Can You Manipulate Your Tastes?

I spent years immersed in junk food and fake food. I never cooked. Not for real. I might buy something that needed heating up. I drank so much Pepsi that I rarely drank water. I ate doughnuts for breakfast, fast food for lunch, and take out for dinner. Cookies, chips, and candy bars all day. There’s no telling how much time went by when I never ate fruit or any kind of vegetable. When I wasn’t “on a diet” it was what my life became, integrated into my daily routine of getting to work in the morning and getting through my day. Eating would be a pastime in the evenings and on my weekends. Everything I liked to do the most always involved eating.

Eating the way I used to seems very far away. Another lifetime ago, literally. The changes happened over a period of years. A major aspect of it has been making an effort to manipulate my tastes. I found substitutes for what I’d been eating and after not eating certain things for a long time, they didn’t taste the same anymore. Whole milk was about the first to go. I liked to drink it with cake and pastries. After I drank skim milk for awhile, whole milk started to taste like sucking on a stick of butter. It worked! I still think of it as my “Milk Test.” To this day, I can’t handle whole milk.

When I was growing up, eating steak meant a WHOLE STEAK. My Dad is one of those Grill Master guys. Every Saturday night he’d go pick out the steaks and he’d fuss over the fire. Dinner would be steak, salad, and garlic bread, no side dishes. I have a preference for rib eyes. I don’t know if it’s true everywhere, but around here they’re always two to a package. Used to be, I’d fry them both. As the years have gone by, I’m almost vegetarian. A slab of meat is not a meal for me anymore. A small amount of beef is fine when I do eat it now. A grocery store in my neighborhood has these thin-sliced rib eyes that are about a third pound. That’s what I get when I do crave a steak about once every month or two. Still, I don’t always eat those little steaks in one sitting. I’ve always heard that if long-time vegetarians were to consume meat, they could become very ill. My body may be taking me in that direction.

And then there are candy bars and chips. I do think about them. The craving will stick in my head and I’ll get a Snickers or a bag of Lay’s and they’re never what my mind was expecting. I don’t know how many years will have to go by before I remember that! I eat a couple bites of the Snickers and it starts to gross me out. A few Lay’s chips and I think I might as well just sprinkle salt right on my tongue for all the flavor is to me. Why do I still get them sometimes? I really can’t tell you!

My preferences now run towards spices, herbs, mustards, and vinegars; fresh instead of packaged; light instead of heavy. I’ll eat just about anything if it’s smothered in onions and that’s how I’ve gotten myself to eat a lot more vegetables. I slice up onions and carmelize them in a crockpot with no added oils. Plain, tart yogurt is a favorite treat with wonderful health benefits, fat-free of course, and I’m learning how to make my own. When I visited my parents last year, I was served more meat than I’d probably seen in the entire previous year. My Mom got used to me not finishing dinner. My Dad still has a fancy grill and they still do steak on Saturday but even my parents don’t eat the plate-sized sirloins anymore.

Making the effort to manipulate your tastes is a very powerful tool. Work on just one food item at a time. Once you get yourself off something, it would take effort to eat it regularly again. If you try, you just might find yourself experiencing a little aversion therapy. Take the experience and put it to use.