I am going to spend a few minutes here trying to convince you that you can change your preferences. Yes, the things you actually enjoy doing or consuming. I am 100% convinced that the experience of abstaining from something you think you can’t live without can change your preference over time. Soon you will think, “I didn’t need that as much as I thought”. Or, that the experience of adding something to your life that you think you hate, can change into something you love. There are so many topics this could apply to, but I am going to spend a few minutes on 2 main topics:
If you are already rolling your eyes, please give this a fair shot. I have a friend who often says to me, “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t even drink coffee, just let me drink my Diet Coke”. With all due respect to my friend, they just think that they can’t live without Diet Coke. I am convinced that they can.
If you go without any pop or juice or artificially-sweetened or sugar-sweetened beverage for a period of time (yes, I mean, longer than 6 hours, more like 6 weeks), you won’t desire it any more. Seriously, I have lived this. I used to drink pop every day (either diet or regular) and now I have not had a full serving in over a year.
Preferences can undergo an extraordinary change. (Eat or drink or do something, dislike it, do it again, dislike it a little less, do it another time, actually like it, do it some more, love it). This has been anecdotally said for years. But, in 2013, to answer the question of what physical changes take place during a change in taste preferences, scientists at UC Santa Barbara used the annoying fruit fly to prove this anecdotal truism. They did it by adding camphor to their diets – this is a white terpenoid crystalline substance with an aromatic smell and bitter taste.
“Initially, when they've never seen camphor before... they'll avoid it. They won't like it. But if they don't have the option to eat more attractive foods and camphor is in the diet for a long time, which to the flies is only a couple of days, they will accept it.” (source: Food-Experience Induced Taste Desensitization Modulated by the Drosophila TRPL Channel, Yali Zhang, et all; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3785572/)
But what happens to the fruit fly bodies when they accept it?
The main reaction is in the Transient Reception Potential-Like channel (TRPL), a grouping of ion channels located near cell plasma membranes that "mediate a variety of sensations like the sensations of pain, hotness, warmth or coldness, different kinds of tastes, pressure, and vision." When the flies are exposed to the camphor for a period of time, the TRPL is dulled by an enzyme called E3 ubiquitin ligase. From there, synaptic connections that give the fly negative sensory reactions begin to decrease. Thus, next time they are hungry and they go to their camphor-laced food, they will not reject it as in previous experiences, they will begin to taste it as “normal”.
For humans, this might mean that repeated exposure to a disliked food might dissipate eventually and become an acceptable, normal part of the diet.
Let’s tie this in to reality. Let’s say you drink pop every day and you feel you need it to be awake, happy, invigorated, etc etc. Oh, I forgot to mention this, in case you don’t know, pop is bad for you. Diet or regular. By and large, so are juices and sports beverages (but if you’re exercising for greater than 1.5 hours continuously, a sports drink is not a bad choice for a quick glucose surge to your cells. And no, sitting at your desk does not count as exercise). I am not writing a blog about the evils of pop, but, you are going to drink something every day and there are more useful things to your body than that carmel-colored, artifically-flavored, fizzy "goodness".
If you are feeling slightly compelled to try to give up pop, I would suggest finding a good substitution that you enjoy. Some healthy choices are kombucha, tea (unsweetened), coffee, coconut water, sparkling mineral water, low-sodium tomato juice, kefir, or my personal favorite, a green drink. I have been drinking Amazing Grass Green Superfood (no, I don’t sell it or get a kick-back in any way from this company) every day for a couple of years and I am amazed how much I look forward to it every morning. It’s a powder I mix with ice water and its mostly composed of pulverized wheat grass, spinach, spirulina, and broccoli. If you’ve never tried it, its AMAZING. Yes, people will think you are weird for drinking that, its okay. I give you permission to be weird. Call it unique! The vitamin and mineral content is through the roof and its natural energy from greens. Plus, no blenders or juicers to clean.
I’m saving my message about exercise for another blog post, but the same is true for a regular exercise regime in your life. Your preference can change so that instead of viewing exercise as a punishment form, you view it as a necessity for happiness. At my gym in Wisconsin, we often joke that we are grumpy if we don’t get our gym-time in. There are so many ways to form new habits - find something you enjoy. It will become your new normal. And, I’m not even suggesting you add camphor to your food!
On a final note, this Scripture verse is an over-arching theme in what I’m promoting through Luminaries Retreats and I hope you find it encouraging as you go about your day: “Therefore, whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)