Hi there. I know we’ve been only been friends for a little while, but that’s why I’ve brought us together for this chat. It’s high time we got honest and clear with each other. We need to talk about what you’re doing at night. On your way home. When you think no one else is looking. We need to talk about the Drive-Thru.
There is hot debate over who invented the Drive-Thru (McDonald’s and In-’N-Out both lay claim to that dubious honor), but the impact of all those customers lined up for convenient bags of burgers, fries, and sodas is clear: 65% of McDonalds’ annual sales, $10.55 billion, go through car windows. And what people are buying is clear too: Convenience. According to QSR, an outlet that reports on fast-food industry drive-thru sales, it takes an average of 189 seconds for customers to get their food from the drive-thru window. That’s just over 3min from the speaker to a 1400-calorie meal in your hand—and you never even have to stand up. And before you pat yourself on the back for passing up the burgers for coffee, remember that a Starbucks’ grande Salted Caramel Mocha Frappuccino has as much sugar as 7 Kripsy Kreme donuts, and comes with a straw so you never even have to look down to eat it.
As a coach, I’m not bothered by that burger or the 7 donuts, for that matter. The problem I have is the “189 seconds and it comes with a straw” part. Anything that convenient is likely to be abused, and if you want to break up with the Drive-Thru, we have to make the healthy alternative even more convenient.
Josh Hillis, possibly the world’s best fitness coach for ladies looking to drop fat, says it’s all about planning ahead. “My leanest clients, including the fashion models, are great at food preparation,” he says. “Quite simply, the better you are at the habit of putting food in plastic containers, the leaner you get, and the easier it is to stay there,” says Hillis. So learn from the best and focus on getting better at the basics.
Make dinner before you leave the house Dinner is not a surprise; it’s pretty much a nightly occurrence. So plan it out, chop it up, portion it out, and put it in the fridge before you’re anywhere near that fast-food window. Then you won’t spend your drive home worrying about prepping, cooking, and cleaning—you just have to tackle reheating. Pressed for time in the morning? Make dinner the night before, or pre-plate a few meals on Sunday.
Have a snack in your car As I mentioned last week, we make the poorest food choices when we’re hungry. Always carry something with you—baby carrots and peanut butter, or trail mix, to tide you over until you can make it home for a full meal.
Take the long way Sometimes the best way to get away from a bad relationship is to avoid the person. That strategy works for fast food, too. It’s a lot easier to take the back roads than to drive right past those golden arches. And let’s be honest: You’re not “just gonna get the salad,” are you?
Invite someone over If you know you don’t have any food in the house, and fries sound so good you can almost taste them, go on a preemptive strike and invite a friend over for dinner. You can meet at the grocery store, order some healthier take-out, or combine what’s in your fridges for a creative leftovers dinner. Any menu the two of you create will be better than continuing the cycle of convenient, car-based calories.
Reflect on how you got here When there’s a paper bag in your lap and the smell of KFC on your breath, it’s time to ask yourself a simple, nonjudgmental question: “How did I get here?” At some point in your day, your plan proved too hard, too complex, or too unreasonable. Reflect on what you can do to make your evening meal simpler and more convenient than those 189 fateful seconds to help you break free of the pattern the next time.
There is nothing wrong with an occasional burger or blended coffee drink. The problem with drive-thru dining is how easily it can turn convenience into a mindless habit. Dump this loser and build a healthier, happier relationship with your food by planning ahead, instead. You deserve better than 3 minutes!
Fess up! Do you have a bad drive-thru dining habit? What are you going to do to change it?