Can picky eaters change?

I have always loved food.

Some food, that is.

While I cannot remember a single thing I learned in any of my elementary school classes, I can describe numerous dishes that my mother cooked for dinner. I recall the egg foo young with a clarity that is highly uncharacteristic for me, a non-visual person.

I can see that crispy-caramelized patty, smell the fried egg, and feel the soft wiggle-crunch of mung bean sprouts.

I liked egg foo young for crispy fried-ness and the salty sauciness.

I LOVED hot raisins and red peppers with ground beef in my mother’s common stand-by – Picadillo.

But most of all, I love plain white bread with salted butter. (Occasionally by the entire loaf, if I happened to be home from school, freed from the watchful eye of an adult.)

And anything with sugar in it.

It wasn’t all happiness and roses though, back at our 1980’s dinner table.

Unfortunately, my mother occasionally cooked meals involving sausage. And cabbage rolls. Two items against which I protested vociferously, and ultimately, in the single greatest coup a picky child could ever mount, vomited them back onto the plate in one case.

(Sorry about that mom.)

So we say I love X, and I can’t stand Y. We all have our tastes, and yet we know that they can change. Many children who don’t like onions grow up to love them as adults. Children who eat vegetables prior to starting school change their tune once they’re sitting in a lunch-room and another child says ewww to the celery sticks.

We know that the idea of taste is fuzzy, changeable, and at least somewhat related to our environment.

And when we combine this knowledge with what doctors and nutritionists tell us about the kinds of foods that are best for our body, things start to get interesting.

In an interview with Tim Ferriss, Penn Jillette, who lost over 100lbs, describes being told to eat nothing but potatoes for the first two weeks of his (supervised) weight-loss diet.

Now, before you go and buy a 20-pound sack of potatoes, you must understand that the potatoes were not for weight loss, as Jillette describes it.

The potatoes were for a mindset shift.

Is anyone going to enjoy a sudden shift from a varied diet to a two-week potato-only regimen? Hell no.

And that’s what important! Realizing that if you’re moving into a different kind of diet from what you’re accustomed to, you are not going to like it at first.

People who want to make money in the diet industry are able to do so at the best rate if they convince us that change is easy.

We’ve been told for years that we can have radical change (weight loss) without really changing our habits too much. Remember the low-fat thing? Remember Snackwells cakes and cookies? Fat was removed, replaced by extra sugar and chemicals. Remember olestra? Someone actually designed a potato chip that defied the human body’s digestive process. (You had to be REALLY careful not to eat too many of those chips… or there would be serious bathroom consequences. And seriously, who can be moderate with potato chips?)

The truth is that changing one’s diet is hard. Uncomfortable. Unpleasant, even.

Especially if we’re addicted to sugar.

And YET, what got me excited is hearing people like Penn Jillette talk about how their tastes actually changed over time, to where they like what they’re eating.

Jillette says he is nauseated now at the sight of foods he formerly loved, and the diet he has today (rich in vegetables, fruits and legumes) is his new comfort food.

I’ll be honest with you:

If I had heard this ten years ago my reaction would have been a great big WHATEVER.

I wouldn’t have been able to imagine myself falling in love with new foods (most specifically legumes, which I avoided for more than three decades.)

And yet this is exciting because it came true for me.

When I began the slow-carb diet, which we’ve covered previously, I was not happy about the legumes. And in fact there were days in the first weeks where I actually felt depressed to open my lunch bag and pull out that bean soup, lentil soup, or chili with beans.

It was HARD. I wanted a cheeseburger, I wanted hash browns, I wanted SUGAR.

And yet as the weeks and months and finally years have passed by, I realize that I have changed. When I go off my typical diet, I don’t feel very good. Sweet things seem like they’re going to be great… until I start eating them, and I find that I don’t like them as much. If I’m off-diet for more than a day or two, my mood is affected, and I find myself actually looking forward to getting back onto the program.

So when I hear Jillette talk about his tastes changing, it strikes me because he is speaking my truth as well as his own. This really happens!

And what does that mean?

It means that my son can learn to love vegetables and legumes too. And anyone else who might choose to do so.

And what does that mean?

Well, hopefully it means that we live longer and healthier lives, gaining more time to spend with those who matter most to us, doing the things that bring joy and meaning to our world.

Seems worth it.

What do you think?




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