By Megrette Fletcher M.Ed., RD., CDE
Have you ever wondered if you could enjoy eating healthy foods? So many of my clients tell me, “Oh, I don’t like that!” and when I try to learn why by asking, “What don’t you like about this food?” they often get a puzzled look on their face. “The taste!” I will often smile and ask, “Yes, the taste, what about it?” And then, the conversation really begins.
When people begin to eat mindfully, they get to learn what they do and don’t like about a food or an eating experience. Most foods can’t be easily grouped into “like” and “don’t like” categories. Lots of things about a food make up our food preferences. These include taste, after taste, texture and mouth feel.
For example, I often share with my clients that I have a strong dislike for the texture of Jell-O®, jelly, custard and yogurt. The thing is I know this because I decided to eat these foods mindfully and really become curious as to why I disliked them. Over time, I learned that I do like the taste, but it was the texture that gave me the willies.
This is where mindful eating became so helpful. I began to experiment with the foods, and after making some changes, I began to enjoy eating these foods. I noticed that when I decreased distraction and really focused on enjoying these foods, I could actually savor them. This was definitely a new experience!
After years of telling myself I should like creamy, smooth yogurt, but never enjoying the experience, I had to relearn how to eat it. The first step was to let myself change the thing I disliked about the food so I would enjoy eating it. I started to add fruit, nuts and granola to my yogurt. I learned that I enjoyed foods with a custard-like texture if they were served with something crunchy. Over time, I learned how to change these “less-than-loved foods” so I could enjoy eating them.
This ability has helped bring variety into my diet -without resentment, guilt or overeating. It is important to remember that mindful eating is a very personal journey. You need to bring your own experiences, thoughts, feelings and beliefs to the table. Every choice you make is an opportunity to experience and better understand why you do the things you do and to choose differently next time if it will serve you better. It is a learning process.
For this approach to be effective, perfection isn’t necessary. Be kind and patient with yourself; the freedom and enjoyment you’ll discover are well worth it.