I have been experimenting with reducing food reward/palatability for a while now and have been unsuccessful to say the least. Couple days I could go until fatigue would hit me (in many different ways) and I would give in to some junk to make me feel better (both mentally and physically). Attempts to fulfill the adaptation caused me to think that my symptoms were caused by insufficient caloric intakes, which obviously tended to be on the low side as bland food is not that attractive or addictive. When I tried increasing my calories, against my bodies signals not to, I ended up feeling sleepy after my meals and the fatigue was no better. It is these collective events that have finally opened my eyes to the reality of this food reward/palatability bit. Whole unrefined foods are much lower in reward than their processed counterparts, allowing us to keep our weight at a healthy level and give us energy instead of bogging us down after overeating the hyper-rewarding stuff. The palatability, though, must change in order for it to be sustainable (there's a reason our initial temptation is to run after tasty junk). That is what is being talked about when people say that after several weeks their taste buds "adapt" and make bland food tastier.
My question involves whether anyone has had any experiences that have helped them with a smoother transition to bland foods--rather than just willing their way through the first week or two. I ask this because I am always consumed with a rather decent workload and the fatigue (bad concentration, constant urge to sleep..) is not really tolerable at this point and prevents me from making the change that I want to. Any help is very much appreciated!
There are a few problems I think you could be having.
One might be that your digestive system isn't getting a strong enough signal that you're eating, so digestive enzymes and juices aren't being sufficiently elicited. That you get sleepy after meals makes me wonder if you're not digesting your food well. If this is the case, I would bump up the palatability just a notch, and ratchet back down slowly.
A second might be that your cravings are because you're not getting enough of what you need. Since you're probably cutting out salt from your food, I would recommend adding some salt, to taste, in water. Drink your water plain for the most part, but once a day (away from meals) have a glass with some salt and other goodies (magnesium, citric acid, potassium, etc).
It may also be that you need to prepare your food differently. I think a lot of people confuse some of the concepts around the food reward hypothesis (and rightly so, because it can be confusing). Even though you're cutting down the dopamine response to your food, you still want it to be satiating. That would mean making sure you're getting sufficient micronutrition, by using the best ingredients (fresh, local, organic, pastured, etc) and by preparing foods in a way that best preserves nutrients (cooking food right before you eat it, not having it sit in the fridge for days, gentle cooking methods, etc).
In my own case, it used to be that I would get on a cooking kick and prepare all my own food for a couple weeks, but then get sick of my cooking and end up eating out a lot the next couple weeks. Even though it was tasty, I didn't find my own cooking satisfying. Since I started eating all of my food prepared at home out of necessity (celiac disease), I've gotten better at preparing food, and I'm using higher quality food. Now I eat all my food home-prepared and I find it very satisfying. In fact, I feel dissatisfied eating out.
One thing that may help you is to do a semi-elimination diet. Not to suss out intolerances, but to get used to eating a certain set of foods. While food repetition can increase reward (as in, you know what flavor to expect when you eat a dorito, so your system learns to anticipate that flavor), it can also lower reward (in that there are never any highly rewarding surprises). Make sure to pick foods that you personally find satisfying, and make sure to plug the menu into a nutrient calculator to check if you're close to getting the nutrition you need.
Since your goal is to reduce the amount of food you eat, and you want to reduce cravings and such, I would recommend taking a good multivitamin. By eating less, you're going to get less nutrition than you're used to. And you don't want to set yourself up for failure by fighting nutrient deficiencies. The fact that you're fighting fatigue makes me think you may be low in something.
Interesting Jackson. I am very well adapted to low reward foods. For whatever the reason, I got this way by starving myself when I was younger. I noticed that while in treatment, literally any sort of food tasted sensational. Literally, anything, even a piece of lettuce. Fruit was incredibly sweet, and I literally did not understand what people meant when they said they have a sweet tooth and so eat candy (and not fruit). Candy is hyper palatable, and their "palatability receptors" if you will, had become desensitized. This is a good way of looking at the issue. Just like if you abuse cocoaine your dopamine receptors will require more dopamine to feel the same "high," the more you eat hyper-palatable (which means foods that are refined, have added sugar, salt, fat, or flavorings) foods, the more you need to get the same level of "taste satisfaction."
I am afraid the only way to rewire your brain so you have "high palatability receptor sensitivity" would be to do what you can to minimize food reward for however long it takes. YOu can minimize food reward by not adding fats, salt, or sugar to your meals and eating only whole foods.
To this day when I prepare my own foods, I do not typically add salt or fat, exempt for small amounts of oil on salads. That being said, I still eat hyper palatable foods, but that is only when I'm out with others and not on my own time.
I hope this answers your question.
There is a common saying among fitness and bodybuilding competitors when preparing for competition, and I believe there is a lot of truth to it- "If it tastes good, it's not allowed."
If you're simply having the same problem I did when I made several attempts earlier in life to change my eating habits then my suggestion is take it in stages.
If you eat "like crap" and then decide "I need to get healthy!" you will absolutely, positively, be craving a Big Mac (or your equivalent) by lunch. :-)
I got 'into' Paleo like this -
For about 2 weeks, I made sure we had a vegetable every night w/ dinner. No carbs usually, just meat of some kind and veggies. I like those steamfresh ones you can just toss in the microwave. Maybe it's not "pure" or whatever but bear with me. I changed nothing else consciously.
After that, I started making sure no matter what else I ate, each lunch contained a salad. I kept the dinner part the same, meat/veg. Breakfast was always eggs/bacon for us mostly without toast or pancakes or anything else so that was not an issue. After that month, it was much, much easier for me to 'ditch' the soda and totally ditch the gluten/cakes/cookies, etc. I found after not eating the stuff for several days it didn't taste the same, either. And since I knew how I felt without it, I knew that was what was giving me gas, bloating, headache or whatever else.
I should note I have previously been diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis so I take that into account when gauging symptoms and how I am feeling about what I'm eating. For example, in my research I confirmed what I had felt which is that I need more carbs than the traditional paleo diet calls for. I have also heard that things like yeast die-off will contribute to your body craving sugar/carbs in a last ditch effort to hold onto the status quo. I have certainly stopped/started this journey many times simply because getting past the cravings was nigh-impossible! This step-down approach this time seems to have worked where 'cold turkey' was highly frustrating.
My experience with going on an incredibly bland diet, and I'm going to be honest here -sorry moderators, was -
A massive up-tick in hunger. My body really wanted that reward. I gained weight.
Then my body realized it couldn't get it's fix that way and I found myself having sex with my wife 2x a day and still goin' for some porn. Once I had to limit that...
Suddenly TV seemed interesting for the first time in 10 years.
When I forced myself off that I suffered for 2-3 days, woke up and was feeling much better. Reward is reward and addiction is addiction...
I think the concept of palatability and food reward makes more sense to me it I think in terms of HYPER-PALATABILITY vs palatability. HYPER-rewarding vs rewarding. Then the whole food reward thing makes sense. I can understand how Doritos are hyper rewarding and addictive and duck confit is rewarding and satisfying. Do I have this right? I wish the terms weren't so confusing.
If I got your question right, you're asking how to redirect your desires from super addictive and tasty junk food to bland food, apart from the use of sheer willpower. Forgive me if I'm way off the mark / hijacking the question, but what I don't get is why you would want to be eating bland food. Good wholesome food doesn't have to be bland. You can incorporate delicious herbs, spices and flavours in your meals, especially in the initial transition period. Also, fresh food is naturally extremely flavourful. Plus, personally my enjoyment of the meal is heightened by a deep personal satisfaction from having made it yourself. After a few weeks, as you note, your tastebuds would have adapted and you can reduce your use of additional flavours.
how have you drawn the conclusion that your fatigue is caused by food, whether highly palatable or bland?
a few thoughts: 1) it's common knowledge that insulin release after eating makes us sleepy.
2) impaired digestion, "adrenal fatigue", hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue, and a whole host of other issues as well as simple vitamin deficiencies would cause fatigue.
3) why do you want "bland" foods? are you trying to live an ascetic life? as long as your foods are clean and healthy for you, there's zero problem in having them taste good, as long as you're not grossly over eating.
4) if you want some sugar, eat some sugar. seriously, just some white sugar mixed with salt, put it in some ice cold water and sip at it. it won't kill you and will probably make you easier to be around.
I haven't tried going really low-reward myself, because I'm doing okay with not overeating by sticking to simple, low-carb foods. Ketosis works really well to control my appetite.
I've read a fair amount from others experimenting with low-reward diets, though, and I think if I were going to try it I'd do it for defined periods of time, then go back to higher-reward (but still low-carb paleo) foods for a period, then switch back, etc. Like maybe a week on, day or two off, etc. Or go a month then take a week off. Whatever seems doable.
For me feeling really deprived can set off binge behaviors. Especially if I feel like I'm going to be deprived indefinitely. This deprivation/binge cycle sounds like what is happening to you.
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