The New York Times journalist Michael Pollan writes in an article ‘unhappy meals’ that we can sum up advice on good diet in seven words: eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Of course he also goes into much more detail in that long article. We recommend reading it.
The advice is fairly simple, but many people even after they understand this advice find it hard to follow. They have cravings for burgers and chocolate and chips and sweets and crisps. And the brutal fact of it is, that most people will give into cravings such as these.
The Taste System
Your tastes are more complicated than just pleasurable or unpleasurable sensations being sent from your tongue to your brain. Most of the taste experience is produced in the nose, smell more than taste, and we know that smell has a very potent memory system. Taste is as much about memory as sensation. Taste is a learned response.
Our tastes are affected, even produced by, our memory. Associations between a food product and a good feeling will literally make you enjoy that taste more next time. You can learn to love the taste of coffee, cigarettes, beer, blue cheese, just through associating that taste with pleasant experience. Just one teenage night of overindulgence can make you hate the taste of some type of alcoholic drink so much it makes you physically sick to drink it.
Consider for a moment how much food advertising you are exposed to each day. How many McDonalds or KFC or Pizza Hut adverts you have seen. Each time you see one of these things your taste system is subtly altered, you begin to like that taste more.
This offers us a path to changing your taste, and thus your cravings, and thus your diet.
Advertising At Yourself
This month’s guided meditation file is designed to help you change your tastes so that you will eat more healthily. As you follow the instructions in the mp3 you will be asked to think of a food item, to recall it vividly, try to experience it’s taste, and then to associate that taste with pleasant events from your life. It can help you take back control of your diet. You should have a food item in mind before you start to listen, presumably one you would like to eat more of.
Of course, you my decide that rather than improving the tastes of a ‘good’ food, you want to reduce the allure of a ‘bad’ food. Just use the same guide in this circumstance, but of course thinking of that ‘bad’ food and associating instead an event which made you feel miserable, sick, or ill.