There is no shame in eating alone


Emily Wong

Rather than feeling embarrassed or isolated, we should enjoy eating alone.

Emily Wong, Journey Manager

Have you ever stopped to think about how odd it is to feel the need to eat quickly or hide in the corner when eating alone? Why do we feel so self-conscious or even embarrassed when we don’t have the company of others to dine with at a meal? There’s really no need to do that because there’s no shame in eating alone! 

According to a survey conducted by nypost, about 68% of Americans “look forward to eating alone.” I find surprising since based on my personal experience, I rarely see tables around me seated with just one person. Even if those seated at a table together are busy on their phones and eating without a conversation, it seems as if people would rather eat with someone rather than alone, even if there is little to no interaction between them. Furthermore, in my highschool with over 3,000 students, I always see only a couple of students eating alone during lunch, seeming uneasy and nervous that they are by themselves. Rather, I see clusters of silent students quietly eating their lunch or finishing their homework in small groups. Though some students seem to want some alone time, they seem afraid to take a step away from their group. So if over half of Americans prefer to eat alone, why do most students at my school feel reluctant to eat alone at lunch?

Though many at heart feel more comfortable eating alone than with others, the stigma of eating alone holds them back, heavily influencing people of all ages, especially young adults, to feel the need to eat with others whenever out in public. In a community where eating with a group of friends is highly encouraged, oftentimes students or even adults are afraid to step out of this societal expectation and eat by themselves out in public. Self-deprecating thoughts arise when people start to feel self-conscious of the fact they aren’t eating with others at the moment, when everyone else in the room is not dining alone.

Yes, it’s terrifying to be one of the few, if not the only person to break that societal expectation in a room full of groups of people, however it is a step I believe everyone should take. Though eating with others promotes socialization, eating alone also comes with its own benefits, which apply to not just introverts, but to any individual. Just because you aren’t sharing a meal with another, doesn’t mean you don’t have friends, it doesn’t mean you can’t socialize, and it definitely does not mean that you are truly “alone.”

Being alone doesn’t equate to being lonely as you can still enjoy your meal by yourself out in public, without having to converse with another individual when you’re at a table all by yourself. As long as you feel satisfied with your meal and are able to enjoy your own company, then why should you be afraid to eat alone more often in public?

Instead, eating alone can serve as a time for self-care and recharging. Rather than focusing on others during a meal, you get this time to think about yourself, focusing on both your mental and physical health. Not that people don’t do this when eating with others, but we often limit ourselves when we’re with others, hoping to appeal to their preferences and not just our own. Now that we don’t have others to affect our choices, we get this alone time to truly focus on ourselves. Eating alone promotes happy food choices- you can treat yourself to your favorite foods, whether that be desserts or healthy food! Whatever choice you make, you prioritize yourself and value your desires above others, all of which boosts your mental health. 

While eating alone isn’t highly encouraged in America, it is in Asia. Japan has their own restaurants for those dining solo. The ramen restaurant ICHIRAN allows customers to enjoy their meals in solo dining booths – one booth for each person. As the restaurant describes themselves, these solo stalls are  “designed to allow [you] to focus on the flavors of your bowl with minimal distractions…[and were] created in response to the many distractions and loud surroundings of a typical ramen restaurant.”

America too should readdress eating alone in a positive light. Eating alone should boost self-confidence and not hinder it. It’s great to spend time with friends and family over a meal, however it is just as wonderful to take time for yourself when eating your favorite meals. Next time you ever feel the slightest bit of discomfort when eating alone in public, just remember that you should be proud to take that step over society’s strict boundaries, because there is no shame in eating alone!