Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If You Couldn't Taste...

...would you still eat? Would you eat differently?

If your sense of taste was nearly demolished by, say, a severe sinus infection, and you could not smell anything including your food, so that when you ate it, you could only tell the very most basic of flavors such as "hmmm I think this is sweet" or "this seems to be salty," do you think you'd eat differently?

It's strange. I thought to myself yesterday, "hey, this is a great opportunity for weight loss. I can't really taste anything! So I can just eat anything that is healthy because something like a cookie or a candy bar would not even taste like anything."

True. A candy doesn't taste like much. My daughter gave me a little foil-wrapped chocolate heart she got on Valentine's Day, and I couldn't taste it, but I ate it. I ate a cinnamon bun that looked good, but I have no idea if it tasted good or not because I couldn't tell. Yet I ate it, and wanted another one. I don't really get it...

If you were mildly nauseous all day, would you lose weight from not eating? Not me, I still want to eat. To heck with nausea, I still want to be eating. Granted, I don't eat as much volume, but I eat. Yes, I eat when I am nauseous, and the food has almost no taste. It makes no sense.

Habit? I dunno. I derive almost no pleasure from food right now other than the sensation of being sustained by what I eat. Yet I eat what is not very nutritious sometimes. Sure, I have my healthy chicken soup and my whole grain cereal. I have fresh berries and healthy stuff too. But would I eat a whole bag of chips and a mayo-slathered hoagie if it was in front of me? Heck yeah. Even though I am nauseous and I wouldn't be able to taste it.

I haven't figured out what this means, or why I want to even eat when I am this sick. I don't have any cravings which is nice. But today I was sicker than yesterday, and I put a call in to the doctor, and then missed the callback when I was outside cleaning up puppy doo. I really need to get in to the doctor tomorrow. I have been sick for a week now and I don't feel better. In some ways I feel worse.

That's all for now.


Cathy said...

I have read studies that show losing your sense of taste makes you eat more, not less. Because taste and smell play a big part in feeling satisfied.

Laura I. (G.G.) said...

Because when you're sick is when you most want comfort? Maybe that's what's going on?

Karin said...

I think part of it too is that carby/sugary stuff is so addicting physically that people mindlessly eat it. It's worse than drugs...there's been studies that show that sugar is a more addictive substance than freaky is THAT? Feel better soon!

Anonymous said...

It means you're a carb addict, hon, like most of us. We have to just cold-turkey that shit.

My mom lost her tastebuds for months after radiation treatment on her lymph glands. Everything was completely gross to her, she could hardly tolerate any type of food and lost tons of weight overnight, it seemed. From that I learned that food's texture can be really nasty without taste. Weird.

Diana said...

I totally relate to eating when you can't really taste. I've been known to eat when I was nauseous too.

This morning I went to the gym, even though during cardio I felt like my lungs were on fire. My God it hurt! Then strength training. I probably shouldn't have gone because I was in a sweat just getting dressed for the gym. Normally it takes me a good ten minutes of cardio to get a good sweat going. This morning I was sweating in about two minutes.

When I got home I was so nauseous I threw up. And I hadn't eaten anything since 8pm the night before. Really gross. For the first time ever I was too nauseous to eat breakfast. I live for breakfast.

Anyway, I think we have a similar bug. I'm finally starting to feel a little bit better tonight. If I could just kick this cough I'd be happier. :)

Hope you feel better soon.

Nmmumaw said...

I agree with Anonymous; In my experience, being unable to smell has always led to me eating less.

And I also have a relevant mother anecdote. My mother, almost twenty years ago, had a brain tumor. When they operated to remove it, they had to sever the olfactory nerve and voila, she can no longer smell. She also lost a crapload of weight in the months following the surgery. Even now she has to salt the heck out of her food and things like white fish have almost no taste to her.

FattyMcFatPants said...

When I'm sick and can't taste, I crave the things I CAN taste -- strongly flavored things like pizza and hot wings. And I crave more OF them than usual, too. Same when I burn my tongue on my coffee!

(The word verification on this comment is "reweeigh"! Ha!)

Lynna said...

I'm wondering what people on Medifast have chosen to eat when they were sick... just wanting to stock my cupboard with some good and healthy choices in order to be prepared for that eventuality.

Lyn, feel better already!

Lyn said...


My best Medifast foods when I am sick are:

Chicken noodle soup, chicken & wild rice soup, cream of chicken soup, the puddings, and cranberry mango drink (tastes like juice or a smoothie). I also have the shakes and the tropical punch when sick.

I tried to stick with those but this time I just couldn't get through it. I felt too crappy.

R. Reed said...

Oh the mindless eating, it is such a burden! You make a great point though about if you couldn't taste would you eat different. Well my husbands aunt had traumatic sinus problems as a kid and she had surgery....well it destroyed her ability to taste. She hasn't been able to taste anything in about 50 years...she still eats as if she could. She eats loads of junk AND CAN"T EVEN TASTE IT!! I don't get it, maybe it's just a fact of life that we eat what comforts us.

Interesting isn't it...

BrendaKaye said...

When I was pregnant and had months of morning sickness (all day sickness) I used to try to eat anyway hoping it would make me feel better. Sorry you are feeling so badly; praying you can see the doctor soon and recover quickly!

ayladakora said...

I would think that even though you cannot taste it... your body still craves it, so you eat it, and then you want more. One would think anyway. I have found that when I am sick, I do not grave food. Have an idea that when Im not feeling good, I need to eat less so my body has the energy to fight whatever I have and is no using all the energy to digest my food.

I really hope you get better. This really has to suck. :(

Joy said...

You know how they say feed a fever, starve a cold (it might be the other way around; I can never remember). Anyways, that doesn't work on me. No matter what illness I have, I always want to eat. You know, comfort food and all.

I was just talking the other day with a friend who lost his sense of smell a couple years ago, and I asked him if he lost weight as a result, because I had always thought that smell was a big part of taste, so if you couldn't smell, you wouldn't be as enticed by foods. He told me that his weight/food intake hadn't changed at all. He still eats just like he did before.

Interesting stuff.

Dinahsoar said...

There are different kinds of hunger. You experience true physical hunger which keeps you alive--if you don't eat you'll eventually waste away and die. Physical hunger is a good thing. When you are hungry, you will be driven to eat, and if your sense of taste is not there due to illness, you will try to find foods that you can taste, and likely end up eating a variety of food in spite of not being able to taste them, searching for something that tastes good, that will satisfy the physical hunger and comfort you at the same time. The breaking of bread--eating--is symbolic and important emotionally as well as physically, and when we can't taste things, the emotional need and satisfaction we derive from food is still there, so we will hunt for that satisfaction to the point that we eat and eat and eat even if it has no taste at all.

And even when the physical hunger is satisfied, we may overeat in an effort to 'return to normal', i.e the state of being able to taste and enjoy our food.

Pretty normal I'd say. I've done the same myself, even eating when I know it will probably come back up. I get hungry, I eat. If I didn't eat in response to hunger, that would be abnormal.

Lori said...

I've pondered the same thing about myself. I always seem to gain weight when I'm sick, no matter what the illness.

I finally caved and called for antibiotics this morning after almost two full weeks of this rot.

Feel better soon.

Amy said...

There may be an issue with dopamine involved. When you eat, dopamine is released, giving you a sensation of pleasure and satisfaction. Some people develope a tollerance to dopamine, and need to either eat when they are not hungry or eat past the point of being full, in search of the dopamine "high". Even though you are not able to taste, and sometimes don't mentally want certain things, there is still a lot happening chemically inside of you.
I feel aweful for you being sick so long! Hope you kick that bug soon!

Hanlie said...

Remember when you said that when you used to binge, only one of the things you binged on actually really satisfied you and that with all the others you were just trying to replicate that taste, texture and experience. Well, seeing that you can't taste and smell anything, is it possible that you are now eating lots of stuff in the hope that you would taste it?

I hope you're getting better!

Anonymous said...

I hope you can get back to the doctor ASAP -- I'm starting to really worry about you.

I totally understand what you're saying about eating while queasy. I'm currently pregnant and have morning sickness pretty much from when I wake up until late at night but that doesn't stop me from eating. A lot of it is just wanting comfort because I feel so awful much of the time.

Tazchick said...

I'm prone to sinus issues and it normally sends me to the spiciest salty stuff I can get my hands on:
1.Tuna+mayo+wasabi. Nasal c4, lol
2. Chicken soup with garlic, ginger, jalapeƱo, and sirracha hot sauce
3The local Mexican place's pickled carrots with jalapeƱos and cilantro.
4.fried cabbage with garlic and chili flakes
4. For breakfast: egg drop soup

What can I say? I've been lowcarb so long I have some weird ideas of comfort food!

One more addition: A LOT of TEA. Even at my worst I still taste constant comment!

Me said...

When Mom had Cancer she lost her sense of taste..and later smell, that made her eat more, because just maybe with that next bite, she'll be able to taste it.

Hope you get strong and on your feet again.

Karen@WaistingTime said...

Nope. When I can't taste I don't care about eating as much. But that only happens with a very bad cold. When I am nauseous I usually want to eat pure white carbs, like Saltines.

Anonymous said...


I have to ask if you are taking a vitamin. I'm wondering if some of this is because you aren't getting the necessary nutrients and micronutrients.

Do me a favor, when you go to the dr, have him do a blood workup. Have him test to make sure you aren't depleted of something, even iron.

good luck.

David & Shannon said...

I lost my smell and taste for 7 months following the flu in 2000. It makes you eat more because your brain feels like you did not eat anything because you could not taste it. Losing smell and taste is a horrible curse. I don't wish it upon anyone.