When it comes to losing weight, the rules seem pretty straightforward: eat well and exercise often. But as many of us can attest, that simple combo is much easier said than done. Motivation isn’t always on our side when the alarm goes off for gym time, and while we’re well aware of the nutritious foods that we should be taking advantage of for shedding pounds, it’s hard to opt for a grapefruit over a sugary muffin when the choice is right in front of you. But despite how your taste buds sway you, it’s actually possible to retrain them to crave the foods that will help you achieve the healthy weight you desire. Check out the 7 ways below that you can get yourself on the right track and reset your taste buds for weight loss.
- Ease into it.
Ever tried to crash diet, or give up a vice cold turkey? How well did it work? The immediate discomfort of deprivation is enough to make you go mad. The key is to start slow so it doesn’t feel so hard and you don’t give up as easily because the pain doesn’t outweigh the gain. A tip for beating sugar cravings is to make subtle changes. Try cutting down the amount of sweetener you put in your coffee and swapping out candy for a bite of nature’s candy, like fresh berries or dates.
“A number of [food] companies are facing the necessity to reduce salt or sugar or fat,” says Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University. “What happens if you do that suddenly? People don’t like the product any more. But execute the same change over a much longer period, very gradually, then we keep adapting,” he explains.
- Cook at home.
Health experts often harp on the necessity for cooking at home, calling it your greatest source of eating cleaner. When you go out to eat or order takeout, you are unaware of all the added sugars and fats livening up your meal, causing your taste buds to crave this sensation time and time again without you even knowing it. Cooking for yourself is a surefire way to control how much sugar, salt and fats you consume.
- Don’t deny strange tastes.
So you’ve never been a fan of cabbage or kale. That’s OK. Put healthy foods on your plate anyway, and if you only eat a little at first, take that as one step forward. Soon, those little bites will turn into big bites as you subconsciously become accustomed to the taste and realize it’s not that strange at all!
A randomized study discovered that simply tasting the food you dislike every day for two weeks increases acceptance. “If you taste something loads and loads, you learn to like it,” says research psychologist Lucy Cooke.
- Eat to the right music.
Sounds strange and experts aren’t totally sure why, but surrounding sounds can influence your taste buds. According to a study in Food Quality and Preference, loud noises tend to make food taste less flavorful, while calming sounds enhance flavors. So, if you’re sitting down to dinner with techno on, you might want to switch it to piano-based tunes.
“We were significantly able to change the rating of the bitterness and sweetness of the food depending on the sound they were listening to,” explains study author and Oxford University psychologist Charles Spence.
- Don’t let your nose trick you.
So you walk into a room and almost gag at the smell of Brussels sprouts. Your reaction to the smell of foods is enough to keep you from ever trying them, but your nose and your taste buds aren’t always on the same page. Green peppers, for example, smell sweet, but have a bitter taste. You can make odoriferous vegetables more inviting by boiling or steaming them to remove sulfurous compounds, which make them unpleasantly stinky.
- Liven-up your plate.
If it doesn’t look good, why would you eat it? We’re pretty shallow when it comes to food, tricking our taste buds by creating a plate that looks appealing. You can do it with unhealthy food, and it’s just as easy with healthy options. One study even found that diners scored an artfully arranged salad as 18 percent more delicious than less attractive salads that offered the exact same ingredients.
- Mix in the newbies with the favorites.
Still having trouble downing certain foods? Try pairing them with a sprinkling of something that makes you salivate. The site of a dish offering just a hint of a food you crave with a food you’re trying to get used to may be just enough to coax you into downing the whole thing. While you’ll initially be masking the flavor, after several exposures, your brain will form a positive association with both of the tastes.