OK y’all, I gotta confession to make. As I mentioned in The Choice, I had some pretty outlandish phobias in my past. Some of which I feel embarrassed to recount. But ever since watching that Will Smith video, I’ve slowly been breaking myself free from these fears. There’s one in particular that stands out for me, and serves as a reminder for how far I came in a short time. Like J.Cole said, “Keep grinding boy, your life can change in one year.” In my case, maybe even less than that. If you’re trying to make a change in Life, I hope this tale can be a catalyst to that change.
For my entire childhood into my young adult life, my entire diet consisted of: oatmeal, cream o’ wheat, scrambled eggs, pizza, chicken (fried), mac & cheese, french fries, spaghetti, and various other carbs (Scrambled eggs almost got crossed off this list when I found out that they didn’t always come “scrambled” or with cheese). If I ate a vegetable or fruit, it was always by force or accident; never by choice. I don’t know when I just started hating every food, but I know it happened when I was very young. If a food had a certain texture, a certain smell, a certain anything outside of my preferences, I DID NOT eat it. Like you know those late-evening, picky eater news specials? My diet was absolutely episode-worthy. My mom tried everything, from hiding vegetables in my food, to putting BBQ sauce on everything (because I loved putting it on the foods I did like). But eventually I would find out and stop eating the tainted meals. Sometimes the response was more physical and the once digested food would find itself back on my plate. I never understood why this happened. It was almost as if my body thought vegetables were a foreign poison. I wasn’t trying to throw up, it felt like my body was really taking over my functions for a brief time. Like a sneeze. When I got older and started to make a little dough, I would sometimes go buy my own dinner if I wasn’t feeling what my mom might cook for the evening. She didn’t really seem to mind. Working days and nights, she really didn’t have the time to cook anyway.
I don’t know how I kept this secret under wraps for so long. You figure that I would eventually run into a situation in which I was starving, and the only meal available was something I didn’t like. Well when there’s a will…well, you know the saying. When these situations arose I simply starved or found another means of (mal)nourishment. It was that serious. Whenever I was around people who didn’t know about my picky eating problem, and was offered food I didn’t particularly enjoy, I would start off with the general, “I’m full, just ate” excuse. If that didn’t work and I was still encouraged to eat, I would take a very small amount and eat it very, very slow. Anything leftover in the hour and a half it took me to eat went in the trash. Horrible right? It got to the point that I would only find out about new foods by ending up in these situations; feeling way too embarrassed to admit that I didn’t like something everyone else enjoyed.
As I got older, I knew that I would have to change my diet. I already looked much older than my actual age. I’m unsure if diet does have any noticeable effects on aging. But I’ve seen the news specials of vegans in their 60s looking thirty years younger. There might be some correlation. Regardless, I started small: choosing one food I didn’t like and eating it periodically over the course of a few months. I would do this until the food became a weekly part of my diet. I was making some progress, but not enough to significantly change my diet. That all changed though when I went to Tokyo.
My first time here I was consistently exposed to foods I had never tried before in my Life (Yes, my first time having sushi was in Japan). Why did I decide to pack my bags and fly to a country I knew so little about? Well, that’s another tale. Anyways, I’ll explain why I didn’t throw up every other meal while I was here:
Much more pressure. I was living around entirely new people, many of whom had a much higher interest in Japanese culture than I at the time. I didn’t want to stand out, and it seemed like the perfect time to “create a new me” for lack of better words. Think freshman year in college all over again. In addition to this type of pressure, there was also the much stronger societal pressure. It is the custom here to not bring too much attention to yourself, cause any rifts, generate controversy, etc. This is especially true in group situations. If I were out with my Japanese friends and were invited to take some food from the main dish, it would seem very impolite and maybe disrespectful to say no. Eager to blend in and become more connected with the host culture, I learned how to put my picky eating habits aside, kinda-ish.
Maybe due to the homesickness, upon my return to the US, I easily slipped back into my comfort foods diet. I still wanted to eat healthier but it was also kind of expensive to maintain that considering my lifestyle at the time. I was trying to save money for my return to Japan. I filled up any free time I had from 8:00am to 9:00pm with work. When I wasn’t at work I was in class, or driving to the next job. Only food I had time for had to be fast. And cheap. I didn’t really see a change in my picky eating habits until my first lunch at school here in Ryugasaki. I’ll say this: we humans have a lot more control over our minds than we sometimes give ourselves credit for.
One common question I received in my first few weeks as an English teacher was, “Do you like Japanese food?” At first I would say, “yeah” and name a few common foods. Then one day I just decided to say, “Yes, I like all Japanese foods!” From that day the students and teachers alike would watch and see how much I ate at lunch. Before every meal I would say to myself, “I love this food. It looks so good.” Monday through Friday, one meal I barely liked after another, I would repeat this ritualistic prayer. Then one day, I actually did like it. A lot.
Five months later, I would say my eating habit is practically gone now. No amount of words can accurately describe how much of a problem this was for me growing up. But it just goes to show you: Our thoughts are very much Real in this Universe. Be mindful of them, and use these thoughts to create your own Reality. Stay Tuned.