Common Sense: Using all Five of your Senses

As children in school, we probably learned very early on about our five senses.  You might have learned fun songs to remember them and what each of them did, or perhaps you recited cute little poems.  However you learned about them, you’ve known what they are and what they do for quite some time.  Yet you probably haven’t really thought that much about them since those early days of learning.  Sure you use them every day, but do you really think about the way the air smells as you walk to your car from the store? Or thought about the way that pine cone felt when you picked it up? How about the way the grass looked as a nice fall breeze rippled through it? When was the last time you marveled at the sound of a bird chirping or really tasted that delicious chocolate strawberry?  In our fast paced world, the answer to most of these questions is probably no (and you’re probably getting a little nauseous at how poetic and magical I am making all those things seem. Tough).  Rushing through our days, from one task to the next, can be stressful.  I know, I’m probably stating the obvious to most of you, but rushing through our meals can be tough on our health.  And I am not just talking about eating really fast and dealing with indigestion, I mean not using all of our senses to thoroughly enjoy and partake in our meals.  Over the decades we have lost some of the key components of meals, and surprisingly the foods we eat may have something to do with that.


Taste.  It’s the most obvious of the senses when it comes to eating.  Sure smell might be important, but tasting is where it’s at when it comes down to eating a meal.  We all have certain flavors we absolutely love and some we loathe.  You might consider yourself a sweet tooth or perhaps you love anything and everything salty.  Well did you know that the foods, or better yet, the tastes you crave can be shaped by your diet?  This research examines the links between obesity and food/taste perceptions.  The research shows that there is a possibility that obese people may have more of a craving for fatty foods.  Because the research is still in its early stages there are no definitive conclusions. Yet. But this does pose some interesting ideas.  Why do the obese crave what makes them obese? Is it hopeless for them to even try to cut back on fatty foods if it appears their cravings are hard-wired? Can this happen to anyone or are certain people predisposed? Can cravings ever really be fixed? Is Katie ever going to make a point in this post?


Yes, I am.  While I’m not a scientist or an expert on nutrition I can make some observations based on my own experiences.  The food you eat really can affect your tastes.  There are so many things going on when you bite into that cookie, neurons firing sending messages to your brain and stomach, mood levels changing (you’re eating a cookie, of course you’re stoked).  And all these happenings are being stored away in your memory and certain foods become linked to certain feelings or emotions. Warm chocolate chip cookie: good things like baking with your mom on a cold winter night.  Plain brussel sprouts: bad things like your mom making you sit alone in the kitchen until you finish them on a cold winter night.  Because these associations are so strong you begin choosing the positive food memories over the negative food memories.  Thus starts the habit of setting up cravings to certain tastes, like sweet.  I’ve been through this, I was addicted to the taste of salty potato chips and gooey delicious brownies.  I ate and craved them so much that I built up tolerances to them and had to find saltier and sweeter foods to get the same pleasure out of my food.  When I decided to start eating better, my cravings were the hardest thing to conquer.  I essentially had to reset my taste preference, preferences that had been deeply engrained from an early age. It was tough but I decided I could be tougher.


You can be too. I’m going to give you a little tough love here, all for the sake of helping you be healthier.  I didn’t give you that study to give you evidence to say “oh well, I’m hard wired to eat bad foods, so there’s no use trying to fix it”.  Suck it up buttercup, you are in control not your craving for pie.  Tastes do and can change.  By making a conscious decision to drop the candy bar and pick up the apple you can slowly (and yes, sadly, painfully) start to change your cravings.  It won’t be easy, but I can be here to help you since I have done this before. These are a few of the things that I did to help me with my cravings for “bad” foods:


1) Get rid of it. Seriously, get all of the junk food out of your house. Donate any non perishables, throw out all the perishables. It might seem like a waste to throw the food away, but your stomach is not a garbage can. Put the garbage food where it belongs and once it’s gone you will have nothing left in the house to crave.


2) Get out. When you find yourself craving something, do something else. Go for a walk (not to your nearest dairy queen), call a friend, read a book, dance to disco music, anything to get your mind off the craving.  Pretty soon your craving will be gone and you will have done something awesome like dance.


3) Get cooking. The internet is a great resource for being healthy. Go online and start finding healthy wholesome replacements for your junk food.  Cooking is an awesome past time and preparing your food every step of the way really allows you to appreciate the end product that much more.


These are just a few of the things that helped me turn my food preferences around.  I know I only touched on one of the five senses today, but it’s a big one.  And it’s a difficult one to change once you have shaped it.  But it can be changed, and you can enjoy healthier foods and a healthier you.  I wouldn’t change all the benefits I have gotten from my lifestyle for anything,  now I enjoy the tastes and flavors of real whole food and actually find the foods I liked before too sweet or too salty.  You can too, all you have to do is decide your health is more important than your craving!