I’ve developed this great habit I want to share with you…
I learnt to minimize my lifelong preference for carbohydrates to avoid the nasty health repercussions if I ate them. This practice came sharply into focus during my initial attempts to alter my eating habits, when it felt like I was denying myself, which I was!
It’s still a vivid, early post-diagnosis memory. Pushing meat or fish and veggies around my plate, often with tears welling up that’d spill over, bathing the perfectly healthy, tasty food. A litany of ‘poor me’ mind chatter would block out positive responses to my meal. Such thoughts subsumed me when eating, increasing my sense of deprivation, or decreasing any possible appreciation or enjoyment. I just wanted the meal to be over.
With certain foods, for me salmon comes to mind, eating it without carbs caused an automatic gag response.
Was this the case before diabetes and I didn’t notice it? No, before I’d have always pushed some of the ubiquitous carbs on my plate, rice or mashed potatoes, onto each forkful. When the protein was incorporated into the forkful of carbs, only then could I swallow it.
I didn’t experience every meal in this way, but entrees eaten now without a starch highlighted how much I relied on carbs to get through a meal.
Devoid of them on my plate, meals were no longer a source of pleasure for me.
Two vital shifts occurring over time eased this for me.
Firstly, as I regain my mindfulness approach, I cultivate attitudes such as gratitude and valuing what is present, not lusting after something that isn’t. I’ve much to be grateful for;
* That I’m able to buy healthy organic, sustainable or grass-fed food. Sure, it costs more, and not everyone has access to that quality of food, or the money to buy it. I reframed it to myself as healthcare costs, which made it more palatable. It is a form of preventative care investing in my future health. If I don’t do that via quality food now, my healthcare costs will spiral off the charts later on from expensive-to-treat complications resulting from poorly controlled Type 2. (Did I mention I pay out-of-pocket as I have an enormously high deductible with my ‘catastrophic’ medical insurance?)
* That I’m capable of learning this different way to eat, despite stumbling often and hard, and that I have both the professional and spiritual training resulting in a mind highly adaptable to new directions.
The second major shift happened more physiologically as my body and taste buds underwent their own renaissance. Tolerance and pleasure built as my taste buds grew in acuity. My body seemingly has been able to adapt to differing combinations of food choices and nutrients, flourishing and rewarding me by working to bring a synergy between food and the experience of eating it.
Refraining from eating anything sugary post-diagnosis, after a while I began to notice a subtle sweetness in certain foods such as cherry tomatoes and blueberries for the first time.
Salty too now catapulted to the forefront of my taste buds. I’d stopped adding salt to my food years ago, even using it exceedingly sparingly in cooking. As my sweet cravings declined-avoid anything sweet for about 2 weeks and the cravings will significantly diminish, I grew aware of craving salty in its place! When I thought about it, it was the strength of the flavor that appealed.
I liked that my taste buds jangled!
Discovering my response to the taste of salty was a restorative occurrence. Becoming mindful, that is paying deep attention, to the experience of receiving the taste relayed back to me via my taste buds-no mean feat for such a low taster as myself, now led me to the recently lost pleasure of eating!
Even somewhat subtle flavors became far more distinctive to me, another effect I attribute to being mindful, which tends to heighten all sensory experiences.
Along with the shift in taste, paying more attention than ever to my experience of eating, the texture of food moved to the forefront. I began to clearly see my preference for crispy, crunchy, or comforting creamy foods. Given my abysmal taste buds, I wasn’t too surprised to have this re-affirmed.
Although I already knew this information, looking at my eating habits through a lens of mindfulness sharpened the focus. The knowledge of my preferences had become solely intellectual. A kind of just ‘knowing’ it, quite divorced from receiving the information in the moment from the direct experience.
I am learning to speak the language of eating, articulating the wordless nuances and predilections with which I’d previously not given a voice to, or even been aware of.
My own take-away was a surprising ability to taste sweetness in foods I didn’t associate with being sweet. And the realization that until I let go my preference for sweetness, eating sugar caused me to build a tolerance for it, resulting in tasting it less and needing more to get the ‘hit’. So it took away from any subtlety in discovering that taste in other foods!
Another take-away is remembering to treat myself with kindness! When I cried over my food, I allowed myself to feel the deprivation, because that was exactly what was happening in that moment. Self-compassion, or simply feeling kindness towards myself helped me not get stuck in the story about being deprived.
A helpful hint in cutting out sugar-substitute a minty flavor! Drink mint tea instead of dessert, or pop some gum or a mint in your mouth after a meal. It’ll cut down sweet cravings…stick to it for 2 weeks, and your cravings will decrease dramatically providing you keep the ‘nothing sweet for 2 weeks’ rule.
Questions for you to ponder or leave a comment about
What do you notice about your food tastes?
How do you feel about the food preferences you notice?