Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Evolution of Taste: From Deprivation to Desire

Sometimes, changing the things we eat is hard. At least, it seem that way. I know when I first stopped drinking sodas I thought I would *never* lose my taste for them, but I did. I went from craving sodas on a daily basis and wanting Coke Zero with every lunch to not wanting it at all, ever. The same goes for my old frenemy, Little Debbie. Back in the day, I used to freely binge on boxes of Swiss Cake Rolls and Oatmeal Creme Pies. Seriously, they were so addictive. I'd buy a box intending for it to last a week but get home and eat them all before nightfall. It was crazy, and it is no surprise I weighed 280 pounds with habits like that. But I had little desire to change. I *liked* the taste. And when I finally *did* change and cut those things out, it was hard. I thought about them a lot. I wanted my Little Debbie cakes. I craved them and not being able to have them felt like deprivation. But a funny thing happened. Over time, I lost my taste for them. How do I know this? Because at one point, after losing 80 or so pounds, I went off plan and bought some of my old favorites. Swiss Cake Rolls were among them. I wasn't planning to (or able to, as my stomach had shrunk) eat the whole box; I just wanted *one* because it had been so, so long. I anticipated it being oh-so-yummy. But it wasn't. It was disappointing, flat, and fake tasting. I threw out the rest and never looked back.

Somehow, my taste buds also went from wanting salads to be piled with cheese and drenched in dressing to *preferring* naked salads, with perhaps a bit of dressing on the side to dip my fork into occasionally as an accent to the fresh vegetables. Somehow, I went from feeling deprived when I ate a plate of broccoli without cheese sauce on it to actually desiring my vegetables steamed and plain. And the one time last year when I ordered trout in a fancy restaurant and it came breaded and pan fried in lots of oil, I was very turned off by the crispy, greasy, salty coating that used to be my favorite part of the meal. I gingerly picked it off and ate the plain fish underneath. Crazy, since I used to pick the crispy stuff off and eat that, taking only a few bites of the fish. Taste buds have definitely changed here!

A more recent example: before I started losing weight, I drank my coffee with lots of sugar and cream. I know I used a few tablespoons of sugar and 1/4 cup or more of cream in each mug. It was like a dessert! Anything less and it tasted "bitter" to me, but I was convinced I wanted, liked, and needed coffee in the morning. So I started to change. I started gradually cutting back on the sugar and cream. I kind of resented it, because every time I cut back my cup of coffee didn't taste good anymore. For awhile I switched to Chai tea but even that "needed" sugar or agave and milk for me to enjoy it. Eventually I started using a sugar free creamer (lots of it) and then decided to switch to half and half and Splenda and gradually cut back. So I did that and over time, came to enjoy the taste of unsweetened, black coffee. I did enjoy the flavor but would have preferred my sugary creamy version. I often would drink my black coffee and wish I could put something in it. But something strange happened. Last week I thought I would have a "special treat" and put some half and half in my coffee. And guess what? I didn't like it! I did not like the distinct dairy taste in my drink and I did not like the fatty feeling and how it covered up the good plain roastyness of the actual coffee. I added some sugar free syrup and yuck! It was awful. I dumped it out and made my now-preferred plain black coffee and enjoyed it thoroughly.

So you see, what starts out feeling like deprivation can actually turn into a *desire* for healthier things... even a preference for them. I no longer wish for lots of my old favorites, like Hot Pockets and frozen pizza, chips and candy bars. Oh, I still get a yearning for certain things like cupcakes or garlic bread, but that's ok. Maybe when I eventually have them I won't like them anymore either. It does make it easier knowing that those old foods are not as good as they seem in my imagination and memory. Taste buds do change. If you'd told me a year ago I would EVER drink a nasty bitter cup of plain black coffee I would not have believed it. Yet here I am, preferring it now. I think a key is to stop eating the old junk long enough to let your taste buds evolve and enjoy the new, fresh foods on your plate. Time fixes lots of things! Even tastes.


MargieAnne said...

This is a great post. We never expect our tastes to change so much but they do.


Vickie said...

Everything you wrote is true for me also.

I think of it this way - we make a lot of little changes, over time. As we make each change, we practice and sort of "hold/continue" it, and then make the next little change and hold/practice. We just keep adding positive steps, one at a time. All those changes add up to totally different ways.

I agree it is not deprivation. I do not wish for one of those things back in my life. They were self sabotage to my mind, body, spirit. I look forward, not backwards.

I had so many changes, but some of the food ones include:

Mustard - instead of mayo

Lightly steamed zucchini instead of noodles

I dropped pop/soda after a pretty serious addiction/habit, I drink water now

Fresh lettuce or steamed cabbage to "hold" a bread less sandwich or taco

Steelers6 said...


I now prefer veggies, & yes, plain. And plain salads.

No more mayo on sandwiches, but avocado, plus more veggies, less meat on sandw.

Black coffee

No soda pop since fall '09.

Very little salt.

Any treat like a brownie has to be "worth it", maybe homemade, but certainly NOT a Tastycake or Little Debbie anymore. Far too fake. And it USED to be that birthday cake was a big fave of mine-the more frosting the better! But eh, not anymore.

I think after giving my taste buds & brain a break from all that sugar & white flour,I started to really taste food, maybe? My palate preferred more intense things, too like dark chocolate over milk! Absurd! If you had told me that would happen, I would have said "never!"

I think key for me is to remember these palate changes. Think, "oh that's right, I don't prefer fried foods anymore!" Yknow?

Lyn said...

Yep guys, it is awesome! It takes time for sure but it happens. I am not a big mayp fan anymore either Chrissy. Avocado is so much better!

Darcy Winters said...

I thought I never would adjust to tea that is not sweet, but now I prefer it with nothing in it at all. I can't drink it that way hot yet, however, maybe in time though...

Lori said...

Good for you! Thanks for giving hope to those of us still fighting those battles.

Anonymous said...

I was on vacation recently, and decided that for a special treat, I'd have a submarine sandwich--with bread! After going without bread for so long, it felt like biting into a sub made with two slices of cake...and not entirely in a good way. It was good, sure, but I could tell that it wasn't one of those things I could eat every day or every week or even every month.

DawnieP said...

I've just found your blog, I'm at that point where I'm desperately trying to make the changes off fad diets and make a lifestyle change, Im overweight, my body aches all the time I'm paranoid about things that are going to go wrong with me (we do have such a 'overweight people will die of everything' kind of culture) I just am so glad to have found ur blog. Reading this post just made me go wow I wish that was me! I am very good on a diet and then all the rubbish of the day I crave and give in and then I can't get back on board again. I hope you don't mind but I want to read all your other posts and see how you managed to do so well! Looking forward to reading :)

Wendy said...

I think if I ever create a blog I'm going to refer to things like Little Debbie Snack cakes (which I am addicted to) as 'Raw Liver' so it won't trigger folk. i.e. 'I had such a hankering for 'raw liver' when I was at the grocery store but decided not to go down that aisle.