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Does eating alone make it hard to lose weight?
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Judith J Wurtman, PhD posted:
Ideally going on a diet should be easier for people living alone than those living with others . Many diet plans are incompatible with foods other members of a house want to eat and the dieter might have to prepare not only his or her diet meal but food for others as well. Moreover tempting highly caloric foods may have to be kept at home for the thin or at least non-dieting members of the household. How frustrating and annoying it must be for a dieter to watch others munching on cookies, grabbing candy or chips or popping the top off of a pint of gourmet icecream. Somehow fat free whipped cream topped with a non-caloric sweetener is less of a treat when others are eating the real thing on top of hot fudge sauce and icecream.

But there are many people who find living alone is a prescription for weight gain. A friend of mine who was widowed a few years ago had complained to me that she had to force herself to eat regular meals and often settled for foods she could nibble on during lonely afternoons and evenings. She had always been thin but had gained 20 pounds because, as she told me, she didn't pay any attention to what and how much she was eating. Joining a diet group was her solution. The need to plan and prepare meals for herself over several weeks became a habit and she continued doing so even after the weight was lost.
But many others find eating alone an obstacle to losing weight. The problem is not so much the effort of preparing meals because diet meals are usually simple and repetitious. The real problem is that eating is an effective way of filling up time and when dinner is over in ten minutes and the evening stretches ahead for 4 hours, then it is easy to nibble as a way of 'doing something'.

It is too bad that weight loss organizations do not provide charming, stimulating eating partners so meals become more than simply the act of eating. But if it is possible to find people or activities to fill up time , this will decrease the likelihood that eating will be used for this purpose. And as long as the activity is not frosting cupcakes, the diet should then be effective.
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Tomato05 responded:
Oh yes, for me being on my own is definitely a contributing factor to weight gain.

My husband works in other countries for long periods (we were living in 2 different countries this past year, but he is returning in Nov.).

When he is home, he keeps a "check" on me - reprimands me when I eat too much candy, snack too much, etc. He is very disciplined with his eating. He also then goes shopping with me often, and doesn't let me buy unhealthy foods, and watches our food budget closely.

Also, when cooking for myself, I often cook a lot at a time, meaning to save the rest for further meals, but then end up eating quite a bit of the cooked food in one sitting anyway!

Living on my own requires me to be super-vigilant and strict with myself, setting limits constantly.
 
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Judith J Wurtman, PhD replied to Tomato05's response:
Dear Tomato05, It sounds like there may be too much oversight or supervision when your husband is home and perhaps too much freedom when he is gone. I think those of us who tried to sneak cookies ( me) when I was a chubby child and my mom was out of the house often respond to being alone by eating more or more of the 'wrong' foods . Would it be helpful if you were to figure out an eating scheme that satisfied your cravings or desires for certain foods regardles of whether your husband is home or not. For example, if you have a sweet craving, you can satisfy it easily without gaining weight and indeed, losing weight by eating very low fat candy like Twizzlers. And if you increase serotonin, the brain chemical which turns off hunger, before you eat ,as we point out in the Serotonin Power Diet, you may find it easier to stop eating when you are alone before you eat too much. And it takes to do this is to eat a specific amount of a starchy carbohydrate about 30 minutes before dinner.
Finally, finding something to do right after a meal is helpful in getting oneself out of the kitchen. Make it something pleasurable , not work or chore related, so you don't mind leaving food behind in order to do it.
 
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cliffie23 responded:
It is hard for me to stay on my diet living alone since my husband passed away. I am o.k. during the day but at night it seems like all I want to do is snack on fattening foods. I don't have anyone to talk to at night and so I get lonely and depressed and so I eat. At least when my husband was there I would be talking to him all night and didn't think about eating. All my friends are up North and there is no where to go, I don't like to drive at night so I stay home.
 
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StJohnsTerrace replied to cliffie23's response:
My husband passed away about 9 months ago, and I live alone. I fill up my days with new social activities and even though these do often involve meals out, I do pretty well with food during the day. But after dinner I still feel hungry, even though I know I have eaten enough and should be full. Late, late night eating has become my downfall. I know intellectually that I am trying to fill the void with food, but don't seem to be able to control my behavior.
 
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Deltadoll2310 replied to StJohnsTerrace's response:
My husband passed away 9 months ago also and this is when I began having problems with preparing and eating meals. I am able to cope with breakfast and lunch but dinner is the difficult time.. The dinners are rarely balanced and no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to get it right. I also noticed that as soon as I come from work I eat dinner immediately and in front of the television not at the kitchen table as I did when my husband was alive. I can't seem to break any of these habits. I have gained weight and have not been successful losing any. .
 
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An_202166 responded:
I'd agree. It seems like it should be easier because you cook for yourself only, but you lose all the extra motivation to eat healthy. I usually try to pre-plan everything and do things ahead of time, that way I won't change my plan and compromise my diet. Hope that helps.
 
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Judith_J_Wurtman replied to cliffie23's response:
Dear Cliffie23 I am terribly sorry to be responding so late to your problem of being alone and eating alone at night since your husband passed away. I just received your response. Eating to fill lonely time is hard to stop and the answer is not more discipline over your eating but finding some companions with whom you can spend time in the evenings. Since you obviously have a computer have you used it to search out activities near where you live that will occupy you early in the evening ? For example, does your library have a literacy programs in the evenings helping people learn English? Or could you volunteer at a performance center or go to workshops or classes at least one evening a week? Have you thought of doing an on line class? Most of these are interactive so you can chat with your classmates who may be living on the other side of the country.. I have a friend who volunteered to bring meals to shut ins and would stay and talk with them because they were as lonely as she was. I hope things are a little easier now and please write again. Judy
 
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Judith_J_Wurtman replied to StJohnsTerrace's response:
I am sorry this reply is so tardy and I hope things are better by now. Your hunger after dinner is easily taken care of. All you have to do is eat only carbohydrates and vegetables for dinner as we suggest in our book, The serotonin power diet. If you do this, your brain will make new serotonin which controls appetite and also increases relaxation and calmness. You will find you are sleeping better and do not need to eat more late at night in order to go to sleep. Eating protein prevents this; eat your protein early in the day as we suggest.


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