Food & Drink

Don’t Pity People Who Eat Alone

Science says they eat better.
IMAGE FLICKR/Jonny Hunter
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We concede that society has heaped study after study of the negative effects of eating alone: It’s bad for your mental health, it’s bad for the planet, it leads to depression, and more. But it’s about time people stopped taking pity on solo eaters.

Do you know what else eats alone? Jaguars. If you tried approaching an eating jaguar out of pity, you’d probably become part of its meal. That’s exactly what would happen the next time you choose to grace a person eating alone with your unsolicited presence. For one thing, they like eating alone, for another, science says they eat better, too.

A 2006 study published in Physiology & Behavior concludes people who eat alone eat healthier. According to the study, people ate 18 percent more when they’re with friends, and 14 percent more when they’re watching television.

Another takeaway of the study is that people who eat alone in a cafeteria, restaurant, or office are more likely to pay attention to what they’re eating: its flavors, its nutritional content, its appearance. More important, they don’t overeat. 

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There is also the case of mimicry when eating. In a study published in 2012 in the online journal Plos One, it was found that people who ate with others find themselves copying the eating habits of other people. For example, if someone drinks a lot of water, you might find yourself also drinking more water. If someone enjoys eating more rice, you’ll find yourself helping yourself to an extra serving of rice. This leads to everybody gaining weight.

There is a difference between eating alone and having to eat all by yourself: Not all solo eaters are lonely, and many of them actually love the solitude of going solo. There is a truth that solo eaters have long figured out: To eat what you truly want, and to really enjoy it, eat alone. 

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Mario Alvaro Limos
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