Sunday, 5 February 2012


 It's February already. One month into the New Year. Like so many others I started the year with a number of resolutions. By and large I've kept to them. They've not all been to do with health, but one certainly was. And as resolutions are most likely to stick if you are accountable and if you constantly remind yourself of your goal I post today about my feelings about food as of one month on in my new target (Which is good health, naturally ! ).

I believe three things.
  1. Tastebuds are not necessarily your friends. Manufacturers and chemists are making large profits by entertaining our tastebuds for a few moments at a time. We are no longer using our tastebuds for pure survival, but for recreational reasons and for emotional support.
  2. Different people are born with different experiences of taste sensitivities. There are super-tasters - people with a much greater concentration of taste buds on their tongues. They taste more intensely than the majority. Did you know that within the general population there is a wide range of taste experiences. And taste includes sensations of heat, texture, and pain - such as heat from chillies. As bitter foods are avoided and sweet, salty and creamy foods are actively pursued this impacts food choices, and this in turn impacts health. So your taste buds play a role in your health.
  3. We can no longer depend on our taste buds to keep us out of trouble and to point us in the direction of where our best choices in food lie. With the advent of refrigeration, irradiation, and sell by dates, with the growing lucrative market that panders to our food taste and sensation preferences - in the form of sweetness, saltiness, oiliness and creaminess ( high energy foods that were once necessary for our survival as a species ) -,and with the development of non-biological or man-made additives to, on, or in our foods which to all intents and purposes are tasteless, odourless and nutritionally valueless, we can no longer rely on our senses to help us make optimum food choices for our health. Nature and evolution have hardwired us to seek out high energy foods to ensure that we are fit enough to reproduce. Once we have satisfied this urge nature has little more urgent use for us. Eating a high fat, high sugar, high salt diet is good for survival of the human race in general and us in particular in the shorter term  but it does us, as individuals, no good in the longer term,and leads to chronic degenerative diseases.
So, once again, our taste buds are not necessarily our friends.  Now some people say that it takes a month to break a habit. The Internet is full of 21 day challenges aimed at rebooting our minds and retraining us in our food and lifestyle choices. I personally believe that it takes a lot longer than this to retrain ourselves to make lifestyle choices, and perhaps that's why so many of us fall off the wagon , expecting things to all run smoothly by the end of the challenge. I think that with food habits we're dealing with very deep and primitive instincts, with cultural norms ( magazines and tv are full of full colour adverts for foods and beverages that really need little selling !), and with emotional memories and linkages ( Can't we all remember the treats, the desserts, the rewards, the family feasts we had in happy times.).  So it can take much longer to change a habit where eating is concerned. But we can change behaviour and intention in 30 days. We can change energy and focus. But a month is only the start. It takes determination and mindfulness and discipline to maintain lifestyle changes. I know from personal experience that lifestyle changes made more than 4 years ago are being maintained by determination , and not habit., by daily decisions, and not by reprogramming. It's just not as simple as doing a cleanse and getting on with it from there. Our bodies and minds often go into auto-pilot mode and that can be a stubborn and pernicious thing.As soon as we relax, all our bad habits of the past reappear. It might seem negative and dis-empowering to suggest that a month isn't long enough. Far from it ! A month will see a significant change in the body. A month is a good start and foundation. I'm simply suggesting that it will take continued determination and intention. I sometimes catch myself still looking for the quick fix, for a magic potion, for a silver bullet.  But the reality is that we live in the real world. A cleanse is a great start, but it won't magically change anyone's preferences. It can't change instinct, and instinct is where our tastebuds operate. Give them sweet, salty, creamy any day of the week. Now fresh fruit and veg are delicious, but they don't give quite the same feeling of comfort and nurture. We don't go out of our way to binge on broccoli. And broccoli doesn't initiate quite the same cascade of reactions in our bodies. I don't know anyone addicted to cruciferous vegetables ! Now sugar - that's a different story altogether!

But, as I say, a month can refocus us, change our energy and attention, change our motivation. So I'm looking to make some changes over the next month. The timing is not optimum - there's holidays coming up and lots of commitments where I'll not have full control of what I eat and do with my time.  But that's life. It's never going to be optimum for change. Waiting for the right time is like waiting for Godot. Pointless. So knowing that now is not a good time, I commit to refocusing myself on healthy lifestyle choices.  I started last month. As so many do. And I have made some very positive changes. I'm just committing to doing the same this next month and consolidating and building on last months. And I'll doubtless do the same thing the month after.

Awareness is knowledge, and knowledge is power. With the best of intentions I will live Today mindfully, to the best of my ability. And, I'm going to acquaint myself with my taste buds today.

 What do I hope to gain ?  Health.   Peace of Mind.   Energy.

So for the next month I will go easy on myself. I'm apt to be very critical of myself. I could have done better last month, but then I did my best in the circumstances. There is no point in regrets or recriminations. It won't change where I am.. The longest journey begins with one step. And I can only take one step at a time.  My legs won't stretch further than one span. It's one step at a time. No negotiation. No possibility of anything else. This is true for me. And as author Kathy Freston says, " Progress, not perfection "

Resources :-
There is a very interesting podcast available for download from itunes that talks about our taste buds. It's the All In The Mind podcast entitled  " Mmm...that's tasty "  (March 4th 2011) . Host Natasha Mitchell  interviews psychologist Linda Barloshuk on March 4th 2011.

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