Eating Alone


A young woman eats with a Moomin stuffed animal at the Moomin Café in Japan
photo by Hsuanya Tsai via Flickr

Liz Waid and Adam Navis look at the many reasons people eat alone. They also look at how eating alone may influence a person’s health.

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Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2  

And I’m Adam Navis. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

People are eating out at Moomin Café, a restaurant in Tokyo, Japan. Some people sit with their friends while they eat. Other people may not have brought friends. But instead of being alone, they are sitting with large stuffed animals. These white animals are not alive. They are toys as large as humans. The toy Moomin is based on a cartoon animal from Finland. They are cute and fun. But they also have another purpose. They help people who come to the restaurant by themselves to feel less lonely.

Voice 2  

More and more people around the world eat by themselves. Forbes magazine reports that in the U.S., adults eat nearly half of their meals alone. Some researchers have found that eating alone is not good for people’s health. Others think that it is a good experience to eat meals by yourself. Today’s Spotlight is on eating alone.

Voice 1  

In many places, people feel strange eating out alone. And most restaurants do not have stuffed toys to keep their customers company! But the Telegraph reports that this is changing:

Voice 3  

“Eight in ten people in the United Kingdom believe that eating alone is more socially acceptable than it was five years ago. Almost a third of Britons have done so in the last month. And a third of these had done it in the last week. This shows that the shame of the table for one is on the way out.”

Voice 2  

Many parts of our world are changing quickly. This affects how people eat, and who they eat with. Many people are moving to new cities. Others have jobs where they travel far from home. People must sometimes eat in restaurants in places where they do not know anyone. The structure of families is also changing. A study published in the health magazine Obesity Research & Clinical Practice looked at this issue. This study, from South Korea, explained how changing family structures influence the way we eat. Time Magazine reported on the study:

Voice 4  

“Families in many regions of the world have become smaller in recent decades. There are also more one-person homes. Studies find that ‘at the same time, eating patterns have become irregular, informal, and individualized in the form of more eating alone’.”

Voice 1  

This study also found that eating alone can be bad for people’s bodies. Men who ate at least two meals alone every day, were more likely to have some particular health issues. These issues include higher risk for heart disease and diabetes. Men who ate alone were also more likely to be obese. Eating alone is also connected to emotional health such as feelings of loneliness.

Voice 2  

But there can be good things about eating alone too! Sometimes people use this as a time to be thoughtful and thankful about their lives. Or maybe it is just a moment of quiet time to think. If you eat alone, you can also eat whatever you want. This might lead to unhealthy food choices for some people. But it is an opportunity to concentrate on what you need for your own health and happiness. And, if you go out alone, you might meet new people and find a new friendship.

Voice 1  

The Moomin Café in Japan welcomes people dining alone with a stuffed animal. But in other restaurants people can eat alone in a different way. Another restaurant that is especially for people eating alone is in the Netherlands. It is a small pop-up restaurant so it can move to different locations. It is named Eenmaal. This means ‘one meal’ or ‘one time’ in English. At Eenmaal, there are only tables for one. Each meal is perfectly sized for one person. No one is permitted to bring in cell phones or computers. Customers read books. They enjoy fresh food and their own company. Marina van Goor designed Eenmaal. She tells OZY.com about Eenmaal’s social influence:

Voice 5  

“We wanted to break the very well-known shame of eating out alone. I noticed that in our society, there is actually no room for being alone in public spaces. We could create a franchise of many more restaurants like this one. I strongly believe it will work anywhere, and there is a need for it.”

Voice 2

Modern lifestyles and technology can make people very busy all the time. Many people have smartphones with them everywhere they go. People may even go out to eat with others but spend most of the meal on their phones! Layla Khoury-Hanold experimented with eating out every day by herself. She did this for a week. She wrote an article about it for the website Refinery29. She did not let herself use her smartphone while she was eating out. She was worried that people would stare at her. But they did not. Khoury-Hanold writes about what she noticed instead:

Voice 6  

“I was getting bored and had to almost sit on my hands. Otherwise I would pull my phone out of my purse and disappear into Instagram. But when I looked around the room, I realized that more than half of the diners were staring at phone screens. They were not staring at me. They were not even looking at the people sitting across from them!”

Voice 1  

The modern world has changed the way we live and eat. Some people might really be eating “alone” even when they are out with other people! It is not important who people eat with. It is how much they concentrate on what they are experiencing. In this way, a meal alone can be just as good, or even better, than a meal with others.

Voice 2  

Eating alone can be a lonely experience. But it can also be a wonderful one. Many people even enjoy eating meals alone. Of course, eating is an important part of every culture around the world. But if you cannot eat with friends, you can still enjoy good food and good company – your own!

Voice 1  

How many meals a week do you eat by yourself? Do you feel comfortable going out to eat alone? You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 2  

The writer of this program was Rena Dam. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this programme and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This programme is called “Eating Alone”

Voice 1  

Look for our listening app in the Google Play Store and in iTunes. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight programme. Goodbye.

Question:

How often do you eat alone? Do you feel comfortable eating alone?

Comments


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Honneur
said on May 28, 2018

Sometimes I eat alone and I don’t concern about that. There are a proverb in my country that says: it’s better alone than bad accompanied.

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Harry Ngo
said on May 31, 2018

I don’t like eating alone. For me, eating is time for us to chat with our friends. colleague and family. This time makes us become connected more and more specially dinner also called family time in my country. It’s so boring to eat alone!

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Honneur
said on May 31, 2018

I said “sometimes” ... But I really do not like to eat with a lot of people talking at the same time and making deafening noise ...

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Dela
said on June 01, 2018

No doubt, eating alone can be beneficial for some people, of course it depends on the particular situation too. However, meals shared with family may have significant influence on children primarily. I quote from the article I have found on Internet recently: Everyday meals could be a chance to stop what we’re doing and spend time with people in our lives. According to the study from University of Montreal children who ate with their families experience long-term physical and mental health benefits. When children share mealtimes with parents than they are more likely to get better communications skills with others.  Moreover, they are less likely to become dependent on drugs or alcohol as well.

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bamfg
said on June 25, 2018

I love your programs. Keep up the great work. God bless you.
Most of the time i am alone, i have very few friends but those are busy with their lives. It’s been a really long time since i joined someone to a meal. I think i have gotten used to that

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rhuan felipe
said on August 22, 2018

I don’t like eating alone but I eating alone every single day unfortunately thanks for the podcast

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Daniel
said on May 22, 2019

In my case, I don’t like eating alone because I feel very uncomfortable. Most of the time when I go out I eat with my friends or family. b
But something that really called my attention it’s that they are right when they say that people who are in restaurant spend most of the time looking their cellphones that talking with the people who came with and I consider that this is something very bad because we should value the time that we are spending with family and friends instead of watching our social networks.