Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Food, Flavor and Preference

Ahhhh yes- here is the post you all have been waiting for. Food. Delicious, yummy, satisfying food. Hmmmmmm.

Right now my meal obsession is fried eggs served on fried tomatoes. SO GOOD!

Do you have a sweet tooth? Do you tend to go towards the salty variety? I would eat bags and bags of sweets when I was in highschool, now I have to have salty or savory often to feel satisfied. I also have to have some sort of "salad" which in Maega terms is something of the veggie variety, usually involving tomatoes (as of late). DH gets sick of hearing that “I need salad!!!"

Nature, Nurture and Taste?

The real question is why do we have food/taste preferences? There is a lot behind the answer- and it does have to do with nature and nurture.

Genes and environment lend themselves to the reasons why we like what we like.

"Recent research has demonstrated that our genes help to determine how we detect the basic tastes by influencing the configuration of taste receptors," says Stein. "Part of why you might like broccoli while your best friend finds it bitter is because you have different genes, which code for different bitter receptors."

"Experience is also an important determinant of food preferences," says Stein. "For example, infants and young children need to learn what foods are safe to eat. Even before birth, information about specific flavors of mothers' diets passes to infants through amniotic fluid" (The Science Behind How We Taste, Heather Hatfield).

Sweet vs. Salty

Apparently we are all predisposed to liking some degree of sweet- as humans that is. As for the salty preference, it seems that there are more questions that haven’t been answered. “Bernstein, who co-authored the study, which was published in Appetite, says researchers found that the loss of electrolytes and sodium during morning sickness has an impact on the offspring's salt preference” (The Science Behind How We Taste, Heather Hatfield). So if we really like salty food it may be because when we were in-utero our mom had morning sickness! Hmm, makes me less hungry- poor mom!


That is not an insult to your mommy. Umami refers to a flavor, a savory, meat, broth-y flavor to be specific. It is a Japanese term that directly translates to “wonderful taste.” We sense this flavor in a completely different way than sweet and salty. In fact, I'm surprised we don't find snacks out there that are "Sweet! Salty & Umami!" I happen to love umami flavors- bring on the umami!

Training Your Taste

You know those slimy mushrooms you used to hate but now love- maybe you hated the taste of broccoli and now you love it- well, tastes can change and you can inspire them to change.

"Repeated exposure can increase relative liking for a food but may not be able to change a disliked food into one that is liked. In other words, exposure may make a disliked food less disliked. While repeat exposure to a food can decrease dislike, it can also increase liking. " (The Science Behind How We Taste, Heather Hatfield).

We also know of “acquired tastes” like beer, tea, wine (what is on my brain right now??) caviar etc. Social situations can inspire us to start liking something. Just like being conditioned to want popcorn while watching a movie.

Taste Over Time

Have you heard that your ears and nose get bigger as you get older? Well- your tastes change too. Your body creates less and less taste buds as you age, so you aren’t able to taste as well. SAD! So, if you are one of “those” who likes hot food you will just have to increase the intensity of the hotness as you get older- how exciting!

Super Tasters Unite!

Did you know there are people amongst us with super tasting powers?!? Maybe you are one of them… We are on to you! “Among humans, there is substantial difference in taste sensitivity. Roughly one in four people is a "supertaster" that is several times more sensitive to bitter and other tastes than those that taste poorly. Such differences are heritable and reflect differences in the number of taste buds on the tongue” (Physiology of Taste, R. Bowen.)

So! Go out, taste away- and if you don’t like something- give it another try in a fun happy environment.

Happy tasting!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I'm Sorry, I Thought That Was Assertive

Recently I have been involved in researching what assertiveness truly means. My experience has been that aggressiveness and selfishness are often confused with assertiveness. You see someone in line at the cafe barking an order that they said non-fat not 2% milk- NOT assertiveness. A co-worker asking you to cover their shift while walking out the door- NOT assertive. On the flip side, not saying anything about the 2% milk when you truly wanted non-fat. Also, not confronting the co-worker who assumes you will just cover their shift. These are also NOT assertive, or good for both parties.


Assertiveness is a form of communication in which needs or wishes are stated clearly with respect for oneself and the other person in the interaction. Assertive communication is distinguished from passive communication (in which needs or wishes go unstated) and aggressive communication (in which needs or wishes are stated in a hostile or demanding manner).
Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD, About.comCreated: February 19, 2009 Reviewed by the Medical Review Board

Dictionary definition:
Assertive; Adjective; confident and direct in dealing with others; assertively adv assertiveness n Collins Essential English Dictionary 2nd Edition 2006 © HarperCollins Publishers 2004, 2006


It seems that there is a balance to assertiveness- sorta like a continuum. As anything learned (trust me, we aren't born "assertive") these things are journeys- we don't always get things right the first or second time.

What I LOVE about assertiveness is that the basis of it is meeting the needs of both parties. Not violating the rights/respect of one for the other. Also, I am really on an authenticity kick right now and assertiveness is directly tied to being authentic to yourself. If this assertiveness thing could happen just a little more in our lives, it could possibly lead to more harmony!?! Maybe that is my forever optimist speaking...

Assertiveness reduces stress??

I do know for a fact that Assertiveness Training is prescribed to some for stress management. This is something that I truly believe works to reduce stress and get your needs met- wherever you happen to be at the moment. From personal experience- using assertiveness techniques can be a freeing experience. It makes sticky situations more clean and simple feeling. It has given me a tool to stop wasting energy. I can't tell you how cool it is.

I own this book called The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook by Martha Davis, Ph.D., Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman, LCSW, and Matthew McKay, Ph.D. In this book are a bizillion tricks to being less stressed (I HIGHLY suggest this book it is AWESOME). Maybe I'll do a few reviews on my fav parts. Anyway, one of the techniques in this book is Assertiveness Training, the professionals suggest it for Anxiety in your personal relationships (spouse, parents, children, etc.)Depression, hopelessness, powerlessness, poor self esteem and Job Stress. Wow... sounds depressing. But there is hope! Cue Assertiveness!


The LiveStrong website has a post about assertiveness that is GREAT. There is a quiz, research and suggestions for development. All excellent. The author is James J Messina, PhD, is a licensed psychologist with more than 35 years of experience.

Part of the post explores myths about assertiveness. I really think our culture (or the expectations we have about our culture) can inspire non-assertiveness. Here are the myths that really struck me:

Myth 2, Modesty: The inability to acknowledge or say positive things about and to accept them from others. Some people fear that positive self-statements seem egocentric. They fail to discriminate between the accurate representation of accomplishments and over exaggeration.

"Myth 3, Good Friend: This myth assumes that others can read my mind based upon our past relationship, e.g.: "She should have known how I felt" or "My husband should have known how hard I have been working and given me Saturday morning free." One must remember that individuals don't always respond in the same manner to the same situation."

Myth 4, Obligation: This myth indicates that some people disregard their personal needs and rights due to a belief in personal obligations to others. They are often unable to make requests of others they project that others feel the obligation to meet their needs, too. This myth, along with the others, facilitates neither self-respect nor the development of open, healthy relationships.

It can't work ALL the time...
I am a pretty optimistic person- but I am also realistic. I realize that being assertive doesn't always feel great or right, sometimes it doesn't lead us to our preferred outcome. Sometimes it even makes others uncomfortable. However, it is a process and a learning experience. We know now that being assertive DOES lead to a better outcome more often than not. It also helps us move forward with our relationships, our self esteem and our rights.

So. Where does this leave us? My suggestion: Google assertiveness or read the article about it from the LiveStrong website and decide what is best for you. Is this an issue for you? Most likely, there are areas in all of our lives that we could be more assertive. Use assertiveness to the advantage of yourself and others.