I don’t know if I am alone in this or not – I love my sense of taste – and I don’t mean in fashion. That sense is near a zero. If my shirt and pants are similar shades, I’m good. No, what I am talking about is the literal sense of taste. Now, I admit there are many foods that don’t taste good or are acquired tastes (which indicates to me that the only reason people started eating them was because of a dare). Even still, I am grateful for the abundance of foods out there that taste fantastic and provide sustenance for me.
What I find interesting is that our sense of taste is something of a two-edged sword: it makes many foods enjoyable and desirable – and at the same time there are many foods that are unhealthy, but taste great. I suppose that this is like a large number of areas of life where we have activities and habits that appeal to us in the short term, but have long term consequences that we’d rather avoid. While it is true that many of the products that we consume are specifically engineered to taste good at the expense of our health, it is still our choice. Of course there are places where getting healthy food is harder – either through price or availability, but there is still the options to choose foods that taste good and are healthy over those that taste good and are not healthy.
So considering that our taste buds do not discriminate between healthy and unhealthy foods – what is their purpose? I say that our taste buds exist to get us to eat. We tend to do what gives us pleasure and avoid that which gives us pain. This is part of the habit loop – we repeat actions that give us some kind of benefit or reward. Even if the long-term effects of an action are negative, we will often still engage in the activity if the short-term benefits are enjoyable. However, survival does not seem to be a tangible reward: it is more of a state of being. Eating, especially pleasurable eating has two forces pulling us to a single destination – the experience of eating food that tastes good and the elimination of hunger pangs. I am grateful for this realization, as it reminds me that if I want to make improvements in my life, it is helpful if I find rewards that both pull me towards something that I want and push me away from something that I wish to avoid.
What is heartening to me in all of this is that my eating habits and even what I find pleasurable in eating is under my control. I can choose to eat foods that are healthy and taste good. The types of food that I keep in my home are going to be the foods that I eat. In a similar vein, how I represent those foods in my mind is going to play a significant part in whether I am able to enjoy them or not. It is entirely possible to hate sweet tasting fruit, by feeling that I have to have them – essentially resenting those foods and seeing them as holding me back – from enjoying a tasty, but calorie-dense snack.
How I represent those foods has a serious impact on how tasty the foods are. A grateful heart will be able to savor the taste of food more than a bitter heart.