What if I told you one day you won’t crave sugary treats? Do you think this is impossible? Once upon a time, I thought that could never happen to me either. No obsessive yearning for cake, cookies, or ice cream? Yeah right! Yet, I did the seemingly impossible. I retrained my taste buds.
It seems obvious that tastes other than sweet exist, but I feel most of us chase after the sweet thrill. If something is bitter or sour, noses get scrunched and yucky faces are bound to be made. Add sugar to mask it, please!
Let me preface this by saying I do have sweet treats on occasion (I’m not a robot), but I don’t crave them like before. I’ve learned to enjoy natural sweet tastes, along with all the other taste sensations as well.
So, I’m here to tell you that you can definitely free yourself of sugar cravings too. You can learn from my journey and reach this goal much faster than I did and with a lot less struggle. It’s not about deprivation and forcing yourself to eat “healthy” foods. You can train yourself to enjoy a wide variety of foods and learn to eat well. Let’s get started.
Palates Change with Practice
The first thing to realize is that our palates do change; they’re not static. In fact, taste buds turnover every two weeks or so. How neat is that? What this means is that if you reduce the amount of sugar in your diet over a period of time, your palate will have the opportunity to reset as it were.
The keys are to stick it out for that time and to let go of fixed ideas about what you do and don’t like to eat. Easier said than done, right? Especially if you’ve been eating a certain way for most of your life. Those are some deeply ingrained habits my friend. I totally get that. Yet, think of it this way for those who are parents or hypothetically speaking, if your kid didn’t like to eat a particular food would you give up after the first time or would you ask them to try again? Many parenting books recommend getting your child to try something a dozen times if needed to get a taste for it. How many of us are still holding on to an old memory of not enjoying a food we tried once before and so have refused to touch it since then?
What I’m trying to get at is this, keep an open-mind when eating and experiment with your food. Approach new food with curiosity instead of judgment. Remember that it does take repeated exposure to learn to like different foods. No matter what diet plan you subscribe to (or don’t), most nutrition experts agree that a varied diet will always be the best because you’ll be getting a wider variety of nutrients. This is the definition of well-balanced meals. You have to be willing to try (several times if needed).
Engineered to Induce Cravings
The second thing to know is how we can be set-up to develop these sugar cravings. Understanding this will help you feel less guilty and disappointed in yourself when you buckle to these cravings. You’ll be better equipped to move forward from this minor setback. Feeling guilt or regret holds you hostage to it.
It’s important to be aware that food manufacturers spend a lot of money researching and engineering food so that you crave it. This makes business sense. If you crave a food, you’re more likely to buy it on a frequent basis. That’s why processed and packaged food (even those labelled as “healthy” and “organic”) can be so problematic for our health if we don’t educate ourselves. There are product developers that conduct experiments to determine the right amounts of particular ingredients to generate the most appeal among consumers. Often, the magic ingredient is sugar (our liking of food tends to rise when the amount of sugar is increased up to a certain point). Their main goal isn’t to deliver the most nutritional value, rather it’s to create the biggest crave. They set you up to fail. Once you start consuming these products it’s hard to resist them.
Emotions Drive Cravings Too
Aside from products being engineered so that you crave them, cravings can also develop to meet emotional needs (i.e. comfort foods). When we crave sweets (or even salty and rich foods), it’s more about instant gratification to soothe us when we’re stressed, feeling low, bored, etc. These are habits we develop as coping methods to repress emotions we don’t want to deal with. So, the next time you’re experiencing a craving, take a moment to check in with yourself to explore what feeling is behind this craving.
Play with Your Food
Third, have fun with food! It’s not the end of the world if you tasted a food a bunch of times and don’t develop a liking for it. Don’t make a big deal out of it, just move on to something else. Take the seriousness out of eating and enjoy your food. Explore the different flavours, aromas, and textures. Take a moment and observe what you’re tasting and describe it either to yourself or out loud when dining with others. Don’t limit yourself to saying you like it or don’t like it. Be creative with your descriptions – “I detect a subtle spicy note in this broccoli!”
There were plenty of foods I didn’t like before, such as ginger, dandelion greens, and sardines. Now, I love them all and enjoy experiencing all sorts of different tastes, flavours, and textures when I’m eating. Whenever I sit down for a meal, I appreciate the food and the take simple pleasure in eating well. One of my ultimate goals is to guide you in discovering the joys of eating well too.