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  • How to retrain your palate

    It's possible to retrain your palate. And to reset your comfort strategy.

    Some of you may recall that I have a long history of tooth trauma - what one dentist gleefully calls “extreme architecture” and what I call “extremely bad luck.” I’ve got Post Tooth Stress Distress, where “post” is a condition that’s always possibly “pre.” Ugh, you know: one of those repeat situations we cycle through that makes us wail, as my pastry hero David Lebovitz says, “I want my Mommy!” For you it might be parent-teacher night. Or even just laundry day.

    For me, teeth. So when I broke a filling recently and had to get two emergency appointments, I very strongly desired a cup of hot chocolate afterward. 

    My dentist is in Harvard Square, right near Burdick’s Chocolates, what I used to jokingly/not joking refer to as My Spiritual Home. They make a dark hot chocolate concoction there, a tiny cup of which weighs as much as a black dwarf star. 

    However, I am retraining my palate away from the sweet end of the spectrum and more toward the bitter. So I went to the cafe right next to the dentist instead, and got myself a green tea. And declared to myself, very deliberately:THIS TEA WILL BE A COMFORT TO ME.

    (Those intention statements are like magic spells. Very important! Quite, quite effective.)

    Note: In Habit Reform School, they tell you to concentrate on one habit at a time. And that’s pretty good advice. I’m working on two “habits” here: 1. replacing one “comfort” food with another and 2. retraining my palate. Sometimes you can kill two birds with one stone. Plus I like to break rules.

    To be clear, you cannot talk yourself into retraining your palate or replacing your go-to comfort food if you don't want to. If you want the dark Bolivian hot chocolate and NOTHING ELSE WILL DO, very well then! Nothing else will do. And trying to scold, guilt, shame, harass, threaten, punish or publicly* "challenge" yourself out of it is ... most likely going to fail.

    But know that it’s possible to retrain your palate, at any age. Even if you justwant to want to eat less sweet or rich food, push in there a little. Experiment. Allow yourself the experience of disliking something, even, without trying to talk yourself into liking. 

    It’s also possible to reset your comfort strategy, if you’re willing to tolerate a little discomfort for a while.

    Do you have a comfort strategy you’d like to upgrade, maybe because it’s causing too much discomfort on the back end? Tell me about it. Just hit Reply.

    Also this! The smart and funny Sarah Bamford Seidelmann interviewed me aboutthe fastest way to get your eating under controlYou can watch the video here.

    *Because of the high odds of failure with "stick" methods, I would especially stay away from any methods that will leave a lot of witnesses. Who needs it? As any kind person will tell you, shame-based change strategies don’t actually produce change. 

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