No Willpower Needed: Once indulgent foods that now disgust me and the healthy foods I love more

May 30, 2019 by Joshua
in Blog

People keep reacting to my diet with, “Wow, you’re so disciplined,” as if it takes willpower to eat as I do.

You know what took willpower? When I always had a container of ice cream in my freezer and potato chips, pretzels, or both in my cupboard. Not eating them took mental work that distracted me from everything else.

The longer I eat like this:

fresh vegetables from the farm

the more I love vegetables from farmers markets and CSAs. Moreover I can eat until I’m full while staying fit. So every meal is satisfying, usually sweet, and cheap.

In the meantime, the more apples and fresh fruit I eat, the sweeter they taste. But beyond sweet, they also have nuanced, subtle, complex flavors. In ice cream, candy, and engineered industrial products one flavor usually dominates: salt or sugar. As much as I ate them before, I find them boring now in comparison. Overpowering too. Some I find painful, like donuts whose overload of sugar, I guess, makes my mouth sensitive. Potato chips too, I guess from the salt.

It requires no willpower to avoid foods I find disgusting. I can’t imagine how much someone would have to pay me to eat a bag of engineered industrial products. I think of how much willpower resisting pretzels used to take, so I sympathize with people who have to work so hard. I find it easier just to lose interest in them

Here is a partial list of foods I used to crave and had to work mentally to avoid them:

  • Ice cream
  • Candy
  • Packaged foods
  • Everything at industrial places like McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Trader Joe’s
  • Anything where the main pleasure comes from salt, sugar, or fat

The last item knocks out most restaurants. I used to think of Mexican as very different from, say, Thai. Mexican food in Mexico and probably very different from Thai food in Thailand, but as restaurants serve them here, one is mostly drenched in melted cheese, the other in coconut milk, both salty, often overly sweet too. So, as prepared nearly anywhere in the U.S., they taste the same to me — salt, sugar, and fat with little nuance or complexity.

I didn’t intend, when I started cooking from scratch, to lose taste for so many engineered industrial products and restaurants. On the contrary, I craved them and wanted more. Now I’m glad I learned to find them disgusting.

The loss of addressing craving from those products is more than made up for by foods I love more. Here’s a short list just of foods I’d never made before, or hardly knew up, but came to love, introduced by local farms.

  • Nutritional yeast
  • Brussels sprout stems
  • Burdock root leaves
  • Tomatilloes
  • Watermelon radish
  • Sunchokes

I can’t describe to you how much I look forward to each coming in season, let alone the regular produce, like broccoli and apples.

Roaches on pizza

I used to crave pizza. Now I rarely eat it and even when famished don’t consider pizzerias as places to get food.

If I taste a food and find its main pleasure comes from salt, sugar, and fat, I feel cheated and I wonder why they’re hiding the vegetables, if the dish contains any. Even if I looked forward to it before tasting it, it becomes to me like food a roach crawled on. The food a roach crawled on is probably still edible and tastes the same, but you probably wouldn’t eat it, no matter how much you liked or craved the flavor.

Sorry to gross anyone out who can’t stand roaches, but how many of you find this pizza appetizing?

Would you need willpower not to eat it? Would knowing it tasted the same make a difference? That’s how I feel in Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and supermarkets. Except packaging also poisons our land, air, and water.

By the way, the roaches look plastic in the picture above, but I bet most people would avoid a slice with only plastic roaches on it.

I still enjoy foods with salt, sugar, and fat

I still enjoy foods with salt, sugar, and fat, just not added. I eat more fruit and nuts than ever, for example.

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