Asceticism: Another Tool for Sugaraholics

Food asceticism is among rising tide of ideas about how to be free of the sugar-starch-artificial sweetener demons. Food asceticism develops out of the notion that our taste buds are in effect being overly stimulated by the high level of tastiness; so, we are being unnaturally clued to over-eat in a way primitive humans would not. Let’s face it, raw or poorly cooked meat that is unseasoned with so much as salt, and roots and berries that were very low in starch or sugar compared to foods we eat nowadays, would not have been nearly as stimulating to the primitive region of the brain that governs cravings.  Of course, to them it would have been tasty no doubt, but the triggers would have been far less excited compared to our modern brains. We who have been on a steady diet of highly sweetened and seasoned foods since before birth now have a high need for those stronger, deeper tastes.

The idea then behind food asceticism is to limit the strong seasonings and flavors to retrain the brain. When I first thought about this I wanted to reject it, but as I considered this idea further, I realized that I certainly don’t crave many sweet or starchy foods, or plain sugar water–though if we keep taking in such a substance we will learn to like it according to Cornell food scientist and author of Mindless Eating, Professor Brian Wansink. Still the thought of eating something with low flavor is not appealing. I have a friend, by way of contrast, who likes what I consider very bland foods compared to the spicy, rich flavors I’ve always enjoyed. Still, for most of us, meat without salt is pretty bland, as are most vegetables, and many foods would not be so appealing without their load of salt, spices, sugar, sweeteners.

Food asceticism is about deliberately toning down the number of foods one eats, and the savory-sweet-sour-hot-unami type flavorings or tastes.  I have decided to work on this for a while, since I still have a few pounds I’d like to lose—thanks to a couple weeks of vacation!—and do believe the simplicity of a few basic foods, lightly seasoned might have merit.

If you, like me, have always counted on highly flavored foods, you might want to consider this to help lose some weight.  I see this as a temporary goal, for food should be enjoyed, but if I can learn to enjoy my food with a bit less of the strong flavors so much the better.

The way I understand it, we will crave less if the food is less strongly flavored. Whether this is true I don’t know, but it does have the ring of truth about it. Consider the foods you most want when you have binged. Chances are good that you think of the flavor more than the texture, though some textures are appealing. Some people love smooth and creamy foods, while others like crunchy, sharp foods (this is me).  I think of brownies with walnuts, one of my long time favorite sweet foods, but I never liked brownies without walnuts since that seemed to be a “weaker” taste, and I liked the crunch of the nuts. So I’m making a list of my former favorite binge foods and making notes of what made them so appealing to me. Also, this relates to how we combine foods; I never wanted Oreos unless I had a glass of milk. So was I craving the milk or the Oreos? My belief is that the milk was a kind of transport for the Oreos, and enhanced their flavor. Of course, the milk also doubled the sugar load!

I would love to hear your thoughts on how you view flavors and the idea of food asceticism as a tool to break addiction to sugar-starch-artificial sweeteners.

Yours in search for answers,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

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