Lockdown has affected us all differently. Many of us found ourselves struggling to be distanced from friends and family. Others used the disruption to ‘normal life’ to take a much-needed step back and reassess. Some of us trained in our living rooms with Joe Wicks and others discovered loungewear and binge-watched Netflix. However you coped, it’s ok. The point is you coped. Now that we’re hoping to be returning to ‘normal life’ once again though, many of us are having to confront what has become normal and decide which parts we want to keep and what we need to leave behind. One thing on the hit list might be excessive lockdown takeaways.
The demand for takeaway and delivery in February 2021 had risen by a massive 317% when compared to February 2020 (Big Hospitality). Of course, this does not necessarily conclude that we are consuming more because during lockdowns many food and drink items we would have consumed inside had to be taken away from the premises. Coffee, for instance. So friends might be picking up takeout Lattes and drinking them as they walk around the park instead of drinking their coffee together in Costa, as they would have done pre-pandemic. Yet, it’s difficult to argue that many of us have indulged in more takeaway dinners than we usually would have done.
Perhaps not in the first lockdown. In the first lockdown, we were all baking banana bread and enjoying being able to make our own lunches as opposed to grabbing a meal deal from the local supermarket. However, as time went on the Deliveroo and Just Eat mopeds became a more common sight. So why, when spending more time at home and supposedly having the time to cook, did many of us reach instead for the food order apps?
Did you get addicted to lockdown takeaways?
Well no, you didn’t because the idea of being addicted to any kind of natural food is diet culture fear-mongering. All this does is encourage us to obsess about food and distance us from the truth – that food is essential fuel and nourishment for the body. Our bodies are designed to crave food because we need it to live. Often we might wonder why it craves KFC over kale since one is obviously better for us than the other. However, though we may not totally understand this we know it’s partly to do with the need to enjoy our food.
Whatever or whoever you believe created human beings, they did a great job in many aspects. We needed to drink fluid, so we get thirsty. Any species must reproduce to survive, so our bodies were designed for sexual pleasure. We have negative physical reactions to the cold and so seek shelter, and we need to feed ourselves so we have tastebuds. So, the idea that we are doing our bodies a service when we deprive them of the enjoyment of food is flawed.
However, the pleasure we take in eating can become problematic when we are not getting the pleasure we need elsewhere. After all, we also seem to be designed to pursue happiness.
In 2020 and 2021, for many of us, it has been more difficult to keep our mood elevated. We aren’t getting the social interaction we’re used to. We haven’t been able to make plans or take part in activities that bring us joy. Many of us have ordered takeaways instead of eating out, as we would have done pre-pandemic. The meals you’re ordering may even be from the same restaurants you frequented, so why is it bad to get the same meal as a takeout?
In truth, it’s not. However, what we need to explore is the difference. When we eat out socially we are experiencing the pleasure of human interaction. Perhaps of music, laughter and physical touch too. Although we usually enjoy the taste of the food, that is just a part of it. Therefore, when we order takeaway it may be a subconscious bid to recreate the joy of those dinners out and dining with friends. Yet, because we are left only with the taste enjoyment part, this becomes responsible for filling the void of all the other things we lost.
Maybe this seems a bit far-fetched but if you’re finding yourself ordering multiple takeaways every week then it’s unlikely to be just about the taste. No food is that good that it consistently gives us pleasure enough to justify the financial cost. Or that takeaway food is generally not the most nutritious food. We don’t divide food up by good and bad here, but what we do encourage you to assess is how much of your needed nutrition each meal is giving you.
Especially for women, as we age we do need fewer calories and this can be harder to be mindful of with takeout food, which often contains a far higher quantity of fat, sugar and salt than homecooked meals. We also tend to eat larger portions which can affect our sleep as well as our waistlines. It’s not just about weight though. Moreso, it’s what it takes away from our other efforts. When we eat unhealthy meals it’s far more tempting to skip the yoga or the daily walk because we feel too sluggish. A heavy feeling body also makes it harder to focus, meditate and indulge in far more nourishing acts of self-care.
The rise of sourdough Pizzas, healthier fast-food alternatives and veganism easily leads us to believe that takeaway food has got healthier. And maybe it has, a bit, but it’s still very difficult to achieve a balanced diet with restaurant prepared food. Also, they’re often not consumed in the best way.
Deliveroo deliveries are more commonly consumed on the sofa in front of the TV, rather than at the table with loved ones. Yet, when we eat mindfully we really experience our food which often results in us feeling fuller quicker and also being more attracted to more nutritious foods.
In cultures the world over, food is cooked and shared in a way that we associate with showing and receiving love. So it’s only natural for us to turn to food when in need of comfort. Sometimes, when we are responsible for preparing food and cleaning the kitchen afterwards, it can be difficult to focus on just enjoying the food. Especially when our energy levels are low. Spending more time at home can make us a little tired of it. Coming home after a long day to have to cook can feel like a chore. Yet, maybe we need that time to settle in and feel at home. Lockdown took this need away from us.
The question is when we return to normal will these habits disappear by themselves? Perhaps, but here are a few top tips to quit the takeaway habit.
Meal plan And Food Shop
It’s harder to justify a takeout when you’ve got a fridge full of fresh food. I recommend getting some inspiration from recipe books and healthy food Instagram accounts where the photos will get your mouth watering. Even those of us, like myself, who love cooking, get bored of it sometimes. Especially through lockdown it has often felt like a chore and catering to everyone’s needs three meals a day as well as the frustrations of what everyone liked and disliked made it so much easier to order food. Sometimes though, it takes an effort of the pursuit of inspiration to reignite that passion again and, when you sit down to a homecooked meal, I always find it was worth it.
There are very few of us who relish cooking multiple times every day but it is possible to eat homecooked food without always having to spend hours in the kitchen. The secret is in batch cooking. You can do all day sessions but I find it easier to cook twice the amount on evenings I’m cooking and then freeze half.
If something hits you in your wallet it is likely to have a big enough impact to provoke change. Yet, when it’s £20 here and there it’s easy to dismiss it. It may be worth working out what you’ve spent on takeaways in the last two months and think about what you could have done with that money instead.
If you’ve developed a takeaway habit you may have decreased your washing up but I bet your recycling is piling up. Deliveries often come with a fair amount of single-use plastic and although some may be recyclable, it’s still unnecessary.
If you’ve struggled with motivation in getting back into the kitchen then make it an experience, not a chore. Shut the door and carve out some ‘you’ time. Crank up the music, cook something you really love and enjoy yourself. Some people will always struggle to love cooking but many of us can change the way we feel about it so much that it can even become part of our self-care routine.
Delete The Apps
Modern life makes it very easy to order food in minutes. And let’s face it – easy is what most of us have been craving in a very difficult climate. Take the temptation away and delete the apps, bookmarks and clear out the takeaway menu draw.
Give Yourself What You Really Need
A lot of us are eating those less healthy foods and treating ourselves with food not because we need it but because we need a high. We need to feel indulged, pleasure, comfort. Yet, a lot of this would normally be coming from other places which were not available for some time. If you’re finding yourself turning to food then maybe make a list of the other things that bring you joy and make time for these activities instead. They don’t have to be ‘worthy’. If a trashy film is more relaxing than reading a classic novel, then that’s fine. If you’re going to get more of a natural high from dancing and singing along to the Mamma Mia soundtrack than you will from a yoga workout, then get your ABBA on. Fill up on other simple pleasures.
Eat more Mindfully
Although the thought of takeout may set our tastebuds tingling, how much do we really enjoy it? Especially when it’s indulged in more frequently. The real joy of food comes from eating mindfully. Please read my blog on What Is Intuitive Eating to find out more on how this can be achieved and the benefits. Takeaway once in a while is fine, but eat slowly, with awareness and at the table, not mindlessly in front of TV slouching on the couch like Homer Simpson.
Ultimately – because food gives us pleasure (which is fantastic by the way and should be celebrated), it is easy to turn to food to fill up the joys of life that lockdowns and the pandemic have taken away. Food is there to fuel us, to bring us together, to nourish us and to be enjoyed. When we overeat or find ourselves filling up on less nutritious food we can easily develop a shameful relationship with eating. The damage that this can do can be catastrophic. This is why I urge you to try the above techniques if you’ve developed a takeaway habit.
However, there is a wonderful bonding that happens over a dining room or restaurant table. Now the world is beginning to open up again I, for one, can’t wait to go out to restaurants and have friends and family for dinner. Remembering that the experience is as much about the company as the food and rediscovering why food is really associated with love.