How To Train Your Taste Buds
“I have such a sweet tooth.”
“Why does food have to taste so good?”
“That rabbit food is boring.”
“If my body craves chips, it means I need chips.”
“No way I can live without cheese/bread/wine/[insert your own here].”
I have heard people say these things about why they struggle to eat healthy. Maybe you have even said or thought them yourself. I know I have.
You have trained your taste buds (really your brain since it is your sensory master) to desire unhealthy foods over healthy foods. You body begins to crave the processed, sugar added, artificially enhanced, additive laden food-like substances over real food. You lose the taste for real food...if you ever had a taste for it to begin with. It isn’t uncommon to be raised on mostly processed food starting with rice cereal as your first “real” food as a baby.
Just like you have to train your body to get stronger or train your ear to hear a musical instrument in tune, you will have to train (or retrain) your taste buds and your brain to want different foods. This is a process. A conscious worthy process to overcome your desires to want the salad more than the burger and fries or to stay away from the chip bowl at a get together. The latter is a problem I continue to work on.
Why does this happen?
Comfort over discomfort.
As amazing as our bodies are, they want to do things with the least amount of effort and prefer comfort over discomfort. One example is the struggle between hitting the snooze one more time or getting up to go to work or workout. Laying in bed feels so much better than getting up, therefore the brain thinks “This is what I want. This best for me.”
The same goes for food. Sugary, artificial foods send a signal to the brain that falsely thinks this is better for me and I want more. After all these foods “taste better” than real food, therefore the brain thinks “this is what I want.” Even if the body feel pretty crappy after having them. It doesn’t recognize that part.
The only way to overcome this by training (or retraining) your body to crave what it really needs.
What does it mean to retrain your taste buds/brain?
Endure the initial discomfort.
Training (or retraining) your taste buds is really training (or retraining) your brain. To do that you have to intentionally change not only what you eat but also your thoughts about how you view food. Stop listening to what your brain tells you it wants and start deciding what is best for your body, for growth, strength, wellness, and feeling so good. That outweighs any desire to not change.
Stress to the body, whether in the form of movement or changes in food, is resisted because it causes the body to work hard, exert more energy, and it wants to save as much energy as possible. Sugar is quick energy. Yet, the only way the body can create more energy beyond what it has...get stronger, make change... is to be put under stress, i.e. have a real fruit for dessert instead of cake.
Will this be easy?
Nope. Unfortunately. But it is possible.
As stated above this is a process and a process that may take awhile to go through as your body resets its desire for healthy over unhealthy. And if you are one of those picky adult eaters, it is even more challenging to train your body. For those, a change in mindshift will be huge.
I’ve had adults tell me, “I don’t like vegetables,” and “I don’t like leftovers.” If you are in this category, let me be bold. And I am not being insensitive, just honest.
It is time to grow up and take ownership. You aren’t 5 any more. You are an adult. You can have your food taste preferences. But if you are still as picky as a toddler, it is time to try new things. Consider fixing the vegetables in another way or just eating the leftovers.
My daughter was a very picky eater starting around 11 months old. She also had other tactile issues with eating and wouldn’t pick up a puff, a toddler favorite, to feed herself. After a few months of trying different things at home and hoping she would developmentally change her habits, I talked with her doctor and took her to an occupational therapist. The therapist worked with her to train her to feed herself and eat a larger selection of food. It was a battle. A very big battle. Lots of tears by daughter and mom at home. But practice, consistency, and the will of a mother who didn’t want her daughter to grow up only eating chicken dipped in ranch and mac ‘n cheese put her in a better place.
How do I train or retrain my taste buds and brain?
Step 1: Change your mind
Your mindset about food can be what is holding you back the most. Those statements at the start are prime examples. Take inventory of your mindset regarding food. Write it down. See what needs to change, what shifts need to occur. For example, will you really die if you don’t have a particular unhealthy food/drink? Is your food controlling you? Are your thoughts about food emotionally driven? What is your why for being healthier? Do you view yourself as a good or bad person based on what you eat? Can you start putting what has previously felt impossible into the realm of possible? Do you need to make a change from tolerating what is just okay to realizing you deserve the best in health and life? For more thoughts on this see my article Shift The Focus From Losing Weight To Gaining Life.
Step 2: Change your food
You can’t jump to this step without completing step #1. So once you are in a better mindset about food and what you can do, then you can work on actually changing your food. To do this you have to create a plan. Here is how to do that:
Take inventory of the processed, sugary, artificial, and fake food you eat.
Pick one or two of those fake foods to take away & replace with real foods.
Focus on this change only for four weeks to help create sustainability.
Then pick another one or two fake foods to substitute with real foods.
Gradually making these changes can lead to sustainability. Trying to overhaul everything at one time usually doesn’t work. Also write stuff down. There is so much power in writing things down. For more details on creating this change, see my article 5 Secrets for Forming Healthy Habits.
Step 3: Repeat, repeat, repeat, etc.
Repeat for as long as it takes. Don’t give up. Persistence is what makes the difference. It is how water cuts through a rock. Those people you know who eat really healthy still have to work on training their taste buds and not allowing their brains take over and give in to the desire to have unhealthy over the healthy. As in my case with chip bowls, I have to stay away from them at get togethers.
A few more thoughts...
A lot of times why we eat more unhealthy over healthy is because of convenience food. There are plenty quick to grab and make healthy foods, but you may have to take some time to find them. To get clarity on what is real food, see my article How to Erase the Confusion About Real Food.
You have to consciously choose to eat healthier. You can’t wait for the mood to be right to eat healthy food. More than likely it never will. But it is amazing how the common statements and feelings mentioned at the top of this article disappear when you train your brain.
For some this process may seem impossible. Maybe you have tried to make changes before but they didn’t seem to stick. Sometimes, to cause a permanent change, we have to think differently about what we are doing. The change that occurs when we view this process as retraining our taste buds instead of dieting is powerful.
For many people, they feel that one thing they can control when life is pushy is what they eat. When actually, food is controlling them. They think they are choosing what they want, when in reality, they have become puppets to the junk they have trained their brains to desire. Food freedom is amazing. Let’s see how we can find that freedom!
If you want a place to write down your goals and habits for retraining your taste buds and a place to mark your progress, you can download the free Warrior Approach Accountability Calendar as a tool to help guide you. It includes a series of emails over five weeks as you take on your first month of developing habits. Or if you would like coaching help, set up a 20 minute call with me.
You can overcome, Warrior!