.

Should you eat alone?

The dining table provides an opportunity for conversation, storytelling, and reconnection. When you bond with others and experience a sense of connection, endogenous opioids and oxytocin are released that stimulate pleasant feelings. The neurochemical changes lead to improved well-being and contentedness.

Even more promising is the effect of social connection and a healthy diet on telomere length, a marker that indicates your rate of aging. Telomere length has been shown to be positively associated with a healthy diet in a study published in in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

  1. America: Hope for Change.
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She advises skipping processed fare think frozen dinners or Ramen cups and saving hundreds of calories and dozens of grams of fat in the process by cooking for yourself see slide show for ideas. Just make sure to double-check your portions.


Then they ended up eating some of that extra oatmeal, which led to weight gain. If you view it as a pleasurable event, you'll be more inclined to make healthful choices. ForbesWoman Asks: Do you find yourself eating alone more than you'd like?

What's your private go-to menu, and where do you tend to dine? Please share your views and join the conversation in our ForbesWoman LinkedIn group , where our readers can respond to your comments. Enjoy this story? Keep reading at ForbesWoman.

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