The holidays are a time of excess- we eat more, spend more, get more, give more, do more. Over the past two weeks, a few moments brought our hunger for “more” into clear focus: 1) on the eve of Christmas Eve when we found ourselves in the midst of very hostile strip mall traffic; 2) over the course of Christmas Eve/Christmas Day when it seemed that the itinerary was crammed with one event right after the next; 3) and once over the weekend while navigating the consumption-driven chaos of downtown Chicago.
The interesting thing is this excess is completely manmade. In other words, we have the power to reject excess and choose simplicity. I’ll even take that a step farther: I believe simplicity is our default setting. Our nephews proved my theory to be true on Christmas Eve.
Our nephews are 2.5 years old and 11 months old. As the only little ones in my family, they easily become the center of attention at any gathering. Christmas was no exception. Their piles of gifts towered high above their heads, and the present opening extravaganza that kicked off after breakfast stretched into the evening. When it was all said and done, the living room was swimming with toys, games, stuffed animals, noise-makers, and art supplies. Do you know what they played with the longest and with the most laughter? A cardboard box.
That’s right, a box. These kids, sitting in the middle of their own personal toy store, chose the simplest thing in the room from which to derive their joy. Let that be a lesson to all of us. The “need” for excess is a learned behavior.
I think we can say the same about the food on our plate. We’ve twisted food into something that must entertain us with its florescent colors, impress us with its supersize portions, and be salty/sweet/fatty enough to be felt on our jaded palettes. This too is a learned behavior. Did you know that by eating a plant-based diet for just a few weeks, you can actually retrain your taste buds to enjoy the taste of healthy foods?
How to retrain your taste buds
I challenge you to return to simplicity (as a New Year’s resolution perhaps?). Try eating more plant-based foods in their simplest forms for a few weeks. Notice how they taste. Notice if your palette begins to re-sensitize. Does fruit taste sweeter? Does restaurant food taste unpleasantly saltier? Does avocado toast become a preferable substitute for greasy butter? Give it a few weeks- two or four. Maybe even jot down some notes if you notice changes. And definitely report back.
Wouldn’t it be nice to replace the learned hunger for more with a content desire for simplicity? We certainly think so.