My Fading Love Affair with Processed Food

As an adult picky eater (and I do mean picky), the simple process of eating has been ridiculously hard most of my life. Thus, when I find the rare food item that I really enjoy (i.e., food that tastes great, has a good texture, and doesn’t make my tummy roar at me later), I tend to stick with it.

But over the last few months, I have observed with distress as my taste buds have slowly turned away from once-favorite foods. The common denominator between all these foods? All of them are processed within an inch of their lives.

The First Sign: Fast Food is No Longer My Friend

At first, I thought I was just reacting to a lower quality of food in my local fast food restaurants. First, the beef at Taco Bell started tasting “off,” as if it had been kept too long in the fridge. Then, the meat on McDonald’s burgers started tasting and feeling like crumbling shoe leather in my mouth. Other food quality issues arose afterwards, and soon I was even pickier than usual at all the local fast-food places.

I thought it was strange, but I tried to work around the “new” rules of my picky taste buds. No more McDonald’s meat, no more ground beef tacos, etc…

But Fast Food is Not the Only Issue

…Unfortunately, the pickiness did not stop there. I began eating less of the American sliced cheese I had loved since childhood, simply because it didn’t really taste like cheese anymore. There was an odd, plastic-y overtone to the taste, which I had never detected before–and it was utterly disgusting. Even switching cheese brands didn’t seem to help. I still liked cheese, most definitely, but the sliced cheese product didn’t suit anymore.

Not to mention that many of my favorite boxed meals from the grocery store started tasting funny. For instance, I used to live on Velveeta shells-n-cheese, yet I began getting sick at the taste–both the cheese and the pasta sometimes tasted like plastic to me. It didn’t seem like just being tired of eating a certain dish, since I try to switch up my food choices as much as possible. It just seemed that certain foods, which all happened to be processed, didn’t taste right anymore.

The Result: One Hungry Tummy

It seemed like all my favorite foods, all my go-to foods when going out to eat, were vanishing off my “favorite” list, one by one. And it was not the biggest list in the world to start out with, because of my lifelong issues with food texture (and a strong gag reflex that gets set off at the slightest thing). When 70% of “adult food” is off-limits because of pickiness, and 95% of what you DO like has suddenly become anathema, what DO you eat?

That was the burning question, and it still is. In desperation, I’ve gone back to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, basic breads and pastas, or anything that doesn’t have the awful processed taste in such abundance. Yet I still walk around hungry most of the time, as if what I’m eating isn’t providing me with any nourishment.

Most people who look at me would think I eat all the time, to be the size that I am (flirting with 300 pounds at the moment). But instead, I eat significantly LESS than all my skinny, less picky friends, and I simply stay hungry–so much so that I have had low blood sugar attacks due to the reduced food intake. I WANT to eat, but almost nothing appeals to me anymore. And I have begun to suspect that the “plastic” taste and texture which has become so revolting to me is actually the result of processing food for longer shelf life.

Where to Go from Here?

Since my taste buds have apparently shifted allegiances for good, I honestly don’t know what to do with them anymore. Most of my favorite foods date back to childhood, and it’s frankly disconcerting to suddenly dislike foods that I remember loving and indulging in. Not to mention that these foods have sustained me while I avoided all sorts of other “normal” adult food.

Quite simply, I find myself at a loss every time I get hungry, because I have no idea what my taste buds will accept and what they won’t accept. And since I hate wasting money on food that I won’t end up eating, it makes it difficult to try new foods. It feels suspiciously like being caught between a rock and a hard place.

An Odd Side Note: Lettuce is a New Food Friend?

Yet, in the midst of all this loss, I have noticed something strange–I find myself thinking longingly of dishes like dark green Romaine lettuce with ranch dressing. For anyone who knows me, this is WAYYYYYY out of character; I historically have avoided most lettuce because it just tastes like crunchy paper soaked in water. Yet recently, the darker green lettuce types have become more appealing to me, as have spinach (when blended with cheese) and scallions. I also have no idea why this is happening, either, only that it began around the same time processed food began tasting strange to me.

Is This My Body’s Way of Saying “Eat Healthy?”

I honestly don’t know what to make of all this change in my appetite. Has anyone else experienced a sudden negative reaction to processed foods after eating them most of their lives? Or has anyone experienced a sudden positive reaction to lettuce and other “healthy” foods? I’d be glad to hear about it in the comments!

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