Out of Lockdown & Back Into Bad Habits: Has the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme Got Us Addicted Again?

danny williams judo

Something I’ve enjoyed throughout lockdown is the money that I’ve saved from not frequenting coffee shops on an all too regular whim. I wasn’t visiting the cafe multiple times per day but, was going a few times a week, mostly “just popping in to grab a quick one.” As the world is beginning to move again it is a habit that I am aiming to leave curbed, aside from a catch up with friends when it is a genuine treat and not just an instant gratification fix. As I’ve discussed before it requires minimal preparation to make a flask up so I always have the option for a brew on the go. When I get myself into gear and stay a little disciplined around it that is.

Kosmos Coffee

Something that surprised me a while back, and really prompted thought, was the queues to the fast food drive ins when they were permitted to open up again. As I waited to pass the backed up cars on the A30 in Camberley I did think to myself about how wrapped up advertisers and marketers have it all. Essentially, they have people queuing for over an hour for something that can, if consumed frequently, in the long run, kill them.

This isn’t a judgement on anyone or anything. I have my own unhealthy vices and, personally, believe that people should be able to do anything that they want with their own bodies, so long as what they do doesn’t impact anyone else. Vaping in public does, I struggle to see my route when lost in a haze inside someone’s strawberry and watermelon flavoured fog 😉

James Clear asks his readers whether they would choose to smoke if they knew that one cigarette would kill them. He relates this to the planning of habits that an individual may want to change. All the overwhelming evidence shows that if someone regularly smokes that it will impact their health and they are virtually guaranteed to live a shorter life. He asks his readers to consider this former question regarding all unhealthy vices, would I do this if one would kill me? It spoils every coffee I have now!!!

I am not someone that eats fast food regularly. Four times a year maximum. I eat pretty clean and when I do put a pizza in me I feel horrific the next day, it’s like I’m giving birth to a kidney! I vow I won’t do it again then don’t even consider it for a good while. Following Clear’s advice, when I do end up having a ‘cheat meal,’ I then I do my upmost to eat clean the following day. Doing something for one day is a ‘one off’, doing it two days in a row is the beginning of a new habit. I notice this massively with sugar, if I have a lot of sugar then I crave it massively for the next 24 hours or so . I have to stay as abstinent as I can with it. On occasion when I do cave then I have to do my best to stay regimented the following day. I remember, when I was younger, speaking to some of the recovering heroin addicts, waiting for their methadone, outside the local pharmacy, I could really see and feel the desperation in a number of them. Addiction can be subtle, I find with sugar that I can be desperately compulsive around it if I am on the hamster wheel yet, when I don’t touch it at all, and eat plenty of good food, I don’t miss it. 

At a training camp in Croatia last year I watched a former -60kg fighter, who I know used to diet hard to make weight, now easily 100kg, devour, and I mean he was chucking it into him, 4 large sized portions of chocolate mousse at the buffet dinner. I then watched him go up to get a drink, on his way back he walked passed the desert counter, stared at it, picked up another pot of mousse, stared at it again, put it back, carried on starring, picked two up, came back to his table and nailed them both. I recognised that internal debate that he was having with himself, thinking that he shouldn’t have more but being unable to stop himself. I’d regularly struggle with it after making -73kg. I remember realising that day just how subtle addiction really was, in that example perhaps not a junkie itching for a hit of smack but that underlying, pulsating, desperate compulsion there all the same. Ever watched someone that is addicted to sugar? They are regularly reaching for their little fix, they HAVE to have it; couple of sweets here, choccy bar there, spoonful in their tea, can of pop. I’d gamble on some of the thought patterns outside that pharmacy looking similar to a number queuing in the cars for a sloppy burger.    

I wonder if something similar has occurred with the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. Are we being lured back out to mediocre restaurants and straight into bad habits and compulsive spending again? Those fast food joints keeping people ‘hooked’ with the next deal, the next flavour, the next competition, the next ‘buy a thousand meals and get half a sachet of ketchup absolutely free.’ 

I ate out once during the scheme. I met a good friend one Monday at a local place and, after a great catch up, we were both pleasantly surprised when the bill came. I rarely check the news so didn’t even know that the scheme existed. I must admit that after parting ways with my six quid for the bang up meal I’d just had, I did think to myself that I should take advantage of this at least once a week. It made sense then why, on a Monday lunchtime, that this out of town restaurant was full to the brim. It felt to me like there was a guiding hand “you lot have been at home saving your furlough and, because you haven’t been able to leave your homes you’ve coincidently broken some of your more subtle negative habits. Habits that stop you from saving your money and giving you the option of an improved life; what can we do to get you back out, hooked, spending your money and back onto the hamster wheel again? We’ll pay half of everything!”

Whether this is intentional or not I can’t say. Perhaps it is a genuine and sincere attempt to support the struggling restauranteurs. Observing some of the people around me though, particularly a couple that I know are in debt, a few weeks ago they were discussing how much money they have saved while being stuck indoors, now they are commenting on which places they will be eating on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Again, that isn’t a judgement, I’ve been no saint with money and, in the past, not thought anything of putting a regular ‘cheeky nandos’ on my overdraft. Looking at these behaviours helps me examine mine and my own relationships with things. 

I’m sure I’ll eat out again, I’m fairly certain I’ll grab a barista made coffee at some point soon. There isn’t anything wrong with these things per say but, for someone like me trying to prevent any compulsive, negative habits and behaviours, then keeping them to their minimum, which coincidently maximises their enjoyment and appreciation, is probably the best option.       

danny williams judo