Taste Bud Rehab | Change Your Taste Buds, Change Your Life

Ads for gooey, cheesy pizzas call out to you. So do candy bars in the checkout line at the market. And let’s don’t even get started on how hard it is to order a salad instead of a burger at lunch. Getting past these intense cravings often requires something that virtually everyone in America has never heard of – taste bud rehab.

Written by
7.0 min read
Do You Want to Eat Healthy, But Love Bad Food? Consider Taste Bud Rehab

Taste Bud Rehab

How do you go from “I love eating bad food” to “I love eating good food”?

Is it even possible? Yes, says Kimberly Gomer, Director of Nutrition. She and colleagues at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Florida, have coached thousands worldwide for the past four decades on making lifestyle changes that are not only something you should do but something you want to do.

But it doesn’t happen immediately.

When launching a healthier lifestyle, it’s good to remember what 19th century author Oscar Wilde said when people asked him if he enjoyed writing.

His response was: “I like having written.”

Similarly, says Gomer, “If you’re waiting for the urge to order stir fry veggies and tofu, you may be expecting too much.”

“Just do it.”

As the old Nike commercials said, “Just do it,” advises Gomer. “Your reward will likely be waiting for you after the healthy meal in the form of self-respect for having eaten well.”

It gets better.

And soon, you’ll likely be enjoying a lot more than self-respect. To use another popular slogan: “It gets better.”

Much better, and sometimes, quickly so.

“We see it all the time here at the Pritikin Longevity Center,” smiles Kimberly Gomer, MS, RD, Director of Nutrition at Pritikin. “Within about a week, guests are coming down to breakfast, and they’re no longer craving bagels and cream cheese. Instead, they’re craving the fresh, healthy foods that make up our Pritikin breakfasts. We hear things like, ‘Have you tried the mangoes this morning? I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything so good!’

“And then, after their exercise classes, they’re gathering around the freshly made pots of veggie-rich soups our chefs have prepared for mid-morning snacks and saying, ‘This soup’s delicious…I’ve got to learn how to make it!'”

“Oh, THIS is what healthy food tastes like… I like it!”

Yes, taste buds change. “They have a chance to change here at Pritikin,” observes Kimberly. “Here, things like sugar and salt that for years overpowered the flavors of natural, whole foods are gone. Here, the subtler flavors of whole foods finally have a chance to shine.

“For probably the first time in many of our guests’ lives, they have the opportunity to discover, ‘Oh, this is what healthy food tastes like… and I like it!’”

New cravings, new life

This writer, a devotee of Pritikin eating for nearly 40 years, agrees. I wake up every morning craving — truly craving – tangy fruit like navel oranges. Then, after working out, I crave — and thoroughly enjoy — my big bowl of oatmeal with fresh berries, sliced bananas, and skim milk.

The rest of the day is much the same — Pritikin food everywhere. I’m very happy (and this from someone who, pre-Pritikin, thought burgers and fries were the only foods worth eating).

I’m still not crazy about carrots, but I love all kinds of other super-healthy foods like spinach, bok choy, mustard greens, arugula, cannelinni beans, black beans, strawberries, crunchy green grapes, and nonfat, plain Greek yogurt with a little Truvia swirled in.

Now, will I order a pizza every now and then?

Absolutely. But the pizza my husband and I order is one that is topped with exquisitely prepared veggies like roasted peppers, grilled eggplant, and baby artichokes. Plus, we always request “very light on the cheese.”

We don’t order this healthier version of pizza because we feel we’re supposed to. We do it because we want to. We no longer have the desire for salty pepperoni, greasy sausage, and thick slabs of cheese.

“He actually likes healthy food.”

When I attended lifestyle education classes at the Pritikin Longevity Center decades ago, I remember hearing one of the nutritionists say that he enjoys his food now, as a Pritikin person, as much as he enjoyed his pre-Pritikin foods. (Pre-Pritikin, he was a big fan of Haagen Dazs Chocolate Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.)

I remember thinking, “How interesting. He actually likes healthy food.”

Well, before I knew it, I was there myself.

Summing Up | Taste Bud Rehab… “We see a lot of smiles”

“You can go from ‘I love eating bad food’ to ‘I love eating good food,’” encourages Gomer.

“Does that mean you’ll never have a slice of pizza or a Buffalo wing again? Of course not. But it does mean that foods like these no longer have such a strong hold on you. Here at Pritikin, that hold is loosened because people have discovered other pleasures… We see a lot of smiles.”

Nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels

“There’s a lot to smile about,” adds Dr. Danine Fruge, Medical Director at Pritikin. “Not only are our guests enjoying new flavors and new foods, they’re enjoying a new life. Their blood pressure is coming down. So are their blood sugar and cholesterol levels. They no longer need as much medication. Often, they’re even getting off medications.

“Most important of all, they’re feeling good again. Their days used to begin with ‘I’m too tired to get out of bed.’ Each day now starts with a burst of energy. Each day, they’re feeling lighter, stronger.

“When I and all our educators at Pritikin – our doctors, dietitians, exercise coaches, chefs, and lifestyle psychologists – see these transformations taking place, we feel as good as our guests do. There is nothing more rewarding than watching a little motivation and hard work pay off. It’s all evident in each discharge visit, in each participant’s smile.”

Scroll to Top