Don’t Force Your Kids to Eat Their Vegetables: What I Learned from “First Bite”

I’ve considered all the best books I’ve read this year to be invaluable because of the changes they’ve made in my life – via new information and new perspectives. This book, First Bite: How We Learn to Eat, is the only one that changed my family’s life.

I accidentally left this book in my sister’s car, and she started reading it. She took one of the experiments described in the book, the tiny tastes program, on her picky-eating son, to great success. His palate has been considerably expanded to include new favorites like cherries, asparagus and cucumbers. The tiny tastes experiment is offering the subject an incredibly small amount of the target food over a period of days. The subject can also be bribed with a spoonful of their favorite food for successful completion of each “tiny taste.” Because the taste is so small, the subject generally complies. And with repeated exposure to the taste, the subject learns to like the taste.

The most interesting bit of knowledge that I learned from this book is that there is almost no genetic component of our taste. If you dropped us off in a different culture, we would be eating that culture’s food rather the one we currently do. The food we tend to like is food that is familiar to us and that may also be associated with good memories. The food we tend to avoid is food we are unfamiliar with and/or is associated with bad experiences in our past, like being forced to eat a whole plateful of food we hate/weren’t familiar with.

I know I still can’t stand the smell of creamed corn because I threw up once when after eating it when I was a kid, so I totally believe in this hypothesis. Also, as an Asian family, we ate all our meals family style, so there’s a lot less coercion to eat a large plate of vegetables by oneself.

The more I read about our personal preferences, it seems like we are really products of our culture. Like how our taste in music tends to run towards whatever was popular (or at least whatever music we listened to) when we were 13. That’s why I’m a 90s music girl, but that’s why most women of my age also listen to the same music. We are all uniquely the same in this way.

Overall though, people can still change. One way to do this may be to incorporate something like a “tiny tastes” program into one’s own life. Small exposures breed familiarity, which may breed to affinity (though there’s no guarantee that you’ll like after a tiny taste). You are not confined to your childhood experiences and small changes can help you change them (maybe, I’m shooting off the cuff here – it’s a hypothesis).

Let’s talk about our traumatic eating experiences!

What I’ve Learned from Reading My Journal

After many years of trying, this is the first year I’ve been able to consistently keep a journal since I was a kid. The research on writing in a journal is pretty settled. It reduces anxiety, clears one’s mind and helps one reflect. Also, if you’re anything like me, you change so many things in your daily life, that when some part of your body freaks out, it’s hard to pin down exactly what might be the cause.

In my head I knew keeping a journal was important but I couldn’t get myself to do it. I tried the gratitude journal, but it quickly became a meaningless list of every thing to which I have a positive association.

The only thing that worked for me was writing about what I learned that day.

Part of the impetus for this format was that I wanted to cull out the junk to which I was exposed. If the media I was reading wasn’t consistently offering tidbits that made it to the journal, then it was a goner.

Part of the impetus is that I have a terrible memory. I can rewatch movies  like new because I don’t remember the endings (the third time I watched Braveheart I was pretty shocked). So I had finally instilled in myself a habit for reading books and though I read 50 books last year, but I was afraid that I wasn’t distilling all that information for ready incorporation into my life. So it seemed like a huge waste if I didn’t write that information down.

It’s November now and I realize that I need to re-read my journal to remember what was in it. And it’s quite a funny read for the following reasons

  • I remember the stupid stuff I used to worry about.

I have a prayer list that includes my brother finding a job. I completely forgot that he was unemployed this year.

I have a prayer that my ex would get a job that he wanted. He’s now working at another firm.

I tell myself I’m at my wit’s end at my job. This was 8 months ago. I’m still at the same job.

It reminds me that everything worked out. I’m not saying it was clear that it would work out in this way or that it’s futile to pray, because prayer has a lot of positive benefits for the self, but it’s true what they say when they ask if what you’re worrying about will matter in a year’s time. Some things will, but most won’t.

  • I remember the stupid stuff I used to think.

I don’t think it’s necessarily fair of me to judge the stupid thoughts in my journal. It’s not a publication. It’s all a first draft that isn’t meant to see human eyes. But it’s not like I’m so much older now. I feel like a disinterested third party picking apart the logic I had back then.

Suffice to say, I had read a bunch of books about psychology and had really gone full arm-chair psychiatrist on my family and friends. But I can see clearly now that the diagnoses were flawed.

  • I remember lost promises I forgot to keep.

My very first entry was how I was going to use the app One Second Video to record the best moments of my year. Unfortunately, I only reread that section AFTER I got back from my Paris trip. Opportunity lost!

  • I see my growth

My natural hair color is black but this year I put some pretty blond highlights in the front. For me, it was a gradual process but for people I hadn’t seen often, I was unrecognizable. That’s how it is with change. You don’t notice the subtle changes in your life, in your habits or appearance, but it is readily apparent to people who only see the before and after.

That’s why it’s so useful to step back in time and see who you used to be. It seems like second nature what your character and habits are now. You’ve already forgotten who you used to be. You’ve forgotten that you can change. And now that you know that change is not only possible, but at times inevitable, you can be purposeful with your changes in the future.

All in all, it’s been really helpful to revisit my diary entries. I’m really glad that I didn’t keep my journal from last year though because I’m sure it would have been filled with happy thoughts about my engagement that I would have had to relive after the breakup. This year was about rebuilding and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.

Do you keep a journal and do you ever reread it?

 

Kaizen Method: Read one page a day

Kaizen (改善), is the Japanese word for “improvement.”  And the Kaizen Effect is the idea of getting 1% better everyday.  Another way to look at it is “No Zero Days,” which is saying that every day you do at least one thing everyday to advance your goals.

And to alter a Bill Gates quote:

Most people overestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can do in a year.

A one percent improvement every day will compound to amazing results in a year. Even, or perhaps more importantly, establishing the habit of thinking of improvements and consistently working towards your goal every day will do more to advance your goals than working for hours intermittently.

In this spirit, every week I will put up a suggestion on a 1% improvement you can make.

And in honor of my book reviews, which I started this week, and which will become an ongoing weekly feature:

Pick a book that you want to read, borrow it from the library (or take it off your bookshelf) and read 1 page every day this week.

What book will you start this week?

 

The Ability to Change

It always amazes me when people change. In a different crowd, I would probably complain about people’s addictions to drugs or sex or alcohol. But in my circles, too often I encounter people who complain and complain about how annoyed they get with people on Facebook. I tell them, you could just stop reading Facebook. They feign consideration of my idea and then go back to complaining about their heated arguments on Facebook.

My mom told me the other day, if my dad would just stop pestering her, then she could get her Bible study homework done. And she went on a diatribe about her life and the interruptions and the lack of support. It was really weird to me. My brother tried to get my mom to listen to a podcast about stopping procrastinating once and we laughed a bit because my mom does not procrastinate. She gets things done. If someone should be able to change, it should be her. If someone won’t tolerate excuses, it’s her. So it’s weird to hear her…excuses.

I’ve been lucky in not starting vices. I don’t do much social media – I instagram once a week. Never smoked. With the exception of law school loans, never been in debt. Not a big drinker. Can’t stand too much caffeine. No drugs. Never been overweight.

So it seems that I’m not in a place where a drastic change makes sense. And I wonder, even if I were, if I’d be able to. If I started taking drugs, would I have the strength to quit? I don’t think so. People who lose a ton of weight, quit smoking, quit drinking, pay back big loans – people who drastically change their lives for the better –
those people are superheroes.
If you’re someone who’s done one of those things, I think you’re a superhero. For what it’s worth. Probably isn’t worth much

Of course, when I was younger I tried a lot of new things. I got a pixie cut. I moved to China. I was a vegetarian for a year.

Those were fun things. Change seems to become more difficult when we’re adults. I think there may be more pressure to settle down and be set in your ways. There seem to be more advice columns telling us that people can’t change. Maybe we all just lose our optimism. We’ve resigned ourselves to this way of living.

But I’ve met people who’ve turned it all around. People who’ve gone from fat to jacked. People who’ve gone to AA. And because I’m a lawyer, I know a ton of people who have switched careers. And they give me hope. If you can change, then maybe I can change. Maybe people can change. Maybe there’s hope for all of us yet.

Have you ever made a big change in your life? Are you my superhero?