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Cravings, Discipline and Pallet Adaptation – TotalBodyLab

Cravings, Discipline and Pallet Adaptation

Friends always ask me what do I eat after the show day's done. I can have anything I want, and the weirdest thing is, the amount of options and flavors makes any choice not able to live up to the hype. Why? Read on...

6.29.19 post show vegan chorizo pineapple pie @ Blaze pizza after OCB Colonial Open, Williamsburg, VA.

So, I get off stage, put the trophies down, pull out a fresh cucumber out of my bag and bite in. Juicy, fresh, delicious!

Cucumbers have been my favorite food since childhood. Growing up in Russia, we didn't get fresh veggies during the winter because they were imported (read = super expensive), and only the rich could afford them. My birthday is in February, and mom always made sure my favorite foods were on the table. Fresh cucumbers were probably the only thing I've consistently requested year after year. Years later, not much has changed :

The way we eat and the food we like has a lot to do with the way we have been growing up. It blew my mind when I've learnt that in the US kids are served fries and pizza in school canteens... Those were treat foods for us in Russia. We ate soup and salads with a side of grains, protein and veggies and fruit for dessert EVERY DAY. It's crazy!

Research has shown that children tend to have similar taste preference is to what their mothers have been eating while being pregnant. Child gets nutrients from what the mother eats, and develops preferences before they see the sunlight. After they're born they get used to the foods that parents / grandparents cook. If the it's considered that potatoes for lunch are enough for vegetable(even though they are starchy tubers, and have a completely different nutritional profile than leafy greens, for example) intake, this becomes a "norm" for the growing adult, and they may see that having a mixed greens salad for dinner daily is "gross", or "too much work".

Many people say that they are genetically predisposed to be obese, or have certain diseases, which sometimes is true, however most of the times this is not genetic predisposition, this is based on the routines, habits and preferences folks have been absorbing from family while growing up. It takes a while to recognize those habits and break them. Some people never do and contribute to the pool of observational research data that "one just can't fix the genes". If you have been eating Bojangles for breakfast every day for 30 years, having an oatmeal with blueberries sounds like a torture from hell. Let alone ditching butter, fries, bacon and refined sugars...

It was hard for me as a new vegan at first when I did not know how to cook to make things taste the way I was used to, but I persisted, read a bunch of recipe books, googled and experimented. Missed cheese at first. I've stopped buying dairy products, but whenever we had wine bars at work, I would always go for it as a "cheat meal". Same logic when you call yourself non-smoker, and keep stealing cigs from friends lol. What I have noticed is that every new the cheese flavor was less and less rewarding. I started noticing the greasy fatty aftertaste in the back of my throat and the weird heavy stomach turning after just a couple bites of parmezan and pepper jack, plus the fact that it literally smells awful! Especially the moldy "bleu" kind that's supposed to be exquisite and expensive.

Same logic goes for any foods - the less we have them, the less we crave, even if we used to love them. And the end of the competition crab I was eating a very plain diet to keep bloating to a minimum and track calorie input more consistently. It was't necessary, however being my own science experiment was kind of cool. I've learnt that spicy food gave me a food belly and so did sodium after a heavy training day and drinking a ton of water; and that artificial zero calorie coffee sweeteners only worsened dessert cravings. The last few days before stage I've removed all seasonings, salt and sweeteners except for maybe some cinnamon, fresh parsley and chives. After the shows I noticed that when I have normal food, the flavors are so overwhelming I can't even appreciate them. Just plain blueberries seem so sweet and flavorful that I couldn't have more than a couple berries at a time and was completely content on sweet things for the rest of the day. Proof that it can only take a couple weeks for our taste buds to adapt!

Cravings for food are a pretty low level instinct for us, manals. So, let me throw out a really bold parallel out here for discussion sake. Imagine anybody you want would be willing to have sex with you whenever you want. Completely confidentially and absolutely any time, on your terms. Anyone: celebrities, someone who lives on another continent, etc. Would you use this? Who would you invite for Netflix and chill first? One thing you would notice if you keep going for a while is that it's getting boring rather quickly. You get tired of choosing, and the fact that there is no "winning the object of your interest over" is a huge buzz kill. The game we all love so much has lost its initial appeal. Now, compare this with our food choices. We go to the grocery store. Most of us have money to eat literally anything we want. Chips and salsa, Mexican, sushi, pizza, philly cheesesteaks, Vietnamese, Indian, Pad Thai, chocolate ice cream sprinkles with blueberries bananas and caramel drizzled on top... Every day. As much as we want. Unlike my crazy mating example, indulging into different foods more often than is necessary is socially accessible and not frowned upon. Some snobs prefer to eat healthy around friends, and binge by themselves during late nights with a book and a cup of hot tea (guilty, done this)...

My point is - if something is easily available, and we abuse this "pleasure", we get less reward from it each time and need more next time. If I go out to a restaurant once or twice a week, it usually makes me very happy. If I go every day, it becomes a new normal, and I don't get as much satisfaction from the fact that someone who went to study how to make delicious meals for years just made MY dinner.. I've noticed the same with cheat meals. During competition prep I had one cheat/refeed meal a week, and usually I found myself craving a single food SO MUCH that I'd dream up how it would taste, what would the texture it would be, and temperature of the chocolate pouring out of them buttery croissant melting on the tip of my tongue (speaking of unhealthy food focus on a restrictive diet, ugh)...When I got the croissant, pizza, ice cream, etc, it would typically not live up to my heavenly expectations, and I'd be left thinking "why the f did I save the calories for this shit all week anyways!?"'

Point is, being disciplined about your choices no matter what they are - food, work, sports or morning routine brings fulfillment. Random endless indulgence and instant gratification does not.


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