IT'S likely a contradiction in political aims but my diet is out of the window for August.

It might have been better planning for the UK government to offer discounted dinners and then launch its anti-obesity strategy in the first week of September. Certainly I was feeling very inspired to boost my fitness levels until I realised I could get £10 off my tea three nights a week.

There really is a good bit of cognitive dissonance around these two positions. We know that the biggest driver of obesity is poverty. For those of us fortunate enough to still have some disposable income we might dine out in fancy places and make healthier choices but for those who don't have cash to spare, the options are fast food chains of the type we're being encouraged to forgo until we can demonstrate we understand the concept of everything in moderation.

And with that concept in mind, I wouldn't, of course, eat in a restaurant three times a week for a month so would once a week really do much harm? Pre-lockdown I would eat in restaurants an average of twice a week and expected that an enforced spell of cooking from scratch every meal would make a real change to my waistline. No such luck.

Since March we have been compelled to stay in and now, lockdown easing, we are being coaxed to come back out again.

The thrifty among us love a bargain and this new scheme is tempting in its immediacy. For many of us, government initiatives can feel a bit arbitrary - what have politicians ever done for us? But when £10 is deducted off your bill at the point of sale, well, there's your answer.

Will the Eat Out To Help Out scheme be enough, though, to boost the limping hospitality industry? Yesterday was the first day of the initiative and there were already concerns expressed from businesses that the discount is complicated to apply and that weekend sales will be affected.

With the latter of those two, surely it's a good thing for the safety of customers and staff that bookings are spread out over the week rather than have large clusters at the weekend.

Because the issue is public confidence. Some will absolutely leap at the chance to go out and about again; others will be anxiously avoiding anywhere with crowds.

Just as Eat Out To Help Out launched, Nicola Sturgeon was quoted at the daily Scottish Government briefing saying that the sight of crowds gathering in pubs, "made me want to cry looking at them.”

Many of us will be able to empathise with that feeling. In such a short space of time we've been conditioned to be nervous of other people and it can be seriously disquieting to see groups of strangers huddled together.

A restaurant and a pub environment are very different but there are still people drinking alcohol, letting their guard down and relaxing. We're placing a great deal of trust in staff but also in each other to do the right thing and keep everyone safe.

That's the thing with restaurants: they're as much about the experience as they are about the food and the experience now has fundamentally changed.

One of the purposes of dining out is to relax and switch off, which is hard to do when you're worried about safety standards and the implications of a potential track and trace phone call in a few days time.

As a related aside, I also wonder how the lingering nervousness around using public transport fits with dining out and have drinks with dinner.

Unless you're within walking distance of restaurants taking part in Eat Out To Help Out then public transport, taxis or driving are the options. If more people are driving then fewer are drinking, another cut to hospitality and nighttime economy incomes.

I've been out to eat three times since lockdown eased and only on one of those occasions was I asked for my contact details. At one of the negligent venues I asked the waitress if she would like my number only to be met with the type of stare I imagine is usually reserved for men going through midlife crises.

It's amazing how putting on some smart clothes and make up after four months of leggings and a bare face can make you forget a pandemic. The first two meals were at the stage of only being allowed to eat outdoors but last week's Big Event was dinner at the newly-opened Mamasan in Glasgow.

It was a night of thrilling firsts - first time on public transport, first time in a taxi and first time sitting in a restaurant since the crisis began. It's amazing, also, how a pre-dinner cocktail can make you forget a pandemic. A good thing - the point of dining out is to relax - and a bad thing given all the new bits to navigate.

It's strange having staff, even in masks, come so close to serve the food when the rest of life is spent keeping strangers at a strict two metre distance. But I was surprised at how quickly my nerves dissolved and how good for the soul it was to be socialising, speaking to interesting people and enjoying amazing food.

Is anxiety misplaced? The only way is to try it and see. For some, the risks involved in dining out won't be enough to tempt them. For others, it's a vital bit of normalcy restored and an even more vital boost to the economy.

A tenner certainly won't be enough to offset the fears of the former group but the rest of us can have second helpings to make up for it.

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