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Open Up to New Taste Treats

Overcome Fears of Certain Foods

There’s something amazing about sitting in a crowded restaurant near the Bhuleshwar market in Mumbai and eating curry dishes with fresh naan. It’s not an experience that can be easily matched because it’s the food mixing with the constant rush of crowds and colors in the surging street outside. Likewise, there is something to be said for sitting in the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, knowing that you’re eating at the place that invented buffalo wings. What about sitting in a London pub for fish and chips or having fresh bot chien from a street vendor in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam? The world is filled with flavors and they are some of the best ways to enhance traveling experiences.
     Master hypnotist Beverly Craddock of Hawaii Hypnosis Center says food experiences can be extraordinarily powerful because they often involve all five senses - taste, smell, sight, touch, and hearing.
      “Food is also linked to strongly positive events such as birthdays, vacations, romantic dates, or family gatherings,” Beverly explains. “That emotional bond to a meal allows it to be stored more readily in the mind, especially since it’s tied to all five senses.”
     While positive experiences with food can be a powerful part of cultural experiences, there can also be negative emotional or sensory ties that make cultural exploration more challenging for some people.
     Beverly says there are several things that can keep people from being able to enjoy ethnic foods. “Some people are merely afraid to try new things,” she says. “Even more challenging is when someone has food-related trauma, food intolerances, or a severely limited range of things they eat.”
     Traumatic experiences such as choking, even as an infant, can create a response to certain textures, flavors, or types of food. “If you swallow a big bite of chocolate cake and suddenly have trouble breathing, there’s a possibility that your brain will steer you away from chocolate in the future,” Beverly explains.
     Another problem people encounter is food intolerance. “This isn’t a full-blown allergy, but rather a mild upset that some people may experience when they eat dairy products, eggs, or gluten,” Beverly says. “When a food makes you feel a bit unsettled, then you’re likely to avoid those products. Because it can be hard to clearly identify ingredients in foods that are unfamiliar, people will often just avoid anything they don’t already eat.”
     The biggest challenge though is for people who have a selective palate or are dubbed “picky eaters.” In the most extreme cases, some people may have only three or four foods that they can eat. The condition can be stressful and limiting for a child who only eats chicken fingers or an adult who can only eat a certain flavor and brand of soup.
      “Picky eaters are often socially challenged at home and when traveling,” Beverly says. “They may be unwilling to go to a new restaurant or even to eat at a friend or colleague’s home for fear of being ridiculed.”
     New research is showing that ethnic foods can not only provide healthy new options, but might also prevent brain disorders such as dementia later in life. It’s common knowledge that heart disease and obesity are less common in people that are on an Asian or Mediterranean diet, which is often attributed to steamed vegetables and fish or seafood. “These kinds of foods are rich in brain nutrients,” Beverly concludes. “But even a spicy taco or a rich curry can surprise and excite the taste buds and the brain. New and strong tastes lead to new neural pathways in the brain, which keeps the brain more active.”
      “Eating new foods can be educational, exciting, healthy, and stimulating,” Beverly says. “If someone is fearful or unable to venture into new culinary frontiers, it might be helpful to work with a hypnotist, nutritionist, or physician to look for solutions.”
Randy Hampton is a writer, social scientist, hypnotist and blogger living in Honolulu. 
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