Eating in Public and Anxiety When Eating with Others

Written by: Bianca Villanueva – BS (Psychology)

Last updated date : December 26, 2022

Eating is an essential function. It gives us energy to get through the day. Great food helps our mood. Depending on the food, eating can even heal you from various illnesses. Eating balanced meals with exercise is good. Being able to control your intake is even better. However, there’s another habit that health experts advise people and that’s eating with others. While eating in public can be scary and can cause anxiety when eating with others, the benefits outweigh the risks.

Many people tend to eat alone. Whether it’s because they live alone or they prefer it, eating alone is common. That’s especially true for this generation of adults. Adults now believe that independence is a sign of empowerment. That’s okay. However, it also makes them more hesitant to ask for company. Humans are social animals and whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, we can’t survive without others. So eating out with others is something that is not only natural, but it’s healthy!

Three young people eating in public, at a restaurant, smiles and laughter

“Very interesting and relevant” John

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Chapter 1:

Why Many People Eat Alone

What is eating with other anxiety? Like we said, eating alone is common among adults in this generation. Many people have their own reasons to eat and they’re all valid. Sometimes, we don’t get a choice to eat alone or with company. It takes energy to talk to people. Meanwhile, eating alone means only worrying about yourself. So what are the possible reasons as to why people feel anxiety when eating with others?
Eating in Public Can Be a Hassle
Eating out with others can be hard. You have to contact them, figure out what they might like, and plan how to get there. Even if you plan on eating at your place, you have to plan the food to eat, and how and when you’ll make it. The amount of thinking required to invite people to eat can be overwhelming. Whereas when you’re alone, you only need a reservation for one and your favorite restaurant. There would be no conflicts, no indecisive friends, nor complaints if you make a mistake.

This sounds like an excuse, but sometimes we really are just busy. Work has us swamped, there isn’t enough time to talk to others, and sometimes we work while eating. This is especially true when your work doesn’t have very long breaks. After all, going out with people requires a lot of preparation.

Many people have pet peeves when it comes to how people eat. Some people eat with their mouths open. Others complain about their food a lot. Maybe you live with someone who eats messy. These things may bother you and totally make you lose your appetite. It can be a hassle filtering through your friends and family who you can handle eating with. So, it’s just a lot easier to eat alone. All these thoughts are enough to cause anxiety when eating with others.

You Get to Eat What You Want
As an adventurous eating, you might want to do different things. What if you want something different? What if you want something exotic? Not everyone is an adventurous eater. Maybe your friends would prefer something more familiar. In that case, it makes sense to just eat by yourself so that you can eat whatever you want.

You can eat whatever you want as much as you want when you’re alone. Eating in public makes you all too aware about what you do. There’s literally someone who can see everything you do. So you need to watch what you eat lest they comment on what you’re doing. This can be more trouble than it’s worth for others. Sometimes you even have to eat what they like and you’re stuck with compromising with them. This can cause anxiety when eating with others. When you’re alone, you can eat your favorite foods at unhealthy amounts without anyone telling you otherwise.

You Want Some ‘You’ Time
If you’re an introvert or simply tired from always being around others, eating by yourself can feel relieving. This is especially true when you live with other people. Sometimes you want to take your time with your food. Maybe you even want a quiet meal with no talking. There’s nothing wrong with wanting time for yourself. Some people even consider eating times to be a ‘sacred’ time for themselves.

Living alone is one of the most common reasons people eat alone. It’s not that they don’t want to be with others. It’s just that it’s more convenient to eat by yourself at home. Maybe you don’t want people to see how you live. Maybe you just don’t want to bother planning for someone to come over. It’s easier to eat where you live because once you’re done eating, you can work or sleep. Maybe you’ve eaten so often by yourself that you’ve started to feel anxiety when eating with others.

You Want to Feel Independent
Like what we said, being alone can also feel empowering. Where many people would rather eat with others, you’re an independent person who doesn’t need others. Your happiness and comfort isn’t tied to being with others. In fact, you might feel like asking for the company of others is a hassle. Either way, you might feel more confident eating alone because you look more self-assured. This is opposed to feeling small with the anxiety of eating with others.
You Want to Take In Your Surroundings
When you find a really nice restaurant, being with others can be distracting. Sometimes you just want to take in the place around you. When you’re alone, you become more aware of where you are. You can take in how everything looks, sounds, smells, and feels. Sometimes the food even tastes better because you can give it your full attention. It can making your meal a lot more pleasant when you appreciate it more.

While it can be fun to talk to people, sometimes listening to others can be tiring. This is especially when you do this for a living. Hearing others is tiring. So during meals, when people talk, you have to give them your full attention. Sometimes you’re just too tired to split your attention between others and your food.

Chapter 2:

Benefits of Eating in Public with Others

Of course, there are good things about eating with others. In fact, experts say it’s so much more healthier than eating on your own. It may not be obvious at first (because we just enumerated all the reasons you wouldn’t want to). However, all these reasons are good for “sometimes” and “short-term”. In general, you will want your meals to be done with the company of others more than yourself whenever you can. There’s a balance between eating by yourself and others that varies between everyone. You just need to find what works for you. So, why would you want to try eating in public with others?
You’ll Learn Better Eating Habits
It turns out that eating whatever you want, when you want, and how you want is not as healthy as it sounds. Eating in public with others helps you pay more attention to what you’re eating and how you eat it. While it’s okay to indulge yourself from time to time, you also need to stay healthy. The presence of others will ensure you eat in controlled amounts. You will also practice better manners around others. For example, when you were a kid and your mom nagged you to eat the vegetables in front of you. Though you may not like it, people telling you to eat healthy has allowed you to grow as you are now.
You Get To Know Others
Eating is more than just a need. It can become a social event where others gather. Nothing brings people closer together than a good meal. While socializing may seem like a distraction from food, people find it nice to have company. It makes mealtimes something to look forward to. That’s why many social gatherings involve eating together. Dates usually have eating involved. People have bonded over food for years, and for good reason. It’s simply a good excuse to talk to people and get to know them. When you like the food, you tend to like the company you’re with.
You Experience Part of a Culture
Much like languages, fashion, and art, food varies between cultures. When you visit a new country, you want to experience what it has to offer. Along with seeing the sights, it’s the food many look forward to. Eating a place’s food is partaking in their history and culture. It’s a way of connecting with others with completely different backgrounds from yours. Even friend groups have food they share a love for. It helps strengthen a bond between people in ways that are beyond words. Eating doesn’t become just eating, but something more meaningful. The only way to be part of this experience is by eating in public with others.
Eating with Others Feels Good
For centuries, humans have eaten together in groups. Even animals who travel in groups like lions, wolves, and monkeys eat together. It’s something innate in many living beings so of course, it comes naturally to us. Why is that? Eating together gives us a sense of happiness and safety. It means our group is thriving from its environment. It means that we’re secure and have a source of basic needs fulfilled. Most of all, it means being part of a group at all. Our brains believe that belonging in a group means safety. When someone invites you out to eat, you feel good because it means that you belong. While eating alone may not mean you’re lonely, having company you enjoy is good too.
You Get To Share Food Ideas
If you’re the type who enjoys cooking the food yourself, eating with others will help a lot. Trying what others like or things that you haven’t tried before can give you new ideas for cooking. Sometimes you’ll learn their culture’s cuisine. Others can teach you some life hacks in the kitchen. Either way, there’s an exchange of ideas when you share ideas about food. Plus, food is always a great ice breaker when eating with others.

Chapter 3:

How to go about Eating in Public with Others

Eating others isn’t as easy as it sounds. It takes energy, even when you like the company you have. However, you’ll find it fulfilling to have a stomach full of food and good stories. If you’re someone who rarely eats with others, it can be hard to get started. Here are some tips you can use to help you eating in public and avoid feeling anxiety when eating with others.
Research Proper Eating Habits
Depending on your culture, different places follow different etiquette. Slurping your food in one place may be good, but rude in another. Some places even have different eating tools that you need to know how to use. Make sure you know what’s polite and what isn’t. You want eating to be a pleasant experience for everyone you’re with. So, be aware of what you’re doing. At the same time, don’t be too stiff. Enjoy your meal with others. Even if you make a mistake, apologize and learn for next time. The more you practice, the more relaxed you’ll be in future meals with others.
Eat with People You Like
As much as possible, you will want to eat with people you get along with. Having people you don’t like can affect the taste of the food and ruin the whole experience. If you want your meal to be more meaningful, make sure it’s with people who you can be happy around. The exception to this is when you’re eating to reduce tension with someone. Sometimes eating with others can be seen as a way to make peace. In that case, the food better be good otherwise it’ll be harder to settle things with that person.
Try Making the Food Yourselves
Eating with others is a great social event. However, making the food is another bonding experience altogether. Even if you don’t know how to cook, the best way to learn is from others. So, get your chef’s hat and show people what you can do or watch what they can do. Either way, making something together is something easy to bond over. You don’t need to know anything about a person to help them make dinner. If you’re with kids, you can even give them safe yet fun jobs in the kitchen like making cookies or decorating the plates. The more involved people are, the better the food will taste.
Get Rid of Distractions
Many people in this generation enjoy using their gadgets, even while eating. Instead, shut the phones off and put them somewhere they won’t distract you. What should matter is the food and company you have. It will seem disrespectful to have a meal with people, then look busy on your phone. Cherish the memories to be made with your friends and family and give them your undivided attention. It’ll make them feel important that you choose to be present with them 100%.
Make It a Regular Thing!
Schedule it regularly with friends or family. You can eat alone and have your ‘you’ time on other days. What matters is that you’re making it a point to give time to people who matter to you. It shows them that they’re important and you want to see them often. With the right people, even the most mundane of days can feel special. Eventually, you’ll overcome your anxiety when eating with others!

"Very interesting and relevant" John

72 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount