Eating Alone. Is it Good, Sad or a Secret?

Eating Alone. Is it Good, Sad or a Secret?
Claudette Pelletier-Hannah

Because my husband is away I actually went to a grocery store and have been cooking dinner for myself. It’s not that he has always taken care of me like this, but he’s newly retired and, well, I’m still working, and at higher risk of Covid-19 than he is.

Consequently, on the first trip in a long time to the grocery store I was reminded of all the things I really like to eat that hubby hasn’t been bringing home, like: eggplant, zucchini, hummus, tofu and fresh mint. He doesn’t bring them home because they aren’t on the list and – he doesn’t like them. So what did I buy? You guessed it!

With hubby away I get to eat just what I want when I want. Obviously, what I want is quite different than what he wants to eat and vice verse. There’s no consulting. No sacrificing. I’m enjoying this, at least for the short term.

Now if you eat alone because you live alone you might agree, or it might make you feel sad. Maybe it’s a daily reminder that your nest is empty. Just so you know, that doesn’t mean or say anything about you being lovable or worthy or anything else. It only means that you eat and live alone. Period. Anything else is a story you’re creating about what it means.

Now if eating alone means you’re scarfing down your third ice-cream bar in the dark because you’re ashamed to be seen, that’s yet another scenario. Let’s see if I can help you get out of the closet.

Here are a few suggestions:
• Don’t judge yourself. Self-acceptance will yield far less damage than self-loathing.
• Put this problem in perspective. You’re not an ax murderer. You overeat.
• Take responsibility. Sitting at a table in view of others owns up to the problem vs. acting like there isn’t one.
• Practice other ways of coping and releasing stress. Some strategies are personal, but there are some things that are universally helpful, like: exercise, being in nature and deep breathing.
• Be fully present instead of tuning out. No reading, watching TV or playing with your phone while you eat. You can say out loud, “I’m taking this ice-cream bar out of the freezer and I’m going to eat it. I’m unwrapping it now. I’m taking a bite off the very tip….” Eat it very slowly and mindfully. I’m going to repeat that. Eat it VERY slowly and mindfully, as you continue to acknowledge exactly what you’re doing, tasting, and feeling – without judgment.

Often the whole purpose of overeating is to tune out, to disassociate, to get away from it all, to not feel something uncomfortable. As scary as that might seem, your feelings won’t kill you, but a lot of ice cream could have a devastating effect.

• Reach out. Being present can bring up some strong feelings. If it feels safe, stay with the feelings and allow them to move through you. That could be healing. If it doesn’t feel safe, feel free to get professional help. You deserve that. We all need help with certain things.

Hubby returns home tonight. I need help. Any dinner ideas?