What do you eat when you’re alone?

by Patricia on April 26, 2010 · 10 comments


Be honest. When no one else is around, what do you eat? Though I ate that beautiful pasta for lunch yesterday, what I ate alone used to lie somewhere between chocolate and cake more often than not. Yeah, I ate a lot of dessert by myself. And while on some level I always knew that wasn’t quite right, I realized recently how far from center I was.

Now for those of you who rarely get days alone, treating yourself to a decadent meal or dessert probably isn’t a big deal. But now that I work from home, I spend most days eating alone for at least 2 meals a day. So desserts weren’t really a treat for me so much as a way to fill a hole. I could ramble on for pages about the psychology behind this behavior and what brought me to this unhappy dependence on sweets, but that isn’t really what I want to focus on right now.

The truth is it is easier to give in or give up than it is to change the things you know aren’t right. And I have given in a lot. But I think my efforts to be healthier are starting to take root because yesterday I had a small victory.

I was at the grocery store to pick up a couple of things I needed to make dinner: the Pad Thai from the latest issue of Everyday Food. It used to seem wasteful somehow to cook an entire meal for myself so instead I would eat an egg sandwich or a bowl of cereal for dinner. But I have mostly gotten over that, and now I enjoy cooking a nice meal for myself almost as much as I enjoy cooking for others.

Out of habit I walked through the bakery section even though I didn’t need anything there. I perused the refrigerated case that held individual slices of cake. I picked up a piece of tres leches cake and put it back. I looked at the black forest cake. I eyed the cheesecakes and nearly grabbed a piece of fudge cake out of desperation. But instead I took a deep breath and collected myself. Then made the decision right then that I would not buy any of those cakes. And I walked away.

I picked up the rice noodles and limes that I needed and headed toward the cash register. I almost made it too. But the gravitational force of the cookie aisle pulled me off course. I stood there gazing up at the Oreos, Nutter Butters, Pepperidge Farm soft baked, and the iced oatmeal cookies. In some ways I was disgusted by the cookies there. I knew if I looked at the ingredients I’d find all sorts of things I don’t recognize as anything I would use in a cookie. And yet, many of those cookies are old friends of mine so it was hard to leave. But I did.

When I finally made it to the checkout line, the orange wrapper of the Reese’s peanut butter cups was like a traffic cone pushing me into a different lane. I slowed down to take in the candy display in all its splendor. Maybe I could just have a Three Musketeers. It barely has any fat compared to the rest… and it’s chocolate. But that logic has proven faulty in the past because the Three Musketeers is never as good as a caramely Twix and it doesn’t satisfy like a Snickers. Worst of all, it’s sickly sweet nougat always leaves me feeling gross.

So I left with only the things I needed to cook dinner for myself. I was twitching a little like an addict in detox, but I made it home without any cake, cookies or candy. In the end, I didn’t even make dessert last night… and somehow I survived.

What bad habit do you wrestle with?


1 SILVIA May 26, 2010 at 9:26 am

me too! i love cooking nice dinners for myself and the boyfriend, but when it’s just me, i’d much rather heat up a can of a childhood favorite, spaghetti-o’s!

i can never go to the store on an empty stomach or else i’ll come home with apple turnovers, oreo cookies, reese’s (my go-to candy) AND buyer’s remorse…

2 Evan April 28, 2010 at 2:12 pm

I’ve wrestled with that same issue.. walking into the grocery with one thing in mind but some how I always end up walking out with cinnamon pita chips and ice cream in my grocery bag! haha And if I walk by a bakery..well let’s just say I avoid bakeries at all costs if its not part of the plan :) But in all honesty I think I’ve mastered the ‘don’t eat that alone or you’re going to regret it’ mind frame pretty well in the past few month!

3 Cristina April 27, 2010 at 9:50 am

I can relate with what you wrote so much, especially with your description of the supermarket temptations – I’ve been there way too many times… Give yourself a pat on the back for sticking to your healthy choices!
I used to have only cakes & sweet things for my “alone meals”, but now I have either basmati rice with steamed vegetables, grilled fish with a tomato salad, or toasted bread with smashed avocado, salt & pepper. I only eat a small amount of cakes & biscuits that I bake – no more supermarket stuff :-)
If I’m really in a hurry and I want something sweet, a mashed banana with a teaspoon of honey usually satisfies my cravings.

4 Melissa April 27, 2010 at 3:36 am

What do I eat when I’m alone? Well if I have eaten breakfast I won’t be as hungry for lunch so I will fix myself a bagel slathered with Nutella! But, the thing I like to fix the most is this; toast a slice of that health(ier) bread, I think they are called Sandwich Thins, topped with a slice of fresh mozzerella, then top with smashed avacado that has been mixed with a very small amount of mayo.

5 John April 26, 2010 at 9:20 pm

My wife was out of town so I made a full rack of pork ribs (not baby back) and it lasted me 3 days.

6 hannah @ thepastrykook April 26, 2010 at 8:58 pm

i love cooking nice meals for myself too! i am pretty fussy over food. but of course, there are times when i want a bowl of cold cereal (: your pasta looks amazing, by the way!

7 April April 26, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Your pasta salad looks yummy:) Glad that you survived your grocery store trip. It is funny how treats seem to call out to us from every direction.

8 Kate April 26, 2010 at 7:13 pm

I can relate to this so much – and this is very timely as my significant other is away on yet another business trip.

Each time drop him off at the airport I kick off the week alone with ice cream for dinner, and last night was it: tart frozen yogurt, a Taza chocolate flavor with a graham cracker crumbled on top.

… but then over the next few days as I eat a clean-out-the-fridge kind of diet I wish I’d started off the week with something that gave me leftovers instead of a stomach ache.

9 Veronica April 26, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Although baking isn’t a bad habit, per se, I do struggle with it b/c when I bake, I inevitably end up eating way too much of whatever it is that I baked. I’ve cut back a lot but it’s hard b/c I love to bake. Good for you for doing something good for yourself–you deserve that beautiful meal!

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