Love Food or Hate It?
Most people that I know have a virtual love affair with food; thus, the rapid rise of obesity in America. But some are turned off by food. This is usually associated with certain foods, but those with some types of eating disorders have an aversion to almost any food.
There are two types of repulsion to food for us to consider:
- Food Aversion
- Conditioned Taste Aversion
Food Aversion is a psychological repulsion to some foods caused by emotions associated with the food rather than by any chemical properties within the food. Unlike food allergies or food intolerance, if the offending food is unrecognizable, no adverse reaction results. Anorexia nervosa is seen as an extreme form of food aversion.
To give an example of food aversion, let’s take a look at this scenario. A young boy is enjoying a Thanksgiving dinner of turkey and stuffing with his family. During the meal, his parents get into a huge argument and his father storms out, never to return. Now, as an adult, he still cannot stand to eat turkey and stuffing.
At the far end of the spectrum is anorexic. Perhaps chubby and teased as a child, a young girl begins to associate any food with becoming overweight and the pain of the teasing which came along with being overweight. She now shuns all food at the risk of gaining weight and being subjected to ridicule again.
Conditioned Taste Aversion
Conditioned Taste Aversion can occur when eating a substance is followed by illness. For example, if you ate potato salad at a picnic (not MY potato salad, of course) and then became ill, you might avoid potato salad in the future, even if the salad had no relationship to your illness.
Conditioned taste aversions can develop even when there is a long delay between the conditioned stimulus (eating the food) and the unconditioned stimulus (feeling sick). In classical conditioning, conditioned food aversions are examples of single-trial learning. It only takes one bad experience to establish an automatic response.
A classic example of a conditioned taste aversion comes from my own life. As a young girl, I loved beets. So much so, that I challenged the girl next door to a contest to see who could eat the most beets. My mother, knowing that beets are full of iron and good for you, had no qualms about supplying the beets for said contest. I won the challenge but wound up with a terrible stomach ache (as well as lots of vomiting) from eating way beyond the point of being full. To this day, some 40 years later, even the smell of beets on the restaurant salad bar causes me to gag and become nauseated. Needless to say, I will not allow them in my home.
Look to Your Past
So, if you ever wondered why it is you could never force yourself to eat certain foods, look to your past. There is probably some life-altering event or miserable stomach bug responsible for your food aversion.