Table for One in the Age of Self-Care

There was a time when restaurants in big cities like New York, Chicago, or Dallas hesitated to offer an unaccompanied woman a table during evening dinner. Eating alone was a no-no — how the times have changed. It is common nowadays for men and women to eat alone without shame. Some practitioners of this trend see it as a reward to self, appreciating the moment’s solitude with the tasty meal before them.

Key takeaways:
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    It’s no longer taboo to dine alone.
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    Sit at the bar or counter — it’s meant to accommodate single patrons.
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    Mobile devices, a book, or people-watching are good solo activities when eating alone.

It’s not that way anymore

In recent years, solo dining has increased steadily throughout the world. Finding the time to check off everything on a to-do is getting harder and harder. Dining alone is convenient and can be enjoyed in these fast-moving and chaotic times. For example, in South Korea, it’s a growing trend; they’ve even coined a term for it — “Honbab” (eating alone). The Institution of Food Technologists (IFT) in Chicago reports that 40% of restaurant patrons dine alone. Furthermore, the Mintel Press Office states a third of Europeans frequently eat alone.

The reasons for eating alone vary from a busy life to a sometimes unique opportunity for solitude. One big culprit for making it more comfortable to dine alone is the mobile device; they help diners look occupied. Without the interaction factor, people can choose to zone out, people-watch, or read.

Party for one

Most people find themselves in a situation where they have to eat alone — sooner or later. As trendy as solo dining is, some people still dread it. For some, it’s intimidating, uncomfortable, and embarrassing. Regardless, it’s a good idea to become comfortable with it — though lone dining may take some getting used to. One may begin with a mindset adjustment; eating alone is no longer unusual or taboo. Other recommendations that might help:

  • Solo dining at lunchtime, there are usually other single diners, so it isn’t as intimidating.
  • Go before or after peak business hours, with fewer diners; wait staff are usually more attentive.
  • Sit at the counter or bar instead of a table.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask the waiter for a better table, like one by a window.
  • Treat yourself to a fancy dessert or cocktail.

The experience becomes less intimidating with repetition. Learning to be with yourself can reflect versatility and sophistication and be a confident booster; plus, it’s a chance to create your adventure.

The benefits of eating alone

There are many good points to eating alone for self-care. That hour or two once a week to regroup can be priceless for your well-being. It can restore focus and helps to soothe the mind and soul after a long or rough week. Solitude restores calm and quiet to the brain, making room for new thoughts and creativity. Other convincing advantages:

  • You make the choices.
  • A leisure meal: take your time.
  • Explore a new cuisine.
  • Me Time.
  • You earned this.
  • Enjoy the environment — sights and sounds.
  • Great company —you.

The drawbacks of eating alone

Eating alone removes the social interaction aspect. Meals generally bring people together for good food and nurturing relationships with family and friends. The desire to bond and create a memory is innate in humans. Therefore, if someone has to eat alone by default and not by choice, more often than not, it can lead to detrimental consequences.

Research on the drawbacks warns that dining alone too often can lead to physical and mental health problems. Being a recluse can lead to unhealthy habits like overeating, not watching portion control, and poor food choices. These habits can result in obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Furthermore, routinely dining alone might lead to loneliness, and low self-esteem, possibly resulting in depression. Health professionals recommend balancing the number of times a person eats alone versus dining with friends or family.

Some ideas to counter the habit of eating alone include inviting friends for lunch. Also, attend organized lunch gatherings like a church social or potluck or join colleagues after office hours to break the monotony of dining alone. Don’t be shy about creating an excuse to come together and partake in delicious food with friends or family.

It’s not uncommon to walk by a person sitting alone at a table enjoying lunch or dinner while scrolling their mobile phone or reading a book. It can demonstrate an ability to be alone without being lonesome. Sometimes it’s done for the sheer pleasure of a meal without interruptions, to recharge the mind, or just for convenience. However, too much social isolation, including meals, is not recommended either. Physical and mental outcomes might be harmful in the long run. Choosing to eat alone or accompanied offers the best of both worlds.

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