Be the Boss of Your Brain: Learning To Love the Foods (and Booze) We Hate

It was tequila. I was maybe 20 and celebrating a birthday with a friend from college. We split a bottle straight down the center, slamming shots with lime and salt while nursing beer to keep "hydrated."

You know how this story ends: We lay on the floor for nearly eight hours the next morning, watching a Real World marathon from beginning to end because we couldn't be bothered to find the remote. Thankfully the phone was in plain sight, but it was all we could do to order a pizza. It wasn't until the following morning when I started to feel better again. It was days until I could have another drink.

For years since that event the sight of tequila turned my stomach. Once, at a party I was handed a bottle of Jose Cuervo from which people were pulling shots. I declined, and passed the bottle along, getting a little of the noxious liquid on my thumb. I smelled it and a wave of nausea poured over me. I couldn't drink alcohol in any form the rest of the night.

I bring this up not only to summon your own first-hangover memories but because a story posted on Eatocracy attempts to explain this phenomenon.. We're wired to remember the things that make us sick. Our brains imprint those foods and fire off some nausea neurons the next time we encounter the stimulus. The story makes me second guess everything I don't like to eat. Could this explain my repulsion to cottage cheese and digestive organ meats?

But there's hope, according to the piece.

Luckily, our conscious minds are mostly able to overcome this effect. The key is to recognize what is happening and to think about the reason for the reaction.

Consciously reminding yourself that what you're about to eat is not poisonous can help you to interrupt the automatic survival mechanism. With practice, you may find that you are able to stomach the foods that used to hate. You may even start to like them again.

So when I was on a date in grad school with a pretty blonde and got called out for being a lame-o for not liking tequila, I choked down the putrid spirit by way of a margarita. And after not getting sick that evening I'd softened the aversion. I won the girl and got my taste buds back.

I've been a strong proponent of a teach-yourself-to-like-everything school of thought. Sure your brain is wired to accomplish biologically desired results, given a certain stimulus, but it's not hard-wired. You can change your tastes. And the more you expand your palate the more you'll find yourself smiling at a dinner table no matter what is served.

Unless it's cottage cheese. That shit's just gross.

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