Monday, December 3, 2012

It's OK that food doesn't always taste good

Sometimes food just doesn't taste good: dry roast beef; previously frozen salmon, under cooked potatoes, overcooked asparagus, stale bread. A cooked meal doesn't turn out or a new choice at a restaurant doesn't taste as good as imagined.

What do you do when food doesn't taste good?

I can tell you what I do when food didn't taste good. I eat more food; food guaranteed to taste good. Food such as grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets, french fries, ice cream, cookies etc. Basically, in order to be satisfied, my taste buds must also be satisfied.

This wasn't odd. I thought it was perfectly reasonable to think that food must taste good. Food is always described in reference to its taste. Food manufacturers wouldn't sell their "product" if their marketing campaign said that "buy this lasagna, it tastes...OK."

Before eating, there is a sense that a certain meal isn't going to cut it. A tell-tale sign of an upcoming disappointing meal is that it is made up of food that I don't like such as scalloped potatoes or pork chops.

On those occasions  I consume the meh meal trying to ignore the feeling that the food is doing absolutely nothing for me. Anxiety begins to rise from the lack of taste and triggers hunger. After dinner, I wait for the hunger to subside, but it doesn't as I continue to obsess over the lack of taste satisfaction.

Like my cat in the morning, impatiently waiting for breakfast, I pace, swiftly moving between the fridge and pantry hunting for my quarry. The one food that will satisfy the need; once found, I devour the food. Satisfaction, finally. The discomfort from the anxiety eases.

Of course, my therapist discovered this when I explained why I was unable to stick to the pre-planned menu. Then she told me something that I had not previously considered. She said:

Food isn't always going to taste good.

That is OK.
Huh? Food isn't always going to taste great and that's OK? Unlike the sentiment of virtually every food commercial, great tasting food isn't owed to me?

Wow. I had never thought of food that way before. I used food to pander to my taste buds.

That is when I realized that the purpose of food is meant to provide nutrition, rather than to satisfy the needs of my taste buds. So when food doesn't taste good, that isn't a reason to eat more food. This must be what Geneen Roth refers to eating what your mind wants rather than what your body wants.

For years, even decades, my food choices were based on satisfying this insatiable need for taste. Of course, I craved foods that are the easiest to covet: sugar, salt, and grease. Dieting or not, I battled the need for taste against the need to stay thin on a daily basis. With time, the need for taste increased and my ability to lose weight decreased.

With awareness and practice, I'm no longer obsessed with the taste of food. The unexpected result of letting go of the need for taste (or at least the lowest common denominator of taste that I craved) is that I changed the food that I want to eat to foods that also happen to be good for my body.

Coming Soon: Let me know on facebook what you think of processed food, I'm working on a new post and I'd love to hear your thoughts. What do you consider to be processed food? Can processed food healthy? To eat or not eat, let me know which side of the processed food fence you are on!


  1. Unless you are dirt poor, I can't think of a single person in America who is ok with food not tasting good. Not one. I understand what you are saying, that you don't have to eat two meals just to make up for bad taste. But shouldn't it be that if the food doesn't taste great STOP EATING IT? Then you can go make yourself something that doesn't taste disgusting and eat it instead. (NOT in addition to, INSTEAD OF) Why on earth would we all sit around eating junk that tasted nasty, unless it was literally the only thing available to us to eat??!? It'd be different if it was rice porridge or nothing. But most people aren't in that situation. Not in this country. (and yes, I know there are thousands of hungry poor Americans, I'm generalizing here)

    1. Hi Shannon,

      Thanks for your comment!

      I'd just like to point out that I'm not talking about Americans, I'm talking about the experience of one Canadian woman discovering a new eating trigger.

      I'd also like to point out that this doesn't happen very often. My husband is a great cook, but sometimes meals just don't turn out for whatever reason. This can happen to anyone no matter their economic situation.

      Of course, I am not obligated to eat food that doesn't taste great, but not eating is not always an option.

      An example is if we are at a dinner party and the hosts are serving chicken but it is overcooked and/or tasteless. I'm hungry and it's the only food available so eat as much food to satisfy my hunger and stop eating. Before I would obsess about the lack of taste satisfaction which usually led to eating more food. Now I just accept that the food for that meal just didn't taste that great, and I forget about it.

      Another example is that my husband cooks steak and for whatever reason it doesn't have any taste. Do I cook an additional food? No, I suck it up and have some of the steak for dinner, because the point of food is to provide nutrients for my body not to satisfy my need for taste. Again, I accept that this meal wasn't that tasty and I forget about it.

      Anyhow, I'm going to talk about taste in another post, so I'm sure we'll have more to banter about!


  2. One other revelation I've had over the years is if I have a full plate and something on it doesn't taste good, I DON'T have to eat it :) To me, it was like WHAT? I don't have to eat it? Come again?! lol :)

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  4. For Munchberry - I see that you are blogging again, but you are private now - can you please add me to your blog? My email address for my profile is reidfamilymarketing(at)hotmail(dot)ca!

  5. Food as fuel is a concept I've been trying to instill in my head. It's not about emotions - it's about healthy living. I don't think I've compensated bad tasting food with a second more satisfying meal - I'll just try not to eat it - but I have done other similar rationalizations such as I wasn't too hungry to have lunch, so I can have some extra dessert for dinner. Doesn't work like that! I like how you were open about your understanding about the importance we place on being satiated by our food!

    1. Hi Irina,

      Thanks for your comment!

      Yes, I agree, it doesn't work like that. It's great when food tastes good and is satisfy on that level, but in the end, food really is just fuel!



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