Partner is a foodie, I’m a picky eater. Fights ensue.

Here’s another question from readers of Mealtime Hostage.


My significant other is a foodie, and I’m a picky eater. I’m tired of hearing how terrible my diet is and being asked to try new foods. We just had a big fight about my eating, and I feel so disconnected and hurt.

Listen up, foodies.

I know you want to share your love of food with your loved ones — hell, with the whole world. That is a nice impulse, truly. But this is not an issue of food so much as it is one of relationships.

This is about bodily agency and consent.

In many relationships, one partner sees themselves as the Great Offerer of Experiences, Ideas, and Tastes, and sees the other as an empty vessel into which they pour their Experiences, Ideas, and Tastes. It can happen with music, film, travel, sex, and of course, food. This is a teacher-student dynamic, or a parent-child dynamic, or a mentor-mentee dynamic.

This dynamic has its place, but it is not a shared-love-between-equals dynamic.

So, what kind of relationship are you in, and what kind do you want to be in? Do you want your partner to be your student or your equal?

Have you received informed consent from your partner to assess their diet? Doesn’t sound like it. They’re doing their best to fulfill a bodily function that is physiologically controlled. Judging their eating is tantamount to following them into the toilet and holding up a scorecard. It’s creepy and gross.

People have to come around to food in their own time. If they aren’t allowed to, if they are pressured or forced or coerced into trying something that they find intimidating, there is a very good chance they will not suddenly love that food, will not have the Foodie Switch in their brain flipped to the On position.

More likely, they will associate more anxiety with that food, not less, and it will probably taint the memory of the delicious thing you were hoping they’d enjoy.

So what do you do instead? I’m going to sound like a broken record, but: follow a Division of Responsibility.

Not the one for parents and children. The one that exists between adults.

As an adult, you are responsible for your own eating. The other adult is responsible for what, when, where, how much, and whether they eat. You can negotiate certain things — where and when are sometimes necessary to coordinate, and if you’re deciding on a restaurant or a recipe, some negotiation around what will also be useful. But you need to remember that any negotiations around what end at offering. Not ingestion.

What this means is, you can both decide on a place to eat, or a recipe to try, and you can put the food on the table and both sit down.

After that? You must chill.

No one has to put anything in their mouth or their stomach that they don’t want. To insist that they do is a serious boundary violation, and a breach of their bodily agency. There is a spectrum of not-okayness that starts with coaxing, wheedling, and pressuring someone to try something they don’t want, and ends with force-feeding. Don’t be that guy.

People are funny about putting things in their bodies, because it’s inherently risky. It’s moving an outside object across the boundary between not-me and me, and there is a certain vulnerability attached to that. People are afraid of contamination, of squicky textures, of unknown ingredients, of possible downstream side-effects, and for good reason: we evolved to have this hesitancy around food because certain things are not good for us to eat. This is an inborn trait attached to survival, and you’re not going to get around it with pressure and prodding. If anything, you’re going to make it worse.

So shut up. Put the food on the table, throw on some bread and butter or rice as a back-up dish, sit down and eat. Talk with your partner about your day, about that funny movie you want to watch, about dogs you saw on the way home, and leave food entirely out of it. In fact, let’s set a rule right now: don’t talk about food at all unless your partner brings it up. Enjoy yourself and keep your eyes on your own plate.

If you make eating with you a pleasant experience, your partner will want to continue to do it. Over time, with lots of experience sitting at the table with intimidating foods, those foods will become less intimidating — as long as you don’t say anything — and your partner may actually branch out to try some on their own. They might not like it, which is okay, because it can take several exposures or tries before something is liked enough to be incorporated into the eating repertoire.

Just…shut up. Eat your food. Count your lucky stars that you enjoy it, and lay off everyone else.

Since you’ve already managed to hurt your partner, I’m going to tell you the formula for when you mess up: first apologize sincerely, and then do something to make amends. Go say you’re sorry, and bring home a nice little notebook or a plant or a favourite chocolate bar for them, or cook them a meal they really enjoy (and shut up.)

Here’s where I will address the picky eater: you don’t have to eat anything you don’t want. All you need to do is show up at the agreed-upon time and place, and don’t make faces or say anything about how gross the food looks or smells. That’s it. Sit at the table, pick at the bread and butter if you want, and if you don’t end up eating anything during the meal, go get yourself a bowl of cereal afterward and eat it in blessed peace.

P.S. There is nothing wrong with you.


All of the bodily agency in comments.

Posted in Dear Fat Nutritionist, Picky Eating | Comments closed

We deserve to look like ourselves.

One day a while ago, my husband asked me, “Why do you have three-thousand pictures of yourself on your hard drive?”

This was not an easy question to answer. A little background:

From the time I was about nine, I was told almost daily by my peers that I was unforgivably ugly.

During childhood, for a long time, I appreciated the way I looked. I liked my face, my shoulders, even my wispy baby-hair. I knew that no one else could see what I saw, I knew that I was not “pretty” in the tightly-defined way girls are supposed to be, but I liked myself. I looked in the mirror with some amount of pleasure, a recognition that what I saw there was human, that it was me, and that I liked being me.

This liking was slowly eroded by two things: 1) being told, over and over again, that I was ugly, would always be ugly, and 2) being told that if I betrayed any sign of liking myself, I was vain.

I wanted to be pretty, and I was supposed to be pretty, and if I wasn’t naturally pretty I was supposed to work at it, but I wasn’t supposed to let anyone know I was working at it. It was a confusing way to grow up.

By the time I was 12, I started to suspect that the whole idea of “pretty” was bullshit — that year, I kicked a dentist who yanked my tooth without any warning/consent/anaesthesia, and who then tried to sell me braces with, “Don’t you want to be pretty?” I ran out of the room with crooked teeth and blood on my chin.

There were several confusing years after that, culminating in a moment, at 16, when people suddenly decided to find me pretty, and to loudly and aggressively tell me to my face that I was pretty, and to treat me as though I were now a more valuable and sought-after person because of it. I messed around with people’s perceptions whenever I could, dressing down at first, then suddenly showing up in my Pretty Lady Costume, and watching the same people who’d ignored me the day before become deferential.

I decided the entire thing, top to bottom, front to back, was a steaming pyramid of bullshit. My value as a human being could not possibly fluctuate as readily as people wanted me to believe, based on whether or not I wore certain clothes or put on makeup or didn’t bother with my hair that day or gained or lost weight. I was a person, not a fucking junk bond.

A few years later, I got fat, which meant that I was persona non grata again.

Bullshit: confirmed.

I didn’t look in the mirror for a long time, still believing in the misogynist fever-dream of “vanity.” For a long time, after I gained weight, I felt I didn’t have the right to leave the house or exist in public, that maybe I was too ugly to even deserve to live — even though I knew that, intellectually, to be bullshit. I took steps to fight against it, but it was a long, slow battle.

I started to come out of it around age 27, and took the first photos of myself in a long time. A couple years later, I got my first webcam and began taking more self portraits. When I was surprised by the way I looked in the pictures, I realized that I wasn’t actually familiar with how I looked, because I avoided looking at myself so much. This disturbed me; I deserved to carry a self-image in my head instead of a vague, dread-inducing void.

Later, as I took more pictures, this thought changed slightly: I also deserved to show other people what my image of myself looked like, how I saw myself. Whether or not this matched up with how they saw me was almost irrelevant — their image of me was no more objective or true than my image of myself. I deserved to be able to say, with my photos, to other people, “Hey, I know you see a crude barometer of my social status when you look at me, but this is what I, a human, actually look like.”

I took a lot of pictures.

Here’s the thing about pictures: they help to determine what image of yourself, and of human beings in general, you carry in your head. In a way, they help you to define what “human” is, and, if you are represented in the images, to include yourself in that definition.

I have weighed a lot of weights in my life, and looked a lot of different ways, and I have been human the whole time.

For reasons I shouldn’t have to spell out, this is really, really important for people’s health and well-being. We need to be allowed to see ourselves as human, at any size, and to see ourselves represented alongside other humans. We need to be able to share our images in public, if we want, and push the recognition of our humanity. Mostly, we need to be allowed to have images of ourselves imbedded in our brains, alongside everyone else. When we see nothing but images of people who don’t look like us celebrated and represented by our own culture, little by little, it degrades our sense of being human. It is a form of systemic emotional abuse.

When someone takes the images of stigmatized people and digitally alters them to fit the mainstream ideal of beauty, they have effectively turned those people’s images against them, and further degraded those people’s sense of their own humanity.

In places where fat people post their selfies, trolls needle them for posting “deceptive angles” that make them appear thinner, or “hiding their bodies” with headshots, or “using filters” (that is, the wide-angle lens standard on most smartphones) to elongate themselves, but — somehow without imploding from cognitive dissonance — consider themselves to be performing charity by poorly and aggressively Photoshopping fat people’s photos to make them look thin.

It’s just a joke, okay. It’s just trolling, okay. Trolling is subversive comedy, you know, okay. Man the harpoons, okay. It’s “promoting health,” okay. If I react with outrage, lel. Okay.

It’s just funny how it aligns with the status quo.
It’s just funny how it perpetuates health disparities.
It’s just funny how it always upholds the existing hierarchy.
It’s just funny how it’s never actually subversive.

They do it because they enjoy pushing people’s faces in the dirt. That’s all. They’re not rebels; they’re lackeys in service of the most pedestrian cultural norms, and boring enough that those norms are indistinguishable from their personalities.

I feel for them. Let’s hope they make a full recovery. Until then.

Posted in Fatness | Comments closed

Stop watching paint dry.

When you make toast, you can put bread in the toaster and push the lever down. What you can’t do is turn bread into toast through the powers of your mind. And if you stand around watching the toaster, you’re wasting your time.

Drying paint is the same way. What you can do: paint the wall, open a window, leave the room. What you can’t do: force the paint to dry through sheer force of will. If you stand there watching the wall, you will experience the most excruciating passage of time known to man. When the paint does eventually dry, it won’t be because you stood there.

The same goes for boiling water, rocks turning to sand, and weighing yourself.

My work with clients does not focus on weight, but a lot of them hope that they will lose weight if they sort out their eating and their relationship to exercise. Since we live in a world where we are all told, all the time, that losing weight makes us healthier, more attractive, more successful, more sympathetic characters in our own story, this hope is understandable.

Sometimes, it even happens — but not because they stand over the scale, waiting for the needle to move. And definitely not because they pour all of their available resources into going hungry and tracking every single bite or step.

I have lived that life. Your weight goes down, the rest of you goes up in smoke.

What makes weights change, more permanently and with less soul-killing, is what I think of as Actual Lifestyle Change, which is to say, your entire life changes — not just your conscious choices around eating and moving. Sometimes you get a new job that has you up on your feet more, eating at very structured times, and doing work absorbing enough to upstage food preoccupation. Sometimes you move to a new neighbourhood / city / country, and every tiny routine of your daily life is shaped differently. Sometimes your weight responds.

Health at Every Size is a weight-neutral philosophy. The idea is that weight can change, but it’s best if that change is not the focus of your actions. Rather, it is best to set up the circumstances of a healthy, fulfilling life, and then see what your weight does as a result.

What makes these changes work, when, so often, conscious decisions to do these same exact things don’t, is the nature of the change: you make one big decision and a thousand other things change along with it, not necessarily by choice. You set the big rock rolling, and it goes down the hill without any further input from you. You set up the conditions, then you live inside of them.

The times my weight has changed significantly, but unintentionally, have always been attached to a major life event: I got married, immigrated to a new country with a different climate and became a housewife (weight went up.) I moved to the city and lived within walking distance of my workplace (weight went down.) I started working from home, eating with clients many times a week (weight went up.) I did a full-time internship where I was on my feet a lot and went back to eating only when I wanted to (weight went down.)

Despite all this, my weight is still within a few pounds of where it was ten years ago.

Your weight is the product of a dynamic equilibrium. Picture a bucket of water. The bucket has a hole in the bottom where water leaks out, but it sits under a faucet with water constantly running in, sometimes at a trickle, sometimes a gush. The level to which the water in the bucket rises depends on the rate of both of these things. Neither one stops, ever — there is a constant inflow and outflow, that’s the dynamic part. Once the inflow and outflow are both fairly constant, or when they are tied together in a feedback loop that allows them to compensate for what the other is doing, the level remains about the same. That’s the equilibrium.

In order to have a body at all, for a time, the water running into the bucket has to exceed the water running out. This is normal, necessary. Different buckets will fill up to a different point before they level off, and they will maintain different rates of inflow and outflow. This is also normal and necessary. Each bucket will have its own preferred range of fullness. Sometimes the water will rest at the top of that range, and sometimes at the bottom. Where it rests at any given time is a product of a whole bunch of things the bucket may have no control over: the weather (it might be raining, adding more water to the bucket, or it might be arid, evaporating water from the bucket more quickly), whether the faucet is working properly, whether the hole in the bottom of the bucket is obstructed with lime scale, or eaten away by rust.

Let’s say the bucket has some input into one thing: where it sits. Where it sits will determine which faucet it sits beneath, and which surface it rests upon. But it takes a major effort for the bucket to move itself, an upheaval of its entire bucket existence. Depending where it ends up, the level of water inside may change, though it will probably still be within a certain range.

I think I’ve tortured this analogy long enough. Our culture, food environment, built environment, work environment, living space, etc. are the structures that systematically determine our daily life routines and our moment-to-moment decisions. No single momentary choice you make about eating this food vs. this other food is going to have the broad-reaching effects of picking up and moving to a place where all the food is different, for example. No decision to exercise tomorrow vs. today is going to have the long-term impact of living in a place where your daily commute requires walking or biking.

In fact, I think you’re likely to experience decision-fatigue if you have to consciously choose to do something that is at odds with your environment dozens of times a day.

That’s not to say it’s impossible to change your habits through choice and repetition, but the environment must be at least minimally supportive of those choices. If it is, you can change your habits one day and one step at a time, not by watching paint dry, but by focusing on the immediate rewards those habits provide. If they are rewarding, ultimately it won’t matter so much whether your weight changes, and random scale fluctuations won’t destroy your momentum.

And if the environment is not compatible with such choices, you can make one, big decision — to change your environment, your job, your whole life — and let time do the rest.

Paint the wall, open a window, and leave the room. Stop watching paint dry.


Don’t throw paint in comments.

Posted in Weight | Comments closed

I’m on a semi-starvation diet, why am I so hungry?

Today, I have another reader question shared by Mealtime Hostage.


I’ve cut my portions to 1/2 of what I would usually eat (or) I’m trying to stay at 1200 calories a day but I’m soooo hungry!

Of course you’re hungry! You’re eating less than you need, and your body is poking you, trying to get you to eat more.

1200 calories a day is not enough food for most grown-up people.* Unless you’re simply a small, not-very-hungry person (ballpark: 4′ 10″ and 100 lbs.), you’re very likely not eating enough to support your needs.

When it comes to energy and appetite, your body attempts to match your energy intake to your energy expenditure. That means, if you use a lot of energy one day, running around more than usual, you will be hungrier afterward, as your body attempts to make up the deficit. I’ve even experienced “catch up” hunger several days removed from the event.

But the biggest chunk of your energy expenditure comes not from activity, but from existing and continuing to exist, and that depends a lot on how big you are. Bigger people tend to expend more energy just being alive, and therefore, they’re going to need to eat more in order to match their intake to their expenditure. Your body is remarkably accurate at doing this, and research shows a very narrow margin of error in matching intake to expenditure over very long periods of time, for most people. This results in a mostly-stable weight for years at a time.

It’s true that many people’s weights will slowly drift upward over years and decades, but from a survival perspective, your body sees that as less risky than if it were to drift downward. Some people experience dramatic weight instability, gaining and losing lots of weight, sometimes unintentionally, in relatively short periods of time. If there’s no underlying medical issue (like an illness, or a thyroid problem, or a medication interaction), it may be that their eating and/or activity has been chaotic enough to disrupt the body’s usual balancing act.

But, back to your question: if you’re purposely eating fewer calories than you expend, you will feel hungry and your body will attempt to get you to eat more. Sometimes using very sneaky means…like “Ooops a box of cookies!” or “I accidentally the whole pizza.” Your resting energy expenditure might also tank, as your body tries to conserve energy. You’ll be sleepier, less active, and less able to warm yourself up in the cold. And when the weight loss inevitably slows, or you begin regaining weight, you will blame yourself and your lack of willpower, instead of the true culprit: an energy deficit and your body’s clever survival mechanisms.

If long-term research on diet has taught us anything, it’s that most people’s bodies do not like being in negative energy balance — the state required to lose weight — for very long.

People can and do suppress their hunger by focusing intently on their diet, but as soon as their attention wavers — say, they get sick, or they get really busy at work, or some family comes to visit — it is almost inevitable that they will go back to eating more. Often, more than they would have if they hadn’t been restricting. And if their attention never wavers, there’s a chance they’ve triggered an underlying eating disorder.

Ignoring one’s hunger signals requires enormous effort, and I’m not convinced that for people who do it successfully, it’s always a good thing. In the case of an eating disorder, it’s definitely not.

If you’re on a calorie restriction diet, you have two options: you can continue restricting and just put up with the hunger (and the binges and weight regain that will almost certainly follow), or you can decide that your body’s hunger signals are not wrong, are not aberrations, and are, in fact, worth listening to and respecting. You can decide that you have the right to eat what you need, not go hungry, and to weigh what your body prefers…and that you can still improve your health and body image, if you want to, even if your weight never changes.

This does not mean that you must follow every single impulse toward food, because every single impulse toward food is also not respecting your hunger. Most of us are surrounded by hundreds of food cues every day, in the form of advertising, and it makes us think of food even when we’re not otherwise hungry. But you can commit to learning what hunger truly feels like, and then deciding, when it calls, that you will answer it by feeding yourself matter-of-factly and well.

Responding to your hunger appropriately will give you the best chance for long-term weight stability. If you were previously eating more than your body wanted or needed, responding to your hunger might even help you settle at a slightly lower weight. Bonus: it will also provide you with the energy you need to support exercising, running around with your kids, doing hard physical labour, or whatever your life requires. Physical activity will, in turn, further contribute to a stable weight, as well as more energy (and, hopefully, fun) in the moment, and better long-term health.

In my opinion, that’s a much better deal than giving yourself less than you need.

*But there are always exceptions and outliers, and some people naturally eat very little. Energy needs are also very different for hospitalized people, or people with medical conditions that affect their resting energy expenditure.


Plenty of calories to go around in comments.

Posted in Diets, eating, Humane Nutrition | Comments closed

Part 3: Offering yourself new foods.

This is the third part of my very long-winded response to a reader question forwarded to me from Mealtime Hostage.


It didn’t really hit me until I wrote the second post in this series a few days ago, but there’s a huge part of my work that I never blog about: I work with a lot of adult picky eaters who just want to learn to eat more foods. These are people who never learned, as kids, how to eat more than a scant handful of things, and it makes their lives difficult enough that they seek me out.

I love working with picky eaters. I can’t tell you how beautiful it is to watch someone try a food they’ve never tried before, perhaps with some trepidation, but determined to stop feeling afraid. And whether they turn out to like it or not, forever after, that food no longer holds power over them. It just becomes food, not something suspicious and terrifying…even if they never eat it again.

When you’re learning to like new foods, it’s important to observe the Division of Responsibility within yourself. That sounds weird, doesn’t it? But when you consider that, for children, good-enough parenting leads to children who grow into adults with good-enough emotional regulation, interpersonal skills, and self-image, it also makes sense that good-enough feeding by parents will lead to an adult who is good enough at eating.

But because we live in a frankly eating disordered culture, most of our parents probably breached the Division of Responsibility in Feeding at some point. This is not unusual, and most of the time, it isn’t done with malicious intent. (Where there is malice, there is usually abuse happening in other domains as well.) Maybe it was just an occasional lapse, a mild lack of structure and permission, or maybe it was a full-blown assault of constant pressure, restriction, or total neglect. Either way, as an adult, if it affected you enough that you now struggle with food, you’re the one who has to pick up the pieces.

In a sense, you have to provide for yourself what you didn’t get as a child: structured, predictable mealtimes, in a pleasant setting, where a variety of foods — some familiar, some challenging — is at your disposal to pick and choose from. And where no one pressures you (or cajoles…or suggests…or makes innocent commentary…or holds you to a one-bite rule) about what you decide to eat.

If you can provide this to yourself consistently, over time your repertoire will grow.

Eat What You’re Already Eating

To establish a foundation, once you’ve removed external pressure from your eating, you also need to remove some internal pressure. You do this by giving yourself unconditional, unalloyed permission to eat the foods you already know and like. If that means you eat chicken nuggets every day for the next year, well, okay. The important thing is that you’re getting yourself fed, and you’re the one making the decisions. This will preserve your physical survival and your bodily autonomy, both critical tasks.

If you like vending machine snacks, it’s okay to eat them. If you like cereal and toast, it’s okay to eat them. Humans are remarkable omnivores, which means that, yes, while wide variety is preferable for health, people can also live on wildly different, limited diets, and do just fine for long periods of time. Eating only cereal or chicken nuggets or toast or snacks for a while is not the end of the world.

Give yourself permission to eat only the foods that you feel safe with, for now. If you have a truly and extremely limited palate and you’re concerned about nutrient deficiencies, consider taking a supplement (whether it’s a multivitamin or something like Ensure) to cover your bases. Let yourself relax. You’ve got the rest of your life to learn to eat new foods, and you deserve to start from a secure foundation where you feel comfortable.

All of us begin life eating only one thing: breastmilk or formula. From there, we gradually add in more foods, step by step. No one has to do it all at once OR ELSE. As long as you’re eating something, eating is not a dire, life-or-death proposition. You can eat what you’re already eating, and do it with full permission.

Offer Yourself New Foods

To me, offering is the core of learning to eat new foods. Offering means just that. It doesn’t meaning pressing, or pushing, or wheedling. It also doesn’t stop at merely asking yourself whether you theoretically, maybe, might possibly want to try something today (the answer will always be no.) Offering doesn’t stop at just taking a quick glance in the fridge. Offering means putting food on the table, in front of yourself, and then letting it sit there whether you eat it or not.

What’s the point of this, you ask? Exposure. Over time, neutral exposures to things that previously made you feel anxious will take the anxiety away and build new, more positive associations with those things. If you can eat a meal of foods you already know and like, while happily and calmly sitting in the presence of a food you’re not sure about — even if you never touch it or taste it — you will become more relaxed around that food. Eventually you might become curious about it, or exasperated with its presence, and in a fit of pique you might even touch a bit of it to your tongue.

Once you’ve done that, whether you like it or hate it, it is a known quantity. Now you begin to know how to navigate it.

To put offering into practice, you can focus on one new food at a time. Make a list of foods that might be useful to know how to eat, and rank them in order from least-intimidating to most-intimidating. Start on the least-intimidating part of the scale: buy the food, bring it home, and while you’re eating a meal of foods you already like, try putting it on the table in its simplest or least-intimidating form (ask someone else to prepare it for you if that helps, but I often find that doing the prep yourself, even if it’s something as simple as rinsing and cutting a raw vegetable, takes some of the fear and mystery out of it.)

Don’t put it on the plate you’re eating from unless you feel really confident about it. Put it in its own bowl or on a plate, and sit with it while you eat your other food, and notice how it makes you feel. If you get curious about it, approach it, but remember that approach does not necessarily mean “eat.”

You can approach a food without eating it in the following ways:

  1. Simply glance at it while it sits there.
  2. Pick up the plate and look at it more closely.
  3. Poke it with your finger, or move it around with your fork, or cut it in half to see what’s inside.
  4. Sniff the air over the plate.
  5. Put another food or a sauce or salt on it, and look at it or smell it again.
  6. Put a little of it on your eating plate and let it sit there.
  7. Touch your finger to it, and then taste your finger.
  8. Touch a tiny part of the food to your tongue.
  9. Put it in your mouth and take it out again.
  10. Put it in your mouth and chew it a little, then spit it out (napkins are handy for this.)

The only thing I would suggest is not to play with your food. None of the above things are playing, they are exploring or examining. When I say “play,” I mean use the food for some other intended purpose — making it into a tabletop football, or dancing it around like a puppet, or making it talk, etc. You’re trying to develop an association that this is food, meaning it is something to eat, not a toy or a supply for arts and crafts. Once you have a firmly established food association with it, play all you want, but for now, limit yourself to exposure and exploration. Eventually you’ll get bored and actually want to eat it, just to see what all the fuss is about.

You will have to waste some food in this process. I know, no one wants to hear this, but if you want to make an omelet you have to break some eggs. Children tend to be prodigious food-wasters, and for now, you will probably be one too. Take heart, though: the better you get at feeding yourself, the less food waste there will be. In the long run, you will get so good at feeding yourself that you’ll probably waste less food than if you never learned to eat more foods. So give yourself permission to waste food if you need to, for now. (And provide yourself with napkins, for polite spitting-out as needed.)

You Don’t Have to Like It

Offering also means learning to tolerate the presence of food, and maybe learning to manage to deal with that food, whether you ultimately like it or not. In fact, when it comes to expanding your food repertoire, “liking” is almost irrelevant. You cannot make yourself like a food. Liking is a nice side-effect that sometimes happens when you try a new thing, but it comes in its own time, usually with repeated exposures, and sometimes not at all. And that’s okay. It really doesn’t matter much whether you like certain foods, so don’t put that burden on yourself.

You don’t have to like anything. But what is useful is knowing how to navigate a food, how to deal with it if it shows up at a dinner party, or how to eat it if you’re lost in the woods and it’s the only thing around. It’s also useful to learn, through actual experience rather than vague anxiety, which foods are not worth having in your mouth at any cost.

Trying to convince yourself to like a food is coercive and it undermines your autonomy. Sometimes people have very good reasons for disliking a food. For example, I do not like the taste of raw tomatoes — they taste vaguely of poison to me — and, as it also happens, I once had an allergic reaction to a raw tomato. So I don’t have to like them, and I have a good reason not to. On the other hand, I can tolerate eating them if needed, and if I were stuck on a mountaintop with an inexplicable supply of raw tomatoes, I would not starve to death.

That’s what it means to learn how to navigate a food.


More offers and explorations in comments.

Posted in eating, Humane Nutrition, Picky Eating | Comments closed
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