When I got my first real job out of college, I lived in Atlanta with one of my best friends. We would slave away all week (at least we thought we did) and then blow it out on Friday night. So a greasy fast-food breakfast on Saturday morning – usually a bacon-egg-and-cheese biscuit with hash browns and a Coke – was required to start my recovery.
I used to crave food like this. Now? I cannot even image eating a meal like that.
The closest thing to a hangover recovery meal I have today is avocado toast. (And I would never dream of letting a Coke hit my lips.) But if you’d asked me 20 years ago if avocado toast would’ve hit the spot after a big night out, I would have done my best puke emoji face.
How I got from point A to point B involved tons of baby steps. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide to ditch my greasy biscuit in favor of green toast. I went from craving one to craving the other. But it didn’t happen overnight.
If you’re worried that you’ll never be healthy because you love doughnuts and hate kale, don’t be. I promise you that the Oreos you can’t live without today can eventually become the apple slices you crave tomorrow . . . but only if “tomorrow” is code for “as long as it takes.”
This distinction is the difference between success and failure. You have to learn how to enjoy kale (and if you never do, that’s fine!), not force yourself to eat it. To get used to a food, you have to incorporate it slowly into your routine and experiment with different ways of eating it.
Dieting involves the opposite. You throw out the foods you love and make yourself eat the ones you hate – overnight. This all-or-nothing approach not only prevents you from making permanent changes, but it keeps you in a place of “I hate kale,” which means you are not likely to ever make it part of your diet.
It takes time. And eventually you may learn to not only love kale but to actually crave it. The goal is to take one teeny, tiny step . . . every single day.
As you change how you eat, your tastes begin to change – as does your desire for fat, sugar, and salt.
For example, science shows that eating less fat makes you more sensitive to the taste of it. So as you start putting less butter on your bread, you need less to be satisfied. Conversely, if you overdo it, your sensitivity to fat becomes blunted – so you have to keep eating more just to feel satisfied.
What you want is this biological shift in taste so that you don’t have to force yourself to stop eating the foods you love and make yourself eat the ones you can’t stand. You want to actually want to eat it – which you can train yourself to do.
Science says it takes two to three weeks for your taste buds to start changing in response to the foods they encounter. So give yourself a chance to gradually adjust, and make changes that are easy for you to make.
If you douse all your food in salt, don’t try not to use any. Gradually decrease the amount, add another spice or herb (oregano, garlic), add fresh lemon juice, decrease the amount a little more, and continue. After a few weeks, you probably won’t be able to physically tolerate the amount of salt you used to use.
You will also eventually start to crave the healthier things you develop a taste for. When I’m feeling stressed out, tired, and not particularly healthy, I literally crave something green. If I’m really off track, I get my juicer out and cram it full of dark leafy greens, organic fruit, and ginger – then all is right with the world. (Remember, this is the girl who used to drink Diet Dr. Pepper all day to try to keep from eating.)
If you can methodically change your tastes to ultimately crave an entirely different set of foods, imagine how much you can change if you give yourself a chance.
What if you’re actually not someone who hates to workout, who loves fried food, who has no willpower? You can become anything: a health nut, a marathon runner, a vegetarian – whoever you want to be.
And the more you shift your identity into that new ideal self, the more you start to become her. And the more you start to become her, the easier it is to shed what no longer fits her – namely, the weight.
As you work toward developing a taste for healthier foods, working on becoming the kind of woman who naturally craves those foods. And the woman who craves vibrant, healthy foods doesn’t have to obsess about her weight – because the weight already eliminated itself.