By Gwenn Voelckers
With the hustle-bustle of the holidays behind us, January can bring a welcome respite and some nice, quiet time to yourself. Until, of course, all that desirable alone time becomes, well, less desirable.
For those who live alone, dining solo can present one of the biggest challenges.
And it’s no wonder. For most of humanity dining is a social activity. We enjoy sharing our meals with loved ones, friends and colleagues.
So when we find ourselves alone at the dinner hour, it can feel a little uncomfortable, even lonely. It’s not unusual to fill in the awkward silence with distractions: the company of TV, the comfort of a good book or the diversion of a favorite magazine.
Believe me, I’ve been there. I can’t tell you how many of my favorite books contain food crumbs. But I’m not complaining. Good reading material can be a great dining companion. But it represents just one ingredient of the solo dining experience.
While living alone gives us the freedom to dine as we please (one of its many benefits), I don’t recommend eating breakfast for dinner or munching through a bag of Cheetos as a substitute for a healthy, well-balanced meal.
When it comes to eating alone at home, treat yourself as you would treat a good friend you are having over for dinner. Why? Because you are worth it. Because you will feel better about yourself, both physically and emotionally.
When you prepare and enjoy a good meal on your own, you’ll be sending yourself a valuable message: It’s important to take good care of myself and to treat myself with respect. I matter enough to treat — and feed — myself well.
Eating well and right has all kinds of benefits. And what better way to start enjoying those benefits than by creating an inviting “table for one” in your own home. In fact, why not consider the tips below and give it a try today?
• Stock your kitchen with healthy food. It’s so much easier to put a healthy meal on the table when the good stuff is plentiful and the junk food is in short supply. I’m fully aware of my own downfalls (ice cream, nuts, sweets, chips) and do not regularly stock these items in my kitchen.
Instead, I have on hand a good supply of frozen and fresh vegetables, prepackaged salad greens, fruits in season, and single-serve portions of frozen meat and fish. You’ll also find plenty of grab-and-go “power” bars in my pantry for when I’m on the run.
• Indulge your senses. Stimulate your appetite by preparing an item or meal that produces a wonderful, delicious aroma. My secret? I love the scent of sautéed garlic, and jump-start many a solo dining experience with a little butter and garlic in my stove-top skillet.
The aroma invites me into the cooking process and within minutes the worries and stresses of my day start to melt away. I also try to incorporate foods with a variety of textures and color — soft, chewy, crisp, and firm — into each meal. These touches serve to make the dining experience more interesting and pleasant.
• Select the best seat in the house. While eating in front of the TV may be the perfect choice on some occasions, I encourage you to find dining spaces inside or outside your home that may offer more inspiration.
Chances are, you’ll appreciate the change of scenery. Consider that special nook where the sun filters in or that table by the window with the great view. Mix it up, experiment with different settings, and see how much better it feels.
• Set the stage. Create a pleasing table setting and mood: put down a placemat, use a cloth napkin, turn on some enjoyable music, and position a good book, magazine or tablet computer within reach. You might even light a candle. I do.
If you’ve never set the stage like this before, it can feel contrived at first, but stay with it. Over time, I’m confident you’ll find it as enjoyable and relaxing as I have.
• Enjoy your own company. When you eat alone, you’re in the company of someone special — yourself! You are with someone who approves of your meal choices and cooking techniques, appreciates the candle you lit, and knows that life and good food are to be enjoyed.
Cherish this quality time with yourself.
Creating a pleasant “table for one” is a great opportunity to focus on yourself and to nourish your body and spirit at the same time. So, pull up a chair, say a few words of gratitude, and enjoy!
Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Live Alone and Thrive, empowerment workshops for women held throughout the year in Mendon, NY. For information about her Living Alone workshops or to invite Gwenn to speak, call 585-624-7887 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.