We've all been there: by ourselves, mindlessly scarfing down crackers and cheese or raisins and almonds or hummus and veggie sticks. It doesn't matter how healthy your food is: too much of a good thing is still too much. And evidence suggests that when we eat alone, we are far more likely to eat too much. The cause? Loneliness. Boredom. Apathy over your food choices. You're less likely to care about whether the food you're eating is healthy, not only since there is no one there to judge you for eating that entire box of Triscuits by yourself, but also because there is no one to cook better for. When we are only cooking for ourselves, we are far more likely to just pick the quickest, easiest and as a result, often less than healthy sustenance.
A compelling study suggests that this physiological issue may have weighty consequences for our health. In addition to the depression that can be caused by and associated with continually eating alone, solo snacking has also been linked to an increase in metabolic syndrome, particularly in men. Metabolic syndrome encompasses a myriad of conditions including high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or triglyceride levels and excessive body fat around the midsection. When combined, these conditions can increase your risk of diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
The main body of research was published in Obesity Research & Clinical Practice and found that men who eat alone twice per day were 45% more likely to be obese and had a 64% greater chance of having metabolic syndrome. Unmarried men who eat alone were at the highest risk in this group. Women, comparatively, are at a lower risk: 29%. This said, the risk for women disappeared when the researchers factored in lifestyle factors (e.g. weekly exercise, alcohol consumption and cigarette use) and socioeconomic factors (e.g. education and occupation). Men, however, stayed at the same risk percentage after accounting for these considerations.
What's the takeaway here?
Simply this: eating alone is not guaranteed to hurt your health, but it could -- especially if you're a dude. Now, don't go rushing off to make dinner dates for the next few months. You don't have to. You just have to be mindful of what you eat at all times, but particularly when you're dining solo. (And let's face it, sometimes a nice, quiet meal alone is absolute heaven!)
Here are some tips to help you keep your meals for one from hurting your health.
- Make the effort. Just because you're only cooking for yourself doesn't mean you're not worth cooking for. You don't have to glaze a ham, but you can whip up a nutritious and delicious omelette or grill a chicken breast and mash a sweet potato. Preparing a meal for yourself can take 20 minutes or less and it could add years to your life.
- Meal prep! Take an afternoon, once a week, and prepare a butt load of food for meals in advance. Grill some steak, put some shrimp on the barbie, marinate some tofu, steam some quinoa, chop up some raw veg: get entire meals or at least meal constituents ready to eat so when you're hungry, you don't go to the easiest, unhealthy food. You have easy healthy food available!
- Get help. If you've never cooked for yourself before, knowing where to start can be a tedious, discouraging task. Don't despair: get some help! Go to a solo cooking class. Join a salad-in-a-jar exchange. Grab a recipe book filled with tons of clean, healthy, tasty recipes to keep you intrigued, and hungry for more.
Remember: you're always worth the effort! Grab any one of our meal plans and nutrition guides to get off to the best start possible. If you're looking to get the most comprehensive help, definitely snag our NEW meal plan & guide. Packed with over 70 recipes and oodles of healthy eating tips, this guide is an entire support system.