- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
How To Break the Takeout Food Habit in 10 Steps
Carry-out Foods Are Everywhere
It Was So Easy To Fall into the Habit ...
We seldom ate takeout food when I was growing up. My mother prepared everything at home including work and school lunches. Occasionally, when I visited my Aunt Ronnie’s interior decorating store on a Saturday, she’d send me down the street to the local deli to get sandwiches and drinks to bring back to her store. We’d sit in the sewing room at the back of the store and chow down on great Jewish deli food.
But times changed. As I went on to college and then to work, and as fast food drive-ins and carry-out restaurants exploded like mushrooms in a wet forest, so did my reliance on the quick food fix. By the time I married and had a child, convenience foods were a part of my life I didn’t question too much. They were there and they were easy to come by, although they did not dominate my food life, then.
...But Not So Easy To Break It
However, once my child left the nest, fast foods and carry-out foods became even more appealing. After all, the only person I was cooking for was me, and the convenience of carry-out just couldn't be beat. That’s when I got to thinking that I might be on my way to being a takeout food junkie, especially when the numbers on the scale started creeping up.
Here are ten steps that helped get me back on track with smarter eating, ten steps you can take to help break the takeout food habit.
Fast Food Is So Tempting
Step 1 ● Understand Why You Are Choosing Takeout Food instead of Preparing Your Own Food
There is always a reason for a habit, and if you don’t know the reason you could travel down disappointing and destructive paths trying to make a change. Start to understand your habit by asking yourself these questions:
- Are you choosing takeout food because you don’t know how to cook, or because you don’t like to cook?
- Do you tell yourself you don’t have time to prepare your own food even though you know how to cook?
- Are you a takeout food junkie because that's what you grew up with?
You need to know the “why” of your habit before you can put an end to it. Take time to think about your answers to these questions and be honest. Your answers will help you get the most out of the next nine steps to help you break the takeout food habit.
Easy To Understand Nutrition Information
There is so much information about nutrition that it’s sometimes difficult to get to the basics you need to make a start in understanding what’s right for you. Food diets and fads claiming nutritional benefits flood the Internet, so where do you get the bare bones but accurate information about what your body needs to function well? Try these sites for that basic information. You’ll still have to read through a lot of words, but at least you’ll be getting an authoritative and unbiased view.
Step 2 ● Educate Yourself about Nutrition
Do you know what is good for your body and what is not? If you are diabetic or allergic to certain foods, or if you are dangerously overweight, you have a pressing need to take control over what you eat, and your best resource for learning about and meeting your nutritional needs is a certified nutritionist working jointly with your doctor. But if you don’t have pressing medical needs, then take advantage of the wealth of information on the internet about basic good nutrition and become informed.
Take a long hard look at the facts you find about foods that are and are not good for your body, and think about the consequences. What quality of health do you want to enjoy 20 years from now?
Step 3 ● Take One Day at a Time
You know the saying, “Rome wasn't built in a day.” This maxim applies to breaking old habits and establishing new ones, as well as it did to Rome. It’s just not going to happen in one day. They say it takes 21 days to break an old habit and 21 days to make a new one.
Along the way to eventually eliminating carry-out food, you will probably break your resolve. When that happens, treat yourself kindly, recognizing that you are only human, like the rest of us. Breaking your resolve on a given day does not make you any less committed to the change you want to make. Put the day behind you and move on. Be kind to yourself.
Kick-start Breaking Your Habit by Going on Vacation
You may want to kick-start breaking your habit while on vacation. Vacations take you away from your usual routines, many of which may trigger your desire for convenience foods. When on vacation, try new cuisines in pleasant restaurants and visit markets to sample fresh local foods.
Step 4 ● Invite an Accountabilibuddy into Your Life
Seek out a trusted person in your life to confide in, and ask that person for their help to keep you on track. You may choose this person from among your friends, family, or co-workers and acquaintances. To make the accountabilibuddy relationship work, you both must agree to be honest and open without judgment, and well, just be accountabilibuddiable.
Step 5 ● Thoroughly Clean the Places Where You've Been Eating Takeout Foods
Perhaps you've been eating in your car? At your desk in the office? Next to your laptop at home? Or even standing at your kitchen counter? Take your car for a professional detailing and scrub everyplace else with household cleaners. Resolve to never put a carry-out container in any of these places again.
Find Another Route to Work or School
Step 6 ● Avoid Favorite Takeout Places
Avoid these places like the plague. You may have to change your routes to and from work or school to avoid them. The key is, if you don’t drive past them, you can’t patronize them. In addition, remove their telephone numbers from your phones and address books. You want to make it as difficult as you can to ever order another meal on the fly.
Step 7 ● Live by the KISS Principle
Yes, “Keep It Simple Stupid.” There’s no need for you to cook a gourmet meal or follow a food plan to the letter. Your only goal is to avoid ordering from convenient places, replacing such meals with food you can prepare simply for yourself. If you need to start breaking your habit by buying a commercial package of “mac and cheese” and preparing it for yourself, by all means do that if it keeps you from pulling up to a drive-in window. You need to be looking at nutrition, of course, but you also need to be taking one step at a time. To break your takeout food habit, it’s better to make that mac and cheese at home.
Shop for the Foods You Like To Eat
Prepare Simple, Nutritious Foods
Step 8 ● Make a List of Foods You Like and Go Grocery Shopping
Take some quiet time, maybe with a glass of wine or a shot of whiskey or a cup of coffee or tea, whatever relaxes you, and put pencil or pen in hand while you sit in a comfortable chair and make a list of foods you like. Cookies? Fruits? Meat roasts? Pancakes? Corn on the cob? Salads? I love a hamburger cooked on a summer grill, but carry-out never meets that mark of excellence. So, on the list of foods you like, there might be “hamburger”, but not a McDonald’s hamburger. Use this list as the base for your first food shopping adventure that celebrates breaking your habit. There’s no point in trying to break your habit if you don’t like the foods you will be preparing.
You made a list of foods you like. Yes, you will have to go to the grocery store. Go shopping for those bananas and grapes, bread and lunch meats, breakfast pop tarts, whatever those foods are on your list of things you like. In your first grocery shopping adventure, look for easy-to-prepare foods, maybe even foods that need no cooking at all, only slicing and dicing and lacing with a salad dressing you like. Remember to KISS!
Step 9 ● Attend a Cooking Workshop from a Local Kitchen Store or Cooking School
We have a wonderful store in our area that sells kitchen utensils, appliances, and other items, and also offers cooking workshops. The front of the store is retail, but the back is a state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen. For 40 or 45 USD, you can attend one of their workshops. It’s entertainment, instruction, great food to taste (along with recipes for whatever was prepared in the workshop), and camaraderie. If you can find one of these gems near you, by all means attend and also invite your accountabilibuddy.
Step 10 ● Never Leave Home or Work Tired and Hungry
Never leave home in the morning or leave work at the end of the day feeling both tired AND hungry. To do so will make you break your resolve, even if you’ve modified your travel route to avoid temptation. Take 10 minutes in the morning to eat something as simple as a banana and cold cereal. Then, after lunch but before you leave work at the end of the day, grab another piece of fruit or a handful of pretzels. Yes, you do have to plan, even though it may hurt a little. This sage advice comes from my daughter, annemaeve, who is my accountabilibuddy.
I am a take-out food junkie, and...
I am NOT a take-out food junkie...
This article was inspired by ProfoundPuns’s question, For someone who rarely cooks, what are stress-free ways to transition from carry-out to cooking? There is always some amount of stress involved in breaking any habit which has brought you pleasure but is now becoming a danger to your health. Of course, the degree of stress varies for everyone based on psychological makeup and how deeply ingrained the habit has become.
You may find some of these stress-management and habit-breaking resources helpful when tension and frustration build while you are trying to kick the carry-out habit.
You're Gonna' Love This One!
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