Toby Zerner

A Month Without Flavour

Every month this year, I’m challenging myself to develop a new habit, let go of an old one, or to perform an experiment. In January, I gave up sleeping in. (I’ll do a post on how that went soon!)

Starting tomorrow, for the duration of February, I’m giving up flavour. I’ll be eating the same boring foods every day, without any variety, seasoning, or added flavour.

Why on Earth Are You Doing This?

Perhaps I’m crazy, but for me there is a rational reason behind this challenge. And I’m not the first to do it!

Our brains are programmed to prioritise the consumption of high-reward foods — those that contain lots of fat, sugar, salt, variety, look or smell pleasing, etc. This is a useful survival mechanism when food is scarce… But today we enjoy an abundance of high-reward calorie-dense food at our fingertips. Our normal satiety mechanisms are quickly overridden by these reward pathways, and we keep eating. This has likely been a contributing factor in the obesity epidemic.

Of course, I have no problem with my weight. However, over the past few years I’ve noticed myself becoming especially guilty of these instincts. Whenever there is chocolate or a packet of chips around the house, I can’t help but have a bit — and then a bit more — and a bit more, until it’s all gone. I’m a sucker for food reward.

I don’t like being a sucker.

I’m doing this to learn about my relationship with food, and to start developing some control over it. I want to begin tackling these kinds of behavioural issues now, rather than in a decade or two when they become more problematic. Finally, I want to explore the struggle of letting something go and learn how to deal with it more effectively.

This isn’t me trying to eat healthy or go on a diet, per se. I think variety is good, as is enjoying the delicious food we’re lucky enough to have in this world. Rather, this is an experiment focused on the behavioural aspect of food reward and letting go.

I’m quite sure the experiment itself won’t last a day longer than the end of February. I do hope its lessons will!