Imagine a new romantic interest invites you to his home for dinner. You get all dressed up and over you go. Maybe you buy something for dessert to show your appreciation.

When you arrive he pulls out a chair and you sit down at the table. He goes to the kitchen and brings out a plate of food. It looks good and smells good. You’re ready to tuck in – but he puts the plate in front of his own chair. Then he returns to the kitchen and comes out with a tin of meatballs in tomato sauce.

As you watch, astonished, he opens the lid with a tin opener. Then he puts the opened tin in front of you along with a spoon.

“I’m sure you won’t mind,” he says, “I didn’t bother cooking for you because you’re not worth it. But these are delicious. Dig in.”

May we assume the evening will not go too well? And that you are unlikely ever to agree to meet your host again, much less go to dinner at his place?

I think we can. But here’s the question: have you ever done this to yourself? I bet you have. It mightn’t be meatballs in tomato sauce but the thought, “Why bother, if it’s just for me?” has crossed many of our minds and has led us to shortchange ourselves in the kitchen in ways we wouldn’t accept from anyone else.

Preparation as caring
As I note in my book Kindfulness, most of us are used to the idea of the preparation of meals as a form of caring as well as a way to satisfy hunger. The danger, however, lies in seeing cooking as a means of caring for others but not for oneself. At an extreme, a parent may prepare enjoyable meals for the family but eat nothing himself or herself. At far less of an extreme, when a parent is alone the whole idea of getting involved with pots and bowls and washing up can seem, well, not worth it.

That’s okay when you’re pressed for time, are so tired you can’t face into it or you feel like giving yourself a treat – tucking into a takeaway with one eye on the television. But it’s not okay when the idea that you’re not worth it lies behind your behaviour.

Our attitude to eating and cooking when we’re alone can give us an interesting insight into what we really think of ourselves. And by changing our practice – by treating ourselves as if we were worthwhile – we can start to change that all-important relationship: the relationship with oneself.

So, what’s for dinner?

Kindfulness – be a true friend to yourself with mindful self-compassion, is published by Yellow Kite Books on 28th June 2018