Eating habts, and how to change them

Okay, so I grew up as the typical latchkey kid.

Mom and dad divorced before I could walk, and mom worked about 60 hours a week. Naturally, that meant that as soon as I could do someting (anything), I was expected to do it for myself from that point on.

From what I saw growing up, for lot of families mom made dinner every night, but occasionally for a treat, (to give mom a break, I guess) they’d do McDonalds, order pizza, or have something pre-processed that got cooked at 375f for 30 minutes.

Of course, for me it was the opposite. My entire diet consisted of the likes of hamburgers, frozen pizzas (pepperoni only), Spaghetti-o’s, macaroni and cheese, sandwiches, and similar.

The big treat for me growing up was when mom actually made something. Except for her beef stew*. Anyways…

Looking at that list, you’ll notice a couple things. No vegetables. The only veggies I ever ate being corn, potatoes, beans, lots of rice, and maybe one or two things I can’t think of right now. No fruit. Pretty much nothing that wasn’t either pre-frozen or canned.

Over the years I got a little less picky, but not much. I really didn’t broaden my horizons so much as get a little lazier about what I’d have a problem with. You know, just scraping off the onions instead of taking it back because the burger had been soaking up oniony badness.

The more I think about things, however, the more I realize that it’s not the taste of certain things (except raisins and celery…I don’t see how anyone voluntarily puts those in their mouth) that I mind, it’s usually more their texture. I like most fruit juices. I love V8 which contains 8 items I would physically fight to keep out of my mouth.

I don’t want to be picky. I don’t want to pick from the same two or three things every time I go to a nice restaurant on my once common, now rare, dates.

Thing is, I’ve tried. I really have. As a guilt-ridden meat-eater, I’d love if I could some day become vegetarian. But if I were to do that now, my diet would consist of nothing but starches and I’d eventually be unable to move.

I occasionally buy some fruit, or some vegetable, or even some fish (somthing else on my proscribed list from when I was a kid). And it will sit there, and I’ll see it in the fridge every time I open it. I’ll kind of stare at it. It stares at me. I’ll stare at it some more. Sometimes I’ll even pick it up and try to eat it. If it’s, say, a grape, I’ll put it in my mouth, bite it, and when I feel that fleshy squish, I either spit it out or do my best to swallow the damned thing as fast as possible. I could probably eat grapes all day long if I just threw them down my throat without chewing them. But that might be unhealthy, and, really, it’s kind of against the spirit of things.

I know it’s just a matter of battling some strong psychological conditioning that I’ve managed to grill into myself over the last twenty-nine years. When I sit there and try to forcefeed myself one of these things, I actually get a huge sensation of what I can only describe as terror. What the hell? Terror? Yes, terror. And there’s actually very few things that scare me. But this terrifies me.

Now, I know some people reading this are thinking, “This guy is a total fruitcake. He’s freaking out when he tries to eat a grape?”, but hopefully there will be a couple people out there with ideas. Ideas besides “try getting drunk first” or “start small”. It doesn’t get much smaller than a grape.

For the record, I’m not bulemic, anorexic, or anything like that. The only eating disorder is what’s described above.

-Joe, who somehow totally blanked and had to google to find “anorexia”.

    • Which led to a “you’ll stay here until you finish it” confrontation that culminated in my vomiting in my bowl of beef stew

Oh boy - I could have written that.

Though my parents weren’t divorced, I grew up in a very similar environment -everything pre-packaged, hardly any fresh fruits and vegetables.

I’m 34 now and of course I’ve carried these habits into adulthood just like you have. About 8 years ago I started eating as a vegetarian. It wasn’t a choice, just like for most people “not eating rocks” is not really a choice. I then found myself in the situation of being a vegetarian who doesn’t like vegetables. That leaves…hmm, carbs and starches. Which unfortunately I love - potatoes, bread, rice, pasta. Sort of an anti-Atkins “diet”.

It is a huge problem. Our choices seem to be (1) deal with weight problems and health issues through not eating a balanced diet or (2) force ourselves to eat stuff we don’t like.

The only refuge I’ve found is Asian food - especially Indian, Chinese and Thai. Somehow, with all those delicious spices, the vegetables manage to slip under my radar - I actually enjoy eating yummy Indian dishes strewn with vegetables and spices, as long as I don’t think too hard about the veggies. Even at Asian restaurants, though, I find myself seeking out the carbs above everything else - bread, noodles, rice…

You don’t say much about your cooking habits, or whether you can cook at all. Are you still living off the burgers and pizza and the like? I come from the position of having eaten crap all through college, due to having no money and nowhere decent to shop (plus buying interesting food for one person is difficult, particularly with perishable things like veggies). And there’s always the attraction of comfort food.

I don’t think there’s an easy answer; you need to condition yourself to heat more healthily, and also find stuff you like. Some healthy food is really easy to prepare and eat, like salad and vegetable stir-fries. Most vegetables are pathetically easy to cook, although doing anything as a side dish can seem like a waste of time.

But you need to explore the vast range of tasty healthy foods: in my experience even people who eat a lot of fruit will have some fruits they like a lot and some they don’t really care for. There must be something you can find. Same with veg. Also worth noting is that tinned vegetables often have a texture and taste very different from fresh veg.

Also, buying stuff that keeps for longer will give you more chance to eat it and less excuse when it goes bad. Frozen veg and tinned fruit is great for this, fresh soft fruits can be really horrible. Finally, don’t allow the crap into your house, and sooner or later you’ll be hungry enough to eat anything.

The cooking and difficulty of cooking and all that aren’t really a problem. I’d actually like to get into cooking (if nothing else, try taking a class and hopefully meet some new femininas), but I can’t see myself being too good at it if I refuse to eat what I make. :slight_smile:

My standard meal at home, when I actually make it home before 9pm due to work, is soup and sandwich, rice pilaf with some feta cheese, or white rice with some chopped up chicken of various types. Of course, there’s the occasional Domino’s binge, or a Digiornos Deep Dish Pepperoni pizza, but that’s not too bad because it’s not too often.

I’m really not too concerned for my health. I’ve gone from the crap-eating computer potato to a less-crapier eating mostly computer potato.

It’s really just because I’ve hit a point where I feel that enough is enough. I’m sick of being the guy who orders the burger because, well, everything else on the menu was too vegetabbly. How’s that for a new word?

-Joe, vegetabbly

I agree with refusal in that you have to try everything until you find stuff you like.

Cooking is a major benefit, especially because it means you can try all the herbs and spices out and figure out what appeals to you. Do you like garlic? How about chili pepper? Salt and pepper? Cayenne? Sugar? Butter? A1 Steak sauce? Ketchup? Mayonnaise? Mustard?

Have you tried a salad loaded with cheese, eggs, olives, tomatoes and any kind of dressing? Do you ever put cheese on your broccoli or almonds in your green beans?

While my mom has always provided me with excellent cooking, I am still a picky eater. This has posed a problem as I’ve tried to follow the Atkins plan because I’m not a fan of meats. I can easily live without potatoes and pasta, but getting more meats and veggies are a big problem.

My solutions have included:
finding 3 green veggies I love - raw broccoli, raw cucumber and romaine lettuce - and eating them in abundance with ranch dressing
Putting seasoning in my burgers and on steak
Using enough ketchup to gulp stuff down
Drinking sweet sodas with meals (sugar free, made w/DaVinci Syrup and club soda, of course) to mask the taste of other foods
Putting salty cheeses on burgers and melt-able cheeses on chicken
Treating myself like a 6 year old and not letting myself have any treats after dinner until I’ve cleaned the plate
Sucking it up and realizing the food I’m eating now is better than the health ramifications of not eating it will be.

So far it’s worked for me. I eat the most incredible array of foods now instead of 80% carbs and 20% fat :slight_smile:

I think the key for you may be eating your good things WITH the bad things - add peas to your mac & cheese, have a salad with your hamburger, mix your green beans with rice, sautee zucchini with spaghetti sauce - because going into the fridge and taking a bite out of an unpleasant food is WAY different than taking the time to prepare it and make it taste better.

Good luck, I’m glad you’re concerned about the way you eat!

Go to restaurants that have buffets.
Force yourself to try foods that you’ve never had before. This will give you a clue on what things you might like, without the risk of getting an entire meal of something you don’t like.

I agree with AV8R. I have never been a veggie eater due to being force-fed. I also wanted to work on it as it was totally embarassing going to friends houses for dinner, and painstakingly picking out the peppers, onions, etc from the dishes they had cooked. Ever tried to pick out all the tomato and onion from a bolognase?

Find some buffets that will let you eat a little bit of a lot of different things. You don’t have to like anything, remind yourself that you are a grown up now and don’t have to eat anything you don’t want to :stuck_out_tongue: You can build up a tolerance to some things if you work at it slowly. You can also find a few vegges, or a few combinations that you really like. I didn’t eat a mushroom for 20 years, and then I discovered marinated mushrooms in chili and garlic. Try different versions of the veggies too, for example, I hate yellow onions, but will eat red onions, raw tomato makes me spew, but sundried and marinated = yummy yummy. Boiled carrots will be left on the plate, but carrot sticks in a stirfry will be eaten as will spicy carrot soups. You get the picture :slight_smile: I still don’t touch turnip, corgette or aubergine in any shape or form, but hey, I am a grown up, I don’t have to. I wish you the best of luck, I know it’s tough, but it’s worth it!


I am in the same boat. I could have written 90% of that. I am legendary among my friends for food issues just like you describe. I know exactly what you mean about texture. There’s something indefinable about many foods that sets me off before I even get a chance to taste it. Whatever neurosis you got, I got it too.

…which I am slowly getting over. It is a struggle for me to incorporate any new foods into my diet, I am adding one or two a year. Too most readers that probably sounds ridiculous, hopefully you appreciate that is an achievement.

My technique, as much as I have one, is for gradual change. For example, I like beef & broccoli, chinese food style. So I started from that and picked out broccoli, and had it with less and less sauces and other things on it (over the course of a few months) until I more or less like broccoli. Celery is more or less like broccoli, I diced up just a bit of celery and threw it in the beef & broccoli. Gradually increased the amount. I find that I can get to the “tolerate it” stage within 2-3 attempts, and from there it’s fair sailing.

Other examples: Chicken is great. My wife makes some that has some sort of orange stuff in the sauce. Gradually get used to having orange taste with chicken, looking forward to the day where I drink orange juice like everyone else. Instead of a plain burger, left three strips of shredded lettuce on… now I at least like shredded lettuce on a sandwich. It’s a slow process, but every year I expand the menu that much more. I figure I should have a normal diet by the time I’m 80! :slight_smile:

This is a much bigger idea than it seems on the surface. My “thing” I realised after many years is that I like most vegetables, just not raw. Broccoli, carrots, spinach, etc. Most of these I like if they’re prepared in some fashion, but raw? Forget it! A really good way to prepare broccoli is to steam it while cooking a pre-packaged rice mix (rice-a-roni, etc). The broccoli picks up the flavors of the seasonings in the rice mix, and the rice absorbs any of the nutrients steamed out of the broccoli. Keep in mind a lot of times the “traditional” way of cooking something isn’t always the best. Most people consider sweet potatos/yams a horrible, gooey, sugary dish because of the way it’s usually made at Thanksgiving. You can do dozens of other things with them. Cube them with regular potatos, coat with chili powder, cumin & garlic salt and roast in the oven. YUMMY! You can bake them and eat like a regular potato for a change of pace. Check out some vegetarian cookbooks from the library or Google for some vegetarian recipes. You might see some vegetables in a different light.

Another thing to consider is do you not like the way fruits & vegetables taste now, or do you not like the way you remember them tasting? I think the latest research shows that children have much MUCH more sensitive taste buds than adults and for this reason are sometimes picky eaters. It’s also the reason that you can grow up hating something, then for whatever reason eat it again as an adult and realise you now love it; your tastes actually do “mature” somewhat with age. If you’re holding an asparagus spear in front of your mouth and remembering how it made you gag as a kid, that might be a stumbling block. Try to imagine yourself tasting it for the first time, or taste it at a really fancy, expensive restaurant where it’s sure to be prepared in the best way possible so you have a new reference point to go from. My mom eats dinner with me sometimes now and can’t believe I’m the same person. My tastes have changed that much in the last dozen or so years just from trying new things constantly.