Are You Afraid of Losing Your Favorite Foods?
One of the things I didn’t realize at first about mindful eating is that I would likely end up saying goodbye to some of my favorite foods. Not because they were off-limits or had too many calories or points or carbs, but because I would discover I didn’t like them as much as I thought I did.
For example, I used to love candy, particularly anything with chocolate. Snickers… peanut M&Ms… Charleston Chews…. Kit Kats… Reese’s Peanut Butter cups… Cadbury Easter eggs… and more.
I turned to those foods over and over again as a teen and young adult when I felt sad or stressed or lonely. And they never let me down.
You might also have foods like this, ones that comfort and soothe you, foods you feel you can rely on no matter what else is happening in your life.
If you do, the prospect of not having those foods anymore – or at least, not having them as often or not reaching for them automatically – can feel scary. If you don’t eat those foods when you’re feeling emotional, then what?
But I have good news. Changing your relationship with these foods will be an adjustment, but it doesn’t have to be a loss. In fact, most of the time will be a gain.
With mindful eating, one of the things you end up changing is how you eat. The goal is not to multitask, so you’re not eating while watching a show or video, reading a book, driving, working, etc. You’re focused on the food in front of you.
When you do that, you may notice something. The food you thought you liked might not taste as good as you thought it did.
Although this may seem strange, it makes sense. When you eat mindlessly, while doing something else, you often don’t notice how the food tastes. You might register basic things – if it’s hot or cold, sour or sweet, creamy or crunchy – but not a lot else.
Once you focus on the food, though, the taste becomes front and center. And it might not always taste good, or as good as you hoped.
Plus, when you start noticing what your body needs and wants, you may find that some of those favorite foods simply aren’t as appealing anymore. They may be too rich, too sweet, too salty, or too greasy for you to want them in large amounts.
That’s what happened to me with candy. I found that after eating mindfully for a while, when I truly tasted those candies, they were too sweet. At first, I cut back on how much I had of them, but eventually, I no longer wanted some of them at all.
Take Cadbury Easter eggs. When eating a whole egg was too much, I got the mini Cadbury eggs. For a while, I enjoyed those, but then even those small eggs seemed too sweet, and I stopped having them altogether.
The interesting thing is, by the time I got to that point, it no longer felt like a loss because it had been a gradual shift – and it was my decision. No one told me I had to stop eating them all at once. I just slowly came to realize I didn’t want them anymore.
Learning a new way
But letting go of those foods can still be a challenge because you can no longer use your past experience as a guide for what to do moving forward.
I think it’s important to recognize that this can be a big change. If you’ve spent 10 or 20 years (or more) turning to this food in times of distress (or celebration, or both), and now it’s not so appealing, that leaves a big gap in your life.
The good news is that you can learn to do something different. And it may help to think of it as a learning process, or a re-training, rather than letting go of something.
One option is to turn to something other than food during those emotional moments. You can talk to a friend, do something creative, watch funny videos, etc. You’ll need to experiment to see what works for you.
Sometimes, though, you’ll still want to eat something in those situations, and that’s perfectly okay. But if you’re going to eat, you may as well eat something you know you’ll enjoy!
You may find that you want modified versions of the food you used to like. For example, I still like peanut butter and chocolate combinations, but I prefer dark chocolate, and I’ll go for unsweetened peanut butter. That satisfies my desire for chocolate and the salty creaminess of peanut butter without being overly sweet.
Or you might find that you want different foods altogether, maybe more fruit-based snacks or other naturally sweet foods. It will take some time to figure it out, so be patient and be willing to try new things.
Making changes is worthwhile
Although it might feel scary to think about changing what you eat, it helps to remember that the decision is up to you. You don’t have to change what you eat until and unless you’re ready.
And remember, it’s not about rules or deprivation. It’s about enjoying what you eat, and if you find that your tastes have changed, it makes sense for your food choices to change, too.