Are You Sure About Your Food Likes and Dislikes?
Last week, I mentioned that I used to think I didn’t like oatmeal. Now, though, it’s one of my favorite breakfast foods and something I have several times a week.
Why the change? It takes a little explanation, but I thought it might be worth sharing because what we tell ourselves we like and don’t like isn’t always true. And finding out the real answer is part of mindful eating.
Foods You Don’t Like
Do you have any foods you don’t like? If so, can you remember when you tried it and what you disliked about it?
Or is it that dislike simply something you’ve convinced yourself is true?
For myself, when I was growing up I was sure I didn’t like oatmeal. I carried this belief with me until early adulthood, and it only changed when I started eating more mindfully.
That’s when I realized that I couldn’t remember ever having tried oatmeal. But how could I dislike it if I’d never tried it? Then I remembered that my mom hated oatmeal, and I realized that I’d probably gotten the message from her that it was a yucky food.
And for my mom, her dislike stemmed from her childhood. When she was young, her parents wanted her to eat oatmeal, but they didn’t let her put anything in it – no milk, no brown sugar, no maple syrup, no cinnamon, nothing. Just plain. She resisted, but then she’d have to eat it even after it got cold.
Considering that, I can see why she wouldn’t have liked oatmeal very much. But I wonder if she’d tried it as an adult, when it was still warm, with some sweetener added and maybe some milk substitute for creaminess – would she have liked it then?
I don’t know, but I eventually decided to try for myself. I think at first I tried some of the instant oatmeal varieties, especially maple syrup and cinnamon, and I was amazed. It wasn’t bad – in fact, I liked it!
These days, I find a bowl of oatmeal in the morning very comforting. I don’t put fruit or nuts or anything like that in it, just a bit of maple syrup, some stevia, and a dash of cinnamon. But I never would have realized that if I hadn’t been willing to try it again with an open mind.
I’ve had similar experiences with Brussels sprouts, asparagus, fish, and more. Of course, it’s also true that your tastes can change over time, and a lot of it is about preparation. As a kid, I was so focused on sweets that I don’t think anything would have swayed me to eat asparagus of Brussels sprouts, but now, I can eat quite a lot of them if they’ve been roasted and toasted with a little salt and olive oil.
If you’re convinced you don’t like certain foods, it may be worth questioning that. Are you sure you don’t like them? Consider trying a few preparations and being mindful about tasting them, so you can decide more consciously how you feel about them.
Foods You Like
It goes the other way, too. When you’re eating mindfully, you may discover that the foods you thought you liked don’t taste very good.
This often happens because when you’re not paying attention to the food, you don’t notice how it tastes. Even if it’s something you think you like, you may be eating so fast that you can’t tell if it’s good or not.
And here again, your tastes can evolve over time. If you start experimenting with different foods, you may find that things you used to like – especially sugary or fatty foods – are now too sweet or too rich.
One of the most notable examples of this for me came with Cadbury Easter Eggs. I used to look forward to them all year, but once I started eating more mindfully, I realized just how sweet they were. I couldn’t get through a whole one anymore.
For a while, the miniature ones worked well, but eventually, even they didn’t taste good. And now, if I think about eating one, it has zero appeal to me.
It can be hard to give up foods you think you like, even if they don’t actually taste good to you. You may have some fond associations with them, or you may rely on them for comfort or other reasons, and it can feel like a betrayal to say you don’t like them.
But it’s important to remember that you deserve to eat foods you truly enjoy, not just foods you think you should like or that you used to like.
It Might Be Time to Doublecheck Your Food Preferences
If you’re convinced that you love or hate certain foods, it might be time to doublecheck those beliefs. Is the hated food as bad as you think? Do you love your favorites as much as you thought?
For this to work, you need to have an open mind and be willing to adjust your ideas, and you’ll need to be mindful. Eat the food slowly and pay attention to the taste and texture. Then decide where it lands.
And remember, this isn’t about forcing yourself to eat certain foods or give up things you love. It’s about making sure that when you eat, you’re truly enjoying yourself!