Most of my life, I’ve liked eating apples and I’ve liked eating potato chips. I would say they both tasted good as a result.
Doesn’t wanting to eat something mean it tastes good?
I’d like to suggest a subtle distinction. Actually, it’s only subtle at first. After you realize it, it becomes obvious and changes how you think about food and eat. At least it did for me. It led to me eating more foods I liked and were healthy and losing taste for unhealthy foods.
I stand by my feeling that apples taste good. They’re sweet and crisp.
Note, however, that after you eat one, eating another is hard. Since the next apple tastes just like the first, we seem to have a mechanism to stop us from eating more. That is, the flavor and texture doesn’t change but the motivation does.
Eating most fruit and vegetables follows a similar pattern.
When I eat a potato chip, I usually feel like I want to eat another. Actually, even if I haven’t just eaten one, if I’ve eaten one recently, like in the past few days or maybe weeks, I still feel like eating one. Since I want to eat many of them, if I don’t think too closely, I feel like they taste good.
But if I look at my sensations close enough, I find they don’t actually taste good. The salt tastes good and they’re crunchy, but the potato part (or corn or what base they use) doesn’t taste that good. They get mealy in my mouth and stuck in the valleys of my teeth.
They have the opposite of the second apple. The second apple tastes good but I feel unmotivated to eat it. Chips taste bad but I feel motivated to eat them.
Tasting good versus Want to eat more
I’ve come to distinguish something tasting good versus my wanting to eat more of them. The first apple has both, as does eating most fruit and food that doesn’t come packaged.
Junk “food” often makes you want to eat more without tasting good. I think engineers work at making things activate your want to have more feeling since it increases their employers’ profits. I think they do it by extracting chemicals that provoke the feelings in us. Sugar seems the main one, but savory foods seem to have a different one, probably one of those chemical-sounding names in foods with long ingredient lists. Or maybe just oil.
I don’t know what turns off the feeling of wanting more in an apple, but I suspect fiber has something to do with it. Sugar alone doesn’t seem to affect it. Sugar tastes good—that is, it evokes feelings of pleasure—and makes you want to eat more. Like water with even a little sugar, you can drink tons more than plain water. Fruit juice you can drink forever, it feels like, and it’s basically sugar water. But even when you’re full you could still eat more sugar.
That’s part of why I avoid food with fiber removed or sugar added. It makes it hard to stop eating.
If I go long enough without eating something that makes you want to eat more but doesn’t taste good—like chips, fries, and sweetened desserts—I lose the feeling of wanting to eat them. I suspect they trigger some neural wiring that motivates that, after some time, gets rewired for other purposes, and I guess that time is in months. Also, the longer I go without eating them, the more disgusting they seem. Pop Tarts seem revolting now, but they once were delicious. Same with many aisles of the supermarket. Also the more delicious and fulfilling fruits, vegetables, and legumes feel.
I find distinguishing between tasting good and want to eat more makes eating more healthily easier. I eat more foods that taste better and find stopping eating easier. Isn’t that what we want in foods: that they taste great but we find it easy to stop eating when we’re done?
Emotions in general
This distinction helps illustrate two major parts of emotions. One part is how the emotion feels, which feels like something you perceive. Happiness usually feels good. Anger usually feels bad. The second, separate part is how the emotion motivates you. Calmness makes you want to stay still. Enthusiasm makes you want to do things.
I consider knowing more about emotions and how they work a major part of self-awareness.
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