Thanksgiving for One: 12 Ways to Cope with "Eat Alone" Holidays

There are lots of creative options besides feeling lonely and stuffing yourself.

So, if you’re facing being alone and dining solo on the biggest family feast day of the year, what’s the answer to that “What to eat for Thanksgiving” question?”

1.  Get away?  Contrary to some “expert” advice saying ”never eat alone,” a little solitude and self-nurturing, including solo dining, could be just what the doctor ordered.  If you can manage it, maybe gifting yourself with a pampering weekend away could be a great recharge. If you can’t get away away, then consider treating yourself to a movie or just getting in the car and taking a ride to wherever it leads you.

Admittedly, no matter where you are, you can’t get away from yourself.  So, if you’re feeling funky at home alone on a holiday, you’re likely to feel that way wherever you are. But being alone doesn’t automatically have to equal loneliness and holiday depression. It’s up to you. Change it up and decide to make it a unique experience. 

2. Do something different, maybe something you’ve never considered before. Even in the food department. I remember one Thanksgiving working as a healthy chef at a resort spa frequented by Oprah Winfrey. I had to work and knew there was not going to be any turkey or stuffing or pumpkin pie on that menu.

I had just pulled the homemade whole wheat bread out of the oven and was chopping up a huge batch of fresh garlic. All of a sudden, I spontaneously sliced off a thick slab of that fresh, warm bread, slathered it with a generous swipe of melted butter, and spread a full 1/8th inch layer of finely minced garlic over the entire slice. No bar there either, but I did find a non-alcoholic beer in the cooler. Now, that was the most memorable Thanksgiving meal I ever ate!

3. Give of yourself.   Giving and receiving create their own neurochemistry, as you’ll read in my other YourTango Gratitude Intensive articles. But getting yourself out of your own head and into a service mindset – volunteering your time to help serve at a local soup kitchen, visiting kids in an orphanage or the elderly in a nursing home -- could help shift your biochemistry and your whole frame of mind into feeling more rewarded and satisfied, possibly even grateful for what you do have.

4. Get together.  With so many of us alone, there are likely to be others who you know are in the same boat.  There usually aren’t many restaurants open on Thanksgiving, but why not organize a potluck dinner for you and your other single friends?  I’ve enjoyed some special meals like this that crossed holiday depression right off the menu.
5.  Scale back.  Alone or not, you can scale back on your plans for “stuffing” the family or yourself.  Even Food Network stars this year are featuring scaled down, intimate holiday meals for two, ground turkey and other variations from the traditional roaster. 
6. Try Cornish hen. If you do plan to make a meal for yourself, try buying and roasting a small Cornish hen for yourself.   If you’re like me, (and if I were eating meat) I’d probably make it stretch into two meals.  These individual serving hens only take a fast, one-plus hour to cook.  And there’s no stuffing involved.

7. Roast a smaller bird, less than 10 lbs-- yes, just for yourself –and then bone and cut it up, prepping baggies you can put in the freezer for almost ready meals during the winter.  And if you make a big pot of soup stock from the bones, you’ll have a soothing “souper” evening and some broth to freeze for another batch of soup.

8. Think onedish.  Pot pies, turkey meatballs, broccoli and turkey divan, are also other friendlier-to-one alternatives.  Of course, you can always just buy a pre-roasted, ready-to-eat chicken or just roast a small turkey breast, although honestly most people I
know, especially protein types, like the dark meat.

9. Celebrate the vegetables.  You could actually try something different and go completely meatless for a change.  The typical Thanksgiving is a cornucopia of harvest vegetables anyway --  artichoke dip, baked  sweets, garlic masheds, creamed onions, green bean casserole, baked squash, Brussels sprouts,  broccoli hollandaise, stuffing or dressing  with onions and celery, squash or pumpkin pie.  Who really needs – or has room for – the bird? 

10. Stuff the bird, not yourself.  If food’s your addiction, then I don’t have to tell you about the treacheries of seasonal holiday sweets. Needless to say, feeling alone AND lonely at the holidays certainly could be a trigger for trying to push the pain or lonely holiday feeling away with panetone or spiked eggnog.   And making your own meal doesn’t necessarily remove the chance that you will overeat.  Choice time, obviously.


Although not feeling so doggone stuffed-to-the-gills for one Thanksgiving meal could be a sweet, refreshing change, if you just can’t mobilize or inspire yourself to be of good cheer, eat and drink responsibly, just give yourself permission to BE and DO.  Just do it. Eat, drink, binge, whatever.  Flat out, without reservation or remorse.   But do it with the full passion of the word.  ENJOY !

11. Look up from the Table.  If you shift your focus from the food to reflect upon the full meaning of this special day of grace, you may come to realize that the true meaning of giving doesn’t just mean giving to others.   Giving to yourself,  giving back to yourself, appreciating yourself and allowing yourself to receive the nourishment of LOVE – is just as much a part of the circle -- and the ultimate nourishment we all truly need the most. 

12. Eat, Pray, Love.  And if you haven’t, pick up a copy of Eat, Pray, Love.  Read it or see the movie, but Do it!  Elizabeth Gilbert's award-winning experience can inspire and enliven you to reconnect with, reward and reenergize yourself. Gratifying!