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Healthy food does NOT have to mean bland food!

I wrestled with my own weight loss journey for more than two decades, and now I have been talking to people about weight loss and helping people to move to a healthier way of living for the last five years. One thing I have noticed that comes up again and again, is that overweight folks who are trying to shift from a diet of processed foods and sweet foods, often say they find healthier meals bland and boring.

I see folks switching out ready meals for steamed vegetables, or switching out take-away meals for ‘plain white chicken breast and boiled veg’ and then they say the ‘fall off the diet bandwagon’ because the healthy food just doesn’t satisfy them.

We need to explore what is going wrong here!

Let’s do this in bullet points for simplicity.

  • Folks who are overweight and want to lose some weight often got that way in the first place by eating the wrong foods - lots of confectionery, bread and pasta, cake, chocolate, sweet drinks like cola, booze, processed foods
  • Only once you cleanse these things from your diet, only then do you realise just how insanely sweet these foods are
  • These foods are all either very sweet, very salty, high in the addictive ‘sugar-trans fats-salt’ triple whammy, or full of artificial flavours
  • ARTIFICIAL flavours, think about those words, what does that mean? It means a chemistry graduate has been let lose in a multi-million pound lab with the job of making food taste so good you want to eat more of it. Those flavours you grow to love, they are ARTIFICIAL. You’ve been tricked, duped, sold to. They make it taste nice so you keep buying it. It’s not sinister, it’s not a conspiracy, it’s capitalism
  • So, taking the above points and putting them together, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that most overweight folks are very accustomed to these tastes - sweet, salty, fats/oils, artificial (spicy, lively, tangy, etc.)
  • When you switch to a natural healthy lifestyle (like MotherNaturesDiet) then you have to give all that up, and eat fresh whole foods
  • Broccoli and gammon just ain’t gonna taste the same as those artifical tastes you have grown accustomed to during the time you have been “poisoning your palate” so to speak
  • Now, if you make a big switch, all the ‘bad foods’ out, and all the good fresh whole foods in, for the first few weeks (or possibly months) the fresh whole foods are probably going to taste comparatively bland
  • This is not because the foods are actually bland, but more because your palate has grown used to artificial flavours, unnaturally sweet tastes, man-made sensations that just do not exist in the natural world
  • If you are an emotional eater, or a habitual eater, or a convenience eater, then nothing is going to hamper your progress more than thoughts and feelings that the fresh healthy food is ‘bland and boring’
  • As a result of all this, often what happens, folks eat the good food for a couple of days, then get desperate in a moment of weakness and scoff down a “treat meal” of the same old foods they are used to
  • What does this do? Continues ‘teaching’ the taste buds the same thing over and over
  • This cycle… repeat, repeat, repeat

Does this all make sense? Sound familiar?

So how do we beat this?

There are 2 ways to do this.

If you are strong willed and determined, one of those ‘all-or-nothing’ types like me, you can probably just ditch all the bad stuff and ‘push on through’ and in under a month, you’ll have this thing licked. So if your motivation for change is good, if your resolve is cast iron, then chuck the rubbish food into the nearest bin bag, push on through “bland and boring” and in under a month you’ll have ‘retrained your taste buds’ so to speak, the good food will start tasting nicer and you’ll have probably lost a stone into the bargain.

But if you are a ‘normal person’ who has struggled with diet and weight loss for years, that plan is hard. And likely to end in failure again and again! So for goodness sake flavour your food!

Look, as someone who has gone through this transition I can tell you now that broccoli tastes sweet to me, my home grown courgettes taste sweet to me, white grapefruit is bursting with tangy flavour, my tomatoes are juicy and sweet, my spinach is delicate and moist to eat straight off the stalk…and if I take a few mouthfuls of processed food (I had a swig of diet Pepsi last month, just to taste it) I am staggered how horribly fake and plastic and ridiculously sweet it tastes.

I can promise you that once you banish the artificial flavours from your life, the real fresh whole foods will taste great - sweet, spicy, delicious. But you have to get from point A to point B, that’s the challenge.

While making this transition, make herbs and spices your best friends! Add flavour!

I eat organ meats, they are nutritious and I like them, but liver can be dry and boring, so I make a liver and kidney chili, and it’s delicious! I cooked chicken and veggies for my breakfast this morning, with turmeric, cumin and coriander added, they were delicious!
Cook up chicken with fresh tomatoes, chestnut mushrooms, pine nuts (not Chinese cheap ones, they can leave you with a ‘metal mouth’ taste) and a splash of lime juice, and add fresh basil leaves thrown in at the last minute…delicious!

Cook up lamb with coriander, ginger, paprika, black pepper and cinnamon, utterly yummy.

Stir fry spring onions and big cap mushrooms in butter, garlic and lemon juice…heavenly!
Herbs, fresh or dried, spices, these can make that bland food taste delicious and ‘interesting’ to your “artificially stimulated” palate while you slowly adjust to taking the refined sugar and salt out of your diet. Over time, then you will find you naturally tone down the spices. I did all this myself, over a long period of time.

Back in my ‘fat days’, I was the classic lager-guzzling bloke down the curry house at midnight, washing down his extra hot madras with 4 pints of lager…
I used to cook everything with a ton of chili to make it hot…but over the years I have retrained my palate to now savour fresh natural tastes, I just don’t need or want everything hot any more. In fact, quite the opposite now, I like mild, fresh, delicate tastes…my palate is so much more refined, so much more sensitive now, I can taste nuances and flavours, depth and richness I was ‘blind to’ back when my palate was poisoned by artificial sweetness and flavours.

I hope that helps, if you are struggling to make the switch to fresh whole foods, thinking the healthy stuff tastes bland and boring and it just doesn’t excite you much when you feel hungry, then make herbs and spices your new best friends. Food can be healthy and tasty, good for you does not have to mean boring. Just remember, it’s your palate that isn’t working properly, it’s you that needs fixing, not the food.

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