How can I taste less?
July 29, 2007 6:52 AM   Subscribe

Help me ruin my sense of taste!

Problem: I have a hard time steering myself away from fast food, sugary food, etc. I wouldn't say my problem is any more severe than the average person's, but I am the only 19 year old girl in an office full of 35 year old women whose eating habits have led to a lot of weight gain over time, and I'd like to keep myself from heading down that path from the occasional Oreo or fifteen.

Hypothesis: Eliminating my sense of taste will discourage me from eating excessively. Can't taste the Oreo, won't want the Oreo, won't eat the Oreo.

Any suggestions on how to accomplish this? I guess you could say that it's important that I not damage my tongue to the point where my speech is impaired.
posted by lizzicide to Food & Drink (84 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Hey, sorry, this doesn't work. One of the people I know lost her sense of smell/taste (some kind of illness)--she ended up gaining a whole lot of weight because she could still remember what it tasted like, so she'd have some out of instinct, and then she'd have some more because she didn't feel satisfied with a little (no taste).... It was very not good.
posted by anaelith at 6:57 AM on July 29, 2007 [4 favorites]

Doesn't seem like a very sound plan, but hey, I'm not going to knock it.

You could try coating your tongue in Orajel. Nothing tastes good with Orajel in your mouth. It is going to make you salivate a lot. Probably wear off in a half hour or so, but if you get a craving and then through some of that on your tongue, ekk, it may help.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 6:58 AM on July 29, 2007

This sounds crazy. You KNOW what Oreoes taste like, you've had'em before, you'll always want them because they're so damn tasty. Ruining your sense of taste would, believe it or not, ruin your taste for everything, which would be extremely depressing for a person.

Learning how to graciously decline, eat right and exercise regularly would probably be a better, saner course of action.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:00 AM on July 29, 2007

IMHO, if you cannot develop the willpower to eat well and/or exercise, no amount of tongue damage will help you. Set hard and fast rules as to what you will and will not eat, teach your mind to view undesirable foods as unpleasant. YMMV.
posted by Krrrlson at 7:01 AM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

What's always worked for me is going cold turkey, and instead filling up on fruits and nuts (fresh fruit and trail mixes, generally). Then, at the end of the day of eating healthy, rewarding myself with a very small piece of really expensive and great chocolate. (I then soak in a warm bubble bath and listen to Yanni. I keed. I keed.)

Working in an office, you're going to get cravings for food all the time, especially if others around you are constantly indulging. The only way I've found to beat that is to make sure that when I do eat something, it's healthy. There's nothing wrong with eating something that's not so good for you; but make sure it's surrounded by plenty of stuff that is.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:04 AM on July 29, 2007

You're asking us to tell you how best to permanently injure yourself, and you're doing this because you're afraid of maybe gaining weight in the future. This screams "unhealthy relationship with food."

Food shouldn't be an object of revulsion, horror, or fear. It should be what you eat to stay alive. There's plenty of good things you can eat that aren't processed McFoods; you just need to find them and eat only those things.

All you can do is work on enforcing better dietary habits. There's no quick fix.
posted by BackwardsCity at 7:07 AM on July 29, 2007

You taste food through the combination of tastebuds on your tongue, which respond to salt, sweetness, bitterness, etc., and your sense of smell. People who have lost the sense of smell have anosmia, but some people with this condition overeat anyway, as anaelith mentioned above:

Health can be greatly affected when a person has anosmia. Taste is most commonly lost with the disorder since there is a close connection of smell and flavor (Goldstein, 99). Because anosmia results from an olfactory deficit, there is usually a loss of taste. A taste loss is one of the first things noticed by people losing their sense smell. This loss of taste can greatly affect a person's eating habits. Many people with anosmia are known to skip meals because the appeal for food is not there. Nothing seems to taste good anymore and the flavor is gone. Another reason appetite is effected, is that the aroma of foods does not cause a desire for food because the person cannot detect the luring odors from the food (Crawford and Sounder, 95). Not eating results in malnutrition and involuntary weight loss. This can also lead to illness because the proper foods are not being eaten to keep a person healthy. The primary reinforcers for eating are saticity and pleasure. Without taste and smell the person will not experience these sensations (Schiffman, 97). Anosmia can also have the opposite effect and cause a person to overeat to compensate for the loss of taste. This can result in a weight problem (Crawford and Sounder, 95). Obesity is a major result of elderly women with olfactory dysfunction's (Duffy, Backstrand, and Ferris, 95).

You're talking about ruining your tastebuds, not your sense of smell, but I'd expect similar counterproductive effects from this reckless choice. Follow the good advice given above about controlling your appetite and eating habits.
posted by maudlin at 7:11 AM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sounds like a bad idea to me - unless you could find something temporary that would do the trick.

My advice: develop better eating habits than your office mates.

Gradually wean yourself off soda and/or any sort of sweet beverage. If you haven't noticed already, the people who drink lots of 'diet' beverages are generally overweight. Shoot for something like unsweetened iced tea or water - but dont expect to get there overnight.

Bring your own lunch. Remember that rarely is food both nutritious and convenient - making a turkey sandwich is going to be healthier than buying a frozen dinner. Eat nutritious snacks during your breaks. Fruit is good, corn syrup is bad - so try fresh or the canned fruit sweetened with fruit (pear) juice. Whatever you do, don't buy the oreos, anything little debbie, anything hostess, anything creme-filled or twin wrapped. If you think it might be unhealthy, dont buy it. If you do indulge on something, only buy a small package of it.

Oh, and start doing something - walk, swim, bike, jog or whatever for at least 20 minutes 3 or more days a week.
posted by itheearl at 7:11 AM on July 29, 2007

Response by poster: Ruining your sense of taste would, believe it or not, ruin your taste for everything, which would be extremely depressing for a person.

Trust me, I'm prepared for it.

Set hard and fast rules as to what you will and will not eat, teach your mind to view undesirable foods as unpleasant. YMMV.

Teaching my mind to view undesirable foods as unpleasant just seems less effective than taking pleasure out of the equation entirely. My understanding of gastric bypass is that a large amount of the effectiveness comes from restricting the patient to eating very small amounts of food. Asking these patients to use willpower alone was not enough.
posted by lizzicide at 7:11 AM on July 29, 2007

Um. Permanantly losing your sense of taste seems like a bad idea.

Could you perhaps brush your teeth several times a day, or chew highly-flavored gum? That would affect the way things taste to you without permanently removing your sense of taste.
posted by christinetheslp at 7:13 AM on July 29, 2007

Cigarettes and spicy food will dull/kill your taste buds over time. Get started.
posted by baphomet at 7:16 AM on July 29, 2007

Ruining your sense of taste would, believe it or not, ruin your taste for everything, which would be extremely depressing for a person.

Trust me, I'm prepared for it.

lizzicide, you should bring these thoughts up to your primary care physician (or better yet, your therapist) and see what their reaction is. Your desire to injure yourself so you won't/can't eat indicates severe body-image issues on the order of anorexia or bulimia.
posted by BackwardsCity at 7:24 AM on July 29, 2007

Here's a clue - Oreos taste like crap, you just don't know it yet.

I'm not kidding. They don't taste anything like chocolate, and the cookie part has the texture of crumbled cardboard. The "filling" is nothing but cloying corn syrup and sugar and chemicals. When I eat one, I can taste every single bit of this, and it frankly repulses me.

I can teach you to feel the same way.

It's simple, you just need to upgrade your tastebuds. First, stop eating preservative-laden foods. Start eating things with real, actual, food ingredients. Only eat real (no HFCS, must-have cocoa butter) chocolate. Only eat things made with real cream. Eat whole-grain breads and real beef made without filler and fresh fruits and for the love of Christ stop eating iceberg lettuce drowned in cheap oils and bad vinegars. Cut out the restaurants except occasionally and splurge at the local hippie/snooty grocery store and get ingredients worth eating. Watch what you eat, and eat well.

I promise, fake foods will have a lot less appeal once you get used to eating things your great-grandmother would approve.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 7:26 AM on July 29, 2007 [20 favorites]

You could get in touch with Compellis Pharmaceuticals about its patented obesity nasal spray.

But be aware that situational reduction of taste and smell can be accomplished with various common aerosol agents. Something as common as gasoline is an effective temporary olfactory inhibitor, although huffing gasoline and other volatile aerosols also carries the potential for neurological, kidney and liver damage, which Compellis obviously aims to avoid.

People with permanently impaired or absent sense of taste and/or smell have to be unusually careful in situations normal people may never consider, as without these senses, normal detection and early reactions to poisons may not be possible. If salt has the same complete lack of taste as sugar, it is very easy to ingest a fatal overdose of salt. People who can't smell can not react to the presence of gas leaks (which have trace amounts of hydrogen sulfide gas added, as an olfactory warning agent), or to chlorine.

Be careful what you ask for, as you might well get it.
posted by paulsc at 7:34 AM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Avoid junk food by making it take more effort to get than healthier stuff. You could keep fresh fruit or a thermos of tea on your desk. I personally keep litres of different types of smoothies in the fridge.
posted by stereo at 7:37 AM on July 29, 2007

Response by poster: You're asking us to tell you how best to permanently injure yourself, and you're doing this because you're afraid of maybe gaining weight in the future.

My mindset about this is that this would not be an injury at all, but rather a modification. It might be helpful to explain that altering one's body no longer seems like an extreme decision to me - Body modification is a huge interest of mine. See also

I really don't think my decision is unhealthy, nor do I think I have an unhealthy relationship with food. In fact, I think it's funny that you should say that I'M the one with an unhealthy relationship with food, when it's my coworkers who have been unable to control their weight. I'm sure all of them have also been told to fill up on fruits and nuts and water as well - My reasons for being unable to stick to that are the same as theirs. It's nothing for you to stigmatize or for me to be ashamed about. If ruining my sense of taste can help prevent weight gain, I see the benefits as outweighing the drawbacks (and yes, I've considered the drawbacks). I'm just trying to make a long-term change to my lifestyle so that I can be at a lower risk for health problems associated with weight gain, and I believe that removing my sense of taste may help me to accomplish this.

(Please, obviously, take all of this with a grain of salt and remember that I said "hypothesis," to mean that I am CONSIDERING this possibility. Just because I am playing devil's advocate for myself in this discussion does not mean I am not acknowledging the factors you have mentioned.)
posted by lizzicide at 7:39 AM on July 29, 2007

What TheNewWazoo said. Try to find a really good deli/sandwich shop to get lunch from. I used to eat a lot of fast food at lunchtime, until we moved to a new office right across the street from a fantastic deli, and that was the end of that. I can't even stand the (slightly) higher-quality chains like Wendy's now.

The downside, of course, is that it'll be more expensive. But I think it's worth it--seriously, you can avoid crappy food and still enjoy the taste of good food.

And besides, it's dangerous to not be able to taste things. Wouldn't you rather find out your milk is spoiled right away, instead of a few hours later, then another hour later, then every couple hours throughout the night?
posted by equalpants at 7:49 AM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Would you alternatively consider getting a lot of flavor without calories? For example, chewing on a stick of cinnamon bark or licorice root. There are a lot of very strongly-flavored, very weakly caloric things in the world.

There are so very many yummy things to eat, it would be a pity to miss them if your sense of taste were somehow reduced irreversibly.
posted by jet_silver at 7:51 AM on July 29, 2007

I am going to side with the "start eating real food, and the Oreos and their ilk will stop tasting 'good'". It is absolutely true. I can't stand the taste of junk food. I prefer whole, prepared food. It takes more time, I have to go shopping more, but does taste better.

Senses of taste & smell are linked. Kill one, you will kill the other. So now you may not realise it when you've spashed on a bit much perfume, or your shoes have started to smell a bit funky, or something in close proximity has caught fire. The sense of smell is a good thing.
posted by kellyblah at 7:53 AM on July 29, 2007

Do you really want to be the one to test this hypothesis? What if you are wrong, and you end up gaining a whole bunch of weight (not to mention any other side effects) and you can't reverse it?
posted by KAS at 7:55 AM on July 29, 2007

Response by poster: I thought it would go without saying that I am not looking for diet suggestions. And, really, they are good ones! I know all the little lifehacks on how to avoid junk food and surround myself with good eats, but that requires an awful lot of focus on what I'm putting into my body - dare I say an unhealthy amount. :] I appreciate the effort and the thought put into those responses, but I would just like to ask that people stick to answering my question.
posted by lizzicide at 7:56 AM on July 29, 2007

I also agree that ruining your sense of taste might also cause the very thing you're trying to avoid. However, in the spirit of answering the question, allow me to go into a little story:

In grade school, a group of boys discovered, perhaps on their own, perhaps through the helpful teachings of older kids, that it was possible to deliberately fire one's salivary glands under the tongue and shoot a small stream of droplets of pure saliva for several feet. This was called "gleeking" in our circles, and was a great way to annoy someone sitting in front of you.

I got particularly good at it, and still am, to this day. The typical method is to brisky rub the upper side of one's tongue against the molars while aiming. Mind you, I'm still missing most of the taste buds right there, despite the fact that I no longer practice gleeking. It's just a long, smooth strip with a couple of pathetic nubbles of taste buds. I imagine you'd have to work your way across the entire tongue, though.
posted by adipocere at 7:57 AM on July 29, 2007

Do a search online for the Shangri-La diet. It centers around drinking a couple of tablespoons of flavorless oil each day to give your body empty calories so it changes your set point for how many calories your body needs each day to feel satisfied.
posted by any major dude at 8:08 AM on July 29, 2007

Removing your sense of taste will not take all the pleasure out of eating, "mouth feel" is another sensation that gives pleasure from food, and how the body reacts to food also produces pleasureable responses.

TheNewWazoo has some good advice. You can change the foods you like over time, such that you enjoy sugary foods less.

You state that your motivation is to be at a lower risk for health problems in the future. Avoiding sugary foods is only part of what one needs to do to prevent food and weight related health problems. You need to eat a balanced diet of healthy foods, which will take some effort. This effort will be aided by the joy of finding healthy foods you like the taste of. Personally, I prefer the taste of a lunch of a spinach, celery, black bean, and feta salad than a Mcdonalds burger, but it takes more effort to make the salad and bring it for lunch. If they tasted the same I might not make the effort.

To prevent future health problems, exercise is also important, even if you are at a healthy weight. Your coworkers may have gained weight over time in part due to a lack of exercise. Not exercising leads to health problems even for skinny people.

It seems that one reason you are worried about future weight gain is that you are surrounded by women older than you who have allowed themselves to become obese. It is possible that you might pick up bad habits from them that would also lead to you becoming obese. You might check into a social activity outside of work where you will be around women with better habits. Try a hiking group, or a dance class. There are many women around 35 who stay active and are not obese.
posted by yohko at 8:12 AM on July 29, 2007

Maybe there's another way to test your hypothesis--you could wait around until you get sick and can't taste well. Or there are probably prescription medications whose side effects include a reduced sense of taste--you could get some of those. But if you're going the DIY route, don't forget that smell is a large component of how people 'taste' foods--you'll want to disable your olfactory nerve, too.

And, since you mention it--I'm hugely interested in body modification myself, and, by most any definition, what you're talking about is an 'extreme' form of modification. You say that you don't think your problem is any more serious than the average person's--if that's an accurate assessment, then it seems to me that you might be trying to cut butter with a chainsaw. You wish to completely disable one of your senses--that's along the same lines as tearing out your eyes like Oedipus, or standing next to jet engines until you go deaf.

I'm probably among the more pro-bodmod folks on this site, and I'm a big supporter of folks' doing whatever they want to their own bodies, but I'm an even bigger supporter of informed decision-making. Your recent comment makes you sound pretty defensive, and, before you do anything permanent, I'd urge you to talk to someone open-minded and understanding--doctor, therapist, mentor, whatever--about your relationship with food, and your motivations behind this project. Email's in my profile.
posted by box at 8:15 AM on July 29, 2007 [3 favorites]

How about the other way around? There's Miraculin. I've never tried it but it sounds interesting.
posted by who squared at 8:19 AM on July 29, 2007

Tea tree toothpicks? They won't get rid of your sense of taste completely, but I imagine they'd make oreos taste pretty nasty. Plus, it's not permanent.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 8:21 AM on July 29, 2007

This is exactly what the Shangri-La diet was designed to do. Its goal is to separate your experience of eating from calorie intake, or something like that. Part of it actually involves eating flavorless calories so that your body no longer is motivated by taste to eat a lot of food.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:25 AM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: What if you are wrong, and you end up gaining a whole bunch of weight (not to mention any other side effects) and you can't reverse it?

Why wouldn't I be able to reverse it? If I'm wrong, then oh well, I'll still be able to use all of these helpful suggestions on what to eat, how to exercise, and how to avoid what I shouldn't eat. I don't see how losing my sense of taste would make it any more difficult to keep the weight off than it currently is.

Plus, think of it this way: If I were to go on an ice cream binge this afternoon (this is not to say that I engage in binge eating; I'm talking like a large sundae), the reason I would stop myself at the end of the binge is not because the food no longer tastes good. I would stop because I would feel full. To say that taking away my sense of taste would cause me to eat everything in sight to fill a void doesn't make sense, because that void would still be limited by the bounds of how full I can get. The patients mentioned in the study posted above almost certainly had INVOLUNTARILY lost their sense of smell/taste - If I go into this willingly with the mindset of wanting to remove food as a priority, I will have a different perspective than that of the person who has had it taken away from them.

Since I think the chances of it drastically backfiring are unlikely, the worst that could happen is that I'd live my life without a sense of taste. So what? I'd still have my arms, legs, vision, hearing, general health...I'd still be far better off than many people out there. Telling me "Okay, from now on, you can't taste a thing," is pretty much the same as telling me "Okay, from now on, you can't play Super Smash Bros Melee." There would still be so much else to do that I wouldn't even miss it much at all.

Wouldn't you rather find out your milk is spoiled right away, instead of a few hours later, then another hour later, then every couple hours throughout the night?

Simple: I won't drink milk by myself. Same goes for other circumstances where I might hurt myself by eating something that hasn't been smell-checked. I have friends with food allergies that cause them to be very careful about what they eat, and it hasn't ruined their lives by any means.

adipocere, great suggestion, one that would probably not have the side effect of doing away with my sense of smell. (Strange, though, because I gleek entirely differently. Maybe this explains why I'm not very good at it.)
posted by lizzicide at 8:26 AM on July 29, 2007

I am with the "this won't work" camp. But you indeed can change your sense of what tastes good over time. It sounds like your concern is weight gain over time, and how to prevent it.

First, the key is not as much what you as eat, as how much you eat. If you like something, having it in moderation is fine. So, of your fast-food choices, pick the ones that are lower in calories, and cut things you can do without. Their websites have nutritional info. Plan ahead instead of waiting to figure out what you want on lunch. Knowing ahead that you can have 2 tacos from Taco Bell, and a diet drink for only 340 calories. You satisfy your fast-food craving for the same calories as a Lean Cuisine.

As far as changing your taste, try different foods that are healthier, and find ones you like. Season them to your taste. Over time, you may find you prefer these foods to fast food, and it gives you more options.

The worst thing to do, in my opinion, is to totally deprive yourself of things you like, and try to substitute things you don't like. That is a recipe for failure.

Sorry if this doesn't directly "answer the question" but I think your hypothesis is incorrect. Feel free to flag.

Good luck on your quest, and good for you for seeing the potential future and wanting to avoid it!
posted by The Deej at 8:28 AM on July 29, 2007

Sucking on ice cubes will dull your sense of taste (according to noted biologist Encyclopedia Brown). Here's another vote for "you might want to tell your doctor you feel this way," however.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:34 AM on July 29, 2007

I really don't think my decision is unhealthy,

Then please go ask a trained physician how to do this. They're they ones who would know the safest way to do this.

Why wouldn't I be able to reverse it?f

Because you're asking for advice on how to eliminate one of your senses. Eliminate means gone. Based on your thought that you'd be able to reverse this speaks of (and I mean this in the kindest way) not having a fucking clue of the full range of implications of what you propose.

Based on your post, this is coming from the 35 year old office women you see? Doesn't that strike as a bit shallow, that that is the one reason for wanting to destroy one of your senses?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:44 AM on July 29, 2007

Response by poster: "I really don't think my decision is unhealthy,"

Then please go ask a trained physician how to do this. They're they ones who would know the safest way to do this.

Sorry, just thought I'd ask for input from the hive mind before I go bother a doctor.

Because you're asking for advice on how to eliminate one of your senses. Eliminate means gone. Based on your thought that you'd be able to reverse this speaks of (and I mean this in the kindest way) not having a fucking clue of the full range of implications of what you propose.

When I said "reverse it," I meant reverse the weight gain, not reverse my loss of taste. Thanks for swearing at me, though!
posted by lizzicide at 8:48 AM on July 29, 2007

With processed foods like Oreos and other treats, taste is just part of it. There's the comfort associated with eating them, and then there's the texture-- which has been market-researched into next tuesday to make sure it has the perfect crunchiness, the perfect smoothness, the perfect squidginess when you bite into it, etc. etc. I'm pretty sure it would feel great to eat an Oreo even if I couldn't taste it.

Maybe you could just do something to ruin the association you have with these foods. Eat an Oreo while smelling an onion. Wrap one in a slice of pepper-jack cheese. Dunk one in Campari before eating it. And so forth.
posted by hermitosis at 8:48 AM on July 29, 2007

Response by poster: Maybe you could just do something to ruin the association you have with these foods. Eat an Oreo while smelling an onion. Wrap one in a slice of pepper-jack cheese. Dunk one in Campari before eating it. And so forth.

I'm just concerned that the unpleasant association would not stand up for very long/wear off over time, and I would have to repeat the process.
posted by lizzicide at 8:51 AM on July 29, 2007

I personally know someone who has no sense of taste (head injury), and she's constantly on a diet. AND she's a tiny Japanese lady with high metabolism to boot. She just tends to eat rich, creamy food a lot because she can't freaking taste it so she might as well enjoy the texture and fullness.....
posted by tristeza at 8:52 AM on July 29, 2007

If you really think you won't miss your sense of taste, why do you think the taste of things is your problem with over-eating?

I don't get the logic there.

Here's some suggestions though:
1. chew very hot cinnamon gum all the time
2. use flonase, which for me caused disgusting tasting post-nasal drip at all time
3. find a way to develop geographic tongue, which causes many foods to feel painful in your mouth
4. stuff cotton plugs up your nose
5. have your jaw wired shut
6. find someone to cut out your tongue
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:53 AM on July 29, 2007

As mentioned before, asomia is the loss of the sense of smell which will kill your ability to taste. This can be acquired through a mild traumatic brain injury. Car accident, friend with a baseball bat, etc. There are many ways to achieve this which would leave your tongue intact. But make no mistake, you will regret this each day of your life until you die. And according to some beliefs, you may regret it long after that as well.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:12 AM on July 29, 2007

Response by poster: why do you think the taste of things is your problem with over-eating?

It's not that I over-eat, it's that I steer myself towards foods that are high in calories and generally bad for me, instead of healthier choices. I'm not saying I do this all the time, but my office has both a salad bar (a really good one) and a cheeseburger grill (also a really good one), and it's hard to pick the right thing. If a cheeseburger and a salad taste the same, the choice is obvious.
posted by lizzicide at 9:13 AM on July 29, 2007

Not so obvious. Cheeseburgers and salad don't have the same mouthfeel, and as others have said, it's not taste alone that drives people to over-eat food that they find sensually satisfying.
posted by maudlin at 9:14 AM on July 29, 2007

I don't see how losing my sense of taste would make it any more difficult to keep the weight off than it currently is.

Overeating because you have no taste may not make sense to you, but maudlin already posted proof of it.

I repeat the relevant portion of maudlin's post:

Anosmia can also have the opposite effect and cause a person to overeat to compensate for the loss of taste. This can result in a weight problem (Crawford and Sounder, 95). Obesity is a major result of elderly women with olfactory dysfunction's (Duffy, Backstrand, and Ferris, 95).

Lots of things don't make sense, but are true, especially in psychology/sociology/science studies. Look at any psychology blog -- there's plenty.

Why would people overeat if they can't taste? Same reason that my friends with allergies crave the things that they're allergic too, especially if the allergy presented itself late in life.

What you're talking about is not a bodymod. I like bmezine. But never have I seen a mod that would involve the destruction of two senses. I don't see mods that destroy the ability of vision (at least, deliberately, with that goal in mind), that prevent sound from reaching the eardrum, that aspire towards nerve damage or paralysis.

Do not call it a mod. A mod is just that: a modification of an organ to change its visual properties -- size, shape, colour. A 00 gauge earring, a purple dragon tattoo. Sometimes people use mods for many reasons (mods of the sex organs, the corset piercings), but they do not strive to destroy. Even in the sometimes less-than-sexual operations to transition from male to female (or vice versa), the goal is not destruction so much as creation of something new -- a new identity, a new life.

What you're proposing is anything but. It's a destruction, and is foolhardy at best, and extremely dangerous at worst -- both in acquiring the loss of senses, which would require some kind of trauma, and in the long term, when you might ingest something that might kill you. In fact, I'm honestly wondering if you're trolling, because this is so incomprehensible to me.

Instead, 'kill' the tastebuds that make you like this crappy food -- eat better quality food, you'll stop caring for the crap. Double bonus -- good-quality treats are so damn expensive, you'd stop eating so much high-calorie stuff.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 9:24 AM on July 29, 2007

Response by poster: I'll concede to that, maudlin, but I can safely say I'd never drink Coke again, or eat Starbursts, or dry cookies. Since it can't be said that my eating habits wouldn't be affected by this change, I'll just say that every little bit helps!
posted by lizzicide at 9:26 AM on July 29, 2007

Response by poster: Anosmia can also have the opposite effect and cause a person to overeat to compensate for the loss of taste. This can result in a weight problem (Crawford and Sounder, 95). Obesity is a major result of elderly women with olfactory dysfunction's (Duffy, Backstrand, and Ferris, 95).

flibbertigibbet, the distinction I'm making here is that I'm not an elderly woman with nothing to lose by eating myself to death - there's a difference between going into this with the conscious intent of reducing my attraction to food, and having the sense of taste taken away from me involuntarily.
posted by lizzicide at 9:31 AM on July 29, 2007

Response by poster: Why would people overeat if they can't taste? Same reason that my friends with allergies crave the things that they're allergic too, especially if the allergy presented itself late in life.

Not to nitpick, but there's a big difference - Your friends can still TASTE those foods that they are not allowed to eat. They want to eat it because they want the taste. I will not want to eat it because I will know that eating it will not produce the sensation of taste.
posted by lizzicide at 9:33 AM on July 29, 2007

If you're dead set on this, it looks like Zicam will do the trick.

Not really. Ive used it a million times and have not had any problems.

I think this question brings up a lot of issues regarding your attitude with food, but its also important to know that a lot of the food you mention are dosed with MSG, which turns up your taste buds to absurd amounts. The best thing you can do is stop eating foods with MSG and ween yourself off it. Then healthy food will begin tasting much better, and your cravings for junk will fall.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:46 AM on July 29, 2007

Response by poster: Then healthy food will begin tasting much better, and your cravings for junk will fall.

I know this to be true. I used to be a habitual vending machine raider, but then I went cold turkey and stopped. Went from 146 to 126 in the course of a year, and everything behind the glass no longer looked appealing to me At All. Sadly, I gradually fell off the wagon, and I'm just dreading doing it again.
posted by lizzicide at 9:49 AM on July 29, 2007

I find that when I take those zinc lozenges that are supposed to help you fight off colds (the kind you suck on, not zinc supplements you just swallow), my sense of taste is temporarily deadened and altered. The internet tells me that zinc deficiencies tend to result in diminished senses of taste and smell.
posted by redfoxtail at 9:54 AM on July 29, 2007

Due to a recent medical procedure, my sense of taste is very much reduced (not gone altogether, but dammit, it's annoying - I'm just glad it's expected to come back in a few months) Doesn't stop me from eating junk food, though; just means that I'm more interested in texture.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:55 AM on July 29, 2007

Brushing your teeth is great short term modification of your ability to taste--why not try getting up and going to the bathroom and brush your teeth every time you find yourself wanting a cookie. Then, if you still eat the cookie, it'll be gross. And if you still eat the cookie recurringly, you'll know this idea is also bound to fail.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:59 AM on July 29, 2007

Another vote for teaching yourself to avoid the junk food by eating real, high-quality food.

Staying away from cola for a while really let me taste the "laboratory" in the flavour the next time I had one, and every time since.

Oreos are supposed to be chocolate flavoured, but try a nice 70% cocoa dark chocolate bar sometime and you'll see that they taste like paper. Similarly, something like a Snickers really doesn't taste like chocolate, or peanuts. It tastes sweet with crunchy bits.

You want a freakish experience? Eat a Snickers immediately after a small bag of Nacho chips. The Snickers will have a sickening minty note you'll taste in every Snickers bar you ever have after that.

Junk food has no complexity in its flavours. It's all one of the primary "tastes" - salt, sweet, sour, etc. and a mouth-feel like "crunchy" or "fizzy". Trying some foods that actually recognize the importance of odour's contribution to "flavour" will lessen you're desire for the cartoon-foods.
posted by Crosius at 10:06 AM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Develop a horrible stomach problem. That kicks snacking to the curb. Salmonella and the lingering aftereffects have left me unable to snack on fatty/sugary junk. The new obesity drugs work on a similar premise. One new drug gives you loose stools if you eat fatty food.

Also, becoming a total snob has helped me drop weight. I used to eat whole packs of Oreos. Now I wouldn't touch one even if my stomach tolerated it.

I figure that if I eat chocolate, it might as well be the best chocolate in the world. Leonidas chocolate from Belgium fits the bill. It costs about 5 times more per ounce than Oreos. True to the rules of economics, I don't get to consume much. Compared to Leonidas, an Oreo tastes like sawdust. I leads me to believe that people who like Oreos either are eating just to be eating, or don't know what real food tastes like.

My rule is that only the best food is worth eating. Same goes for meat-- I only eat free-range grass-fed...hence not much at all. I only dine at the finest establishments, fast food is below me at this point in my life.

Reading lots of food books drives home the point,as well as grossing you out on the state of food production. Get a copy of the food Defect Action Levels, which list what % of processed food is allowed to be rat dung or dead bugs. Read Omnivore's Dilemma, Pete Singer's books, Real Food, The Jungle, and any other food books that list the sins of modern food. I now eat processed foods, meat, sugar, and carbs with hesitance, if at all.

I consider this taste modification of a different sort. Removing your tastebuds is a lot less harsh socially, but reprogramming your sense of good taste has other benefits. I get paid to write about food and eat fine food now, people respect my views on food, and I have learned to enjoy food the way I enjoy music. I love imported cheese, wine, and artisan bread. I go to the farmer's market every weekend for arugala and fresh chevre. Quality matters more to me than quantity. I weight on the low side of normal. I have my gouda and a string bikini too.

The movie Ratatouille showcases a philosophy like mine. I suggest checking it out.

It comes down to consuming less, but making that less the best quality so you don't feel like you are missing out. People who eat Oreos now seem like the ones who are missing out.
posted by melissam at 10:08 AM on July 29, 2007

What jacquilynne, and several others, have said. Do something to temporarily disrupt your sense of taste and see what effect it has on your eating. Anything short of 100% avoidance of "bad" foods is pretty strong evidence that mouthfeel, emotional eating, or sheer bloodymindedness could make any attempt at permanent disruption of your sense of taste a sad and wasteful effort.

But if you do get 100% correction, don't take that as a go ahead, either. You may find that you avoid cookies for a couple of days if you brush your teeth constantly, but could you avoid cookies for 2 months, 6 months, the rest of your life? Add in the drawbacks of a deliberate destruction of two of your senses, something that is not classic bodymod (as flibbertigibbet said), nor is it a tragic accident that you simply have to live with. It's a choice that almost certainly will not give you the permanent positive effects that you want, and will permanently restrict your life in several important ways.

In addition, the quote I gathered cited two studies, only one of which applied to elderly women. Please try to find the original studies if you can. I cited them for a reason.
posted by maudlin at 10:16 AM on July 29, 2007

If you haven't noticed already, the people who drink lots of 'diet' beverages are generally overweight.

That does not at all imply that drinking diet beverages causes weight gain.

I'm not an elderly woman with nothing to lose by eating myself to death

You know this—consciously. It's the other side that's the real battle.
posted by oaf at 10:25 AM on July 29, 2007

I realize this will not answer your question, but as someone who is essentially what you fear becoming, I feel obligated to make this observation: I am very certain that boredom and convenience were, ultimately, much stronger factors than taste.
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:48 AM on July 29, 2007

Sadly, I gradually fell off the wagon, and I'm just dreading doing it again.



All making fun of your desire to find an easy solution to a difficult problem aside, you mentioned being surrounded at work by older folks who eat poorly - I am curious how much influence you see your coworkers having on you in that regard..
posted by beefetish at 10:58 AM on July 29, 2007

Mod note: a few comments removed. chill out folks -- if you don't like the question, please take it to metatalk
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:07 AM on July 29, 2007

perhaps you can spray everything you eat with a version of thum liquid. It's the stuff people put on their babies' thumbs to make them stop sucking them. Maybe make your own version out of cayenne pepper extract and citric acid, because I'm not sure how great the other ingredients are to eat regularly. This would be a reversible way to make everything taste bad, and it could work with all food types.
posted by fermezporte at 11:21 AM on July 29, 2007

One of my cousins lost his senses of smell and taste after a head trauma, and as others have noted, he turned to foods with richer texture (higher fat, more calories) in order to satisfy his physical cravings. And he also ate quite a bit of junk, because things like chips and cookies have a certain distinctive mouthfeel that seems to have sent a message to his brain letting him know he was being fed.

He gained quite a bit of weight despite being on a pretty active physical therapy regime for some of the other effects of his accident. He ended up having to work very hard to retrain himself to appreciate healthy foods despite not being able to enjoy their flavor and aroma. One thing that helped him was that he had previously been an avid home cook. He had to relearn some of the most basic cooking techniques because of his injury, and he had to rely quite a bit on his wife's palate because of his missing ability to discern most flavors, but it's been a great longterm strategy for him, he was able to lose the weight he'd gained and go back to eating like the healthy foodie he'd been before his accident.

Incidentally, much of his ability to taste and smell has returned gradually as his body has healed itself over the last decade, and he's been able to retain these habits he trained himself to have. In his late 30's he's easily maintaining his ideal weight, and the benefits of his diet have trickled to his wife and child.

So, that's anecdotal, I know. I think your hypothesis is interesting, but as someone who really enjoys great food, and who has witnessed the effects of your theory on a loved one, it seems like quite a risk. Perhaps it would make for an interesting experiment if it turns out there's some way to make this a temporary exercise in sensory deprivation, but if your true goal is to maintain a healthy weight, you may want to rethink your options.
posted by padraigin at 11:33 AM on July 29, 2007

I have very poor tastebuds and got to say, the pleasure from trashy food isn't from the taste, it's really from the texture.
posted by drezdn at 11:34 AM on July 29, 2007

It's not that I over-eat, it's that I steer myself towards foods that are high in calories and generally bad for me, instead of healthier choices.

To me this boils it down to its essence. At 19 years old you've decided to accept your lack of self-control as a flaw in your character rather than exercising your control over your own actions, and working to change yourself.

Yes, it can be difficult to control your weight, to deny the strong habits of your colleagues and take care of yourself. But pursuing difficult things is extremely worthwhile, and the benefits go far beyond a single application.

Your life will be much richer if you leave your senses alone and concentrate on becoming the master of your own destiny.
posted by nadise at 11:39 AM on July 29, 2007

Here's what I don't get. Either you love food, in which case you will get fat because you will eat too much of it, or you don't, in which case you will stay thin.

But how can you love food AND be willing to give up your sense of taste?

I personally think you are looking at this backwardsly. What if your sense of taste and smell were heightened so that eating one Oreo was almost more than your mouth could take? That'd do the trick.

I had the tragic experience of completely losing my sense of smell (which, as many people have noted, is more or less part and parcel with losing your sense of taste) and I went out to a restaurant. I think I had about as close of an experience as I'd care to get to of having food not taste so great, and you know what? I still ate all the food put out in front of me.

Even though it "tasted" terrible, because I couldn't taste it.

We make most of our food decisions based on the amount of food in front of us, not on how it tastes.

Brains are highly adaptive, and they evolved in a time when food was scarce. The evolutionary reaction to lots of food being available is feast, because maybe tomorrow sabertooth tiger can has cheezeburger and you can't. Unfortunately, these days we no longer have limits on the amount of food available to us but our evolutionary mind has not learned and still thinks: eat as much food as possible, or else.

Sooo...your brain will react to the lack of taste (and, heaven help you, smell as well -- don't forget you need to get rid of that too!) and will find other ways of making you eat a lot. You'll start responding to the mouthfeel, and of course you will still have all of the associated emotional and mental ties to food you had before.

All that being said, it sounds like you're serious about this, so here is something that will temporarily remove your taste buds but they will (hopefully -- and not after a day or two) grow back.

I have personally lost taste on my tongue (let's not cover the smell angle just yet) in two ways. One by burning it with tea, and the other by burning it with acid (namely, these red cherry sours).

Now obviously the red cherry sours have, horrors of horrors, sugar in them, and that's calories, and you don't want that. So what you could do instead is get your hands on pure edible powdered acid. You can buy some through baking supply stores, or you can go the easy route and get your hands on a bottle of powdered ascorbic acid, which you can find at some health food stores. Put a small spoonfull on your tongue and wait until it is completely dissolved on your tongue. Keep it there through the burn, that's what's doing the trick. Once it's completely dissolved, eat another spoonful. You will probably need to do this for about 30 minutes (I would slowly go through an entire pack of sour cherries, at which point nothing I ate tasted right).

The other option is simple boiling water. Just heat up a cup of water in the microwave until it is just painful to the touch, and briskly swish your mouth on it, making sure to move your tongue so that every side of it is burned.

Contrary to popular belief, you don't actually taste different tastes on different parts of the tongue, so you're going to have to burn all of it, not just the sides and front. Also, according to this wikipedia article you can also taste with other parts of your mouth as well, so burning the tongue with water and acid may only be partially effective.

While I know from personal experience that doing this (although, to be fair, I never purposefully did so, nor tried to burn my entire tongue) once or twice does not have permanently deleterious effects, I am almost positive that doing so regularly would have negative consequences.

In addition, as someone without a sense of smell or taste, you would be unable to cook for others. You would be able to cook for yourself, of course, but it would be of little point. On the bright side, you would be able to eat nearly anywhere since your taste buds would not get in the way of discrimination. On the negative side, you would require people to taste your food first to make sure it wasn't spoiled or undercooked. Also, your lack of discriminating taste would mean you would be more, not less, likely to eat junk food.

An inability to taste will make you largely unappealing to future romantic partners. Many will either want you to cook (you will not be able to do so) or will enjoy going out to eat but knowing that you can't taste anything being eaten will make the prospect of going out to eat seem pointless and unenjoyable.

If you decide to do away with your sense of smell as well you will be unable to live in any flat where gas is used for heating, cooking, etc for the reasons others have noted above. I'm not sure this is universal, but most people I know about who have lost their sense of smell did so through some sort of traumatic incident. Some sort of damage occurs that permanently damages the olfactory nerve or something. If you have a lot of money on you, you may be able to find a neurologist willing to risk losing his license (or I suppose you could always go to a neurologist in a different country with weaker laws) in order to purposefully give you the necessary brain damage so you can no longer smell (that's the permanent solution). You could also get yourself addicted to nasal decongestants and then stop using them, at which point you will be permanently congested and can't smell. Finally, I imagine pouring burning water through your nasal passages might do the trick, as would exposing them to fire somehow.

So, that answers your question! I really, really, really hope you don't go through with this.

All of my recommendations are stupid, dangerous, and are completely ineffective at ensuring that you avoid weight gain.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:51 AM on July 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

Recommend not a doctor, but a therapist instead. Merely because food is a very emotionally charged issue.

Are you cooking your own food at this point? Because that changed my eating habits considerably. Where I previously lived off of pizza because it was convenient, I now live off salads because they're faster, easier and cheaper.

I'm forgoing the conversation about your actual question, because I don't have an answer, but I do know about changing eating habits.
posted by lilithim at 11:55 AM on July 29, 2007

As one who has struggled with eating disorders of various types since I was about 12 (I'm now in my 50s), please allow me to give you my opinion. I am offering this with the best of intentions in the hope that it might be something you consider. Please don't take what I'm saying to be a condemnation of you.

It seems, in my opinion, that you are assuming that you will be like these 35 year olds as you age. I used to be the young one in an office of older women, and I thought many times "please don't let me be like them when I'm that age."

But the thing is, you are not them, and they might not have had insight into food and weight gain that you have now when they were your age. They might have grown up in a family where everybody was overweight, and it was just normal for them to overeat. They may have grown up in a chaotic family, or they may have learned, unconsciously perhaps, that food is a way to soothe themselves when they are feeling anxious. In other words, the reasons they eat may have nothing to do with the reasons that you eat, so it is not automatic that you will be like them.

I am currently at a good weight without any disordered eating. I never thought I'd be able to eat normally again. I've been watching some of those programs on people who weigh over 500 pounds - one guy was 1,000 pounds. I panic at first when I see that, thinking that if I start overeating again I will automatically end up like that.

I've learned that that is called "catastrophic thinking" which is "an exaggeration of danger and an underestimate of one's control over that danger." I immediately fear that if I gain a few pounds, I will lose control until I weigh 700 pounds. When I think about it rationally, I know that isn't true, but it doesn't make my fear any less real. Maybe this is an exaggerated example of what you fear.

I hope that something I've said may be helpful to you.
posted by la petite marie at 12:17 PM on July 29, 2007

Taste, texture, all that aside, sugary and fatty foods are still going to be somewhat "addictive" because of the effect they have on blood sugar. Read up on the glycemic index at any of the billion websites that mention it--in short, eating something sugary will spike your blood sugar pretty quickly, which will give you energy, but then wear off quickly, leaving your tired and hungry. In my personal experience (is IMPE an acronym?), this can be devastating with an office job, because you get bored and tired of staring at your screen, take a break and eat a snack, get a brief sugary rush, and then return to boredom and tiredness, starting the cycle over again.
posted by Benjy at 12:24 PM on July 29, 2007

posted by Deathalicious at 12:24 PM on July 29, 2007

I used to like pretty strong-tasting foods until I started cooking and eating with a particular friend, regularly. The friend couldn't tolerate salt. So I spent a year cooking and eating food that had absolutely no salt in it. I also took to steaming rather than frying, and using less sauces-from-bottles (friend liked to talk about "letting the vegetables/meat's natural juices cook the food subtly", etc).

At first the food tasted quite bland; but I got used to it. And I learned to enjoy food that was healthier, and that wasn't just... a whole lot of strong tastes thrown together. I think your hypothesis was/is sort of right, for my case... I started eating healthier because of the cooking arrangement, and I eventually desired junk food less. And it wasn't just that I liked unhealthy food less; I wound up liking steamed/"bland" stuff more. If this helps: I think it improved my complexion - clearer skin, less oil... etc. I don't know whether I lost weight, because I rarely weigh myself... but I felt better and less sluggish.

Uh... but, I didn't really kill my taste permanently. After awhile I got lazy and started eating more take-out/fast food out of convenience - at first it was really icky, but then I got used to that after awhile. And then after a few months of that, I went back to salt-less (or, very little salt) cooking (missed feeling healthier)...

I guess it's not really about ruining your sense of taste, is it? It's more a matter of readjusting your taste, so that you'll eat healthier. I guess laziness + the environment/circumstances + my friend played a big role in my taste readjustment, rather than any conscious sort of conviction or direct self-interest. He refused to eat anything that was too strong-tasting, and I didn't want to see food being thrown away or being stored as leftovers (because I would eventually be the person to eat the leftovers anyway)... and I guess I liked seeing him enjoy my cooking, too. Apparently his whole family cooks and eats like that (and that sort of taste in food seems to be common amongst people from his particular ethnic/dialect group). Makes me think that I should really try to cultivate healthy eating habits/tastes in my children (if I ever have them).

And I guess maybe it isn't about your tongue as much as it is about your brain..? More like: Can taste the Oreo, Oreo tastes ickily, nauseatingly sweet and artificial, don't want the Oreo, why-on-earth-would-I-want-to-eat-the-Oreo?
posted by aielen at 1:31 PM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

My dad smoked and drank coffee in huge amounts for years. This severely decreased his sense of taste. As a result -- without realizing it -- he ate more and more unhealthy foods (saltier, sweeter), trying to recapture the lost sensation. Now he has dangerously high blood pressure, has gained a lot of weight, etc.

So, there's a method for killing taste, and a very strong reason not to do it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:41 PM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

If this worked, it might be popular, but it doesn't and it's not, and it is a bad idea. However, studies have shown that the more variety of tastes available, the more you eat. Try eating fewer foods. Make a batch of 1 thing, and allow yourself to get a bit tired of it. Take the same thing to lunch every day, especially something healthy and balanced.

There have been a lot of questions on weight loss, with a lot of pretty good advice.
posted by theora55 at 1:42 PM on July 29, 2007

I grew up with a very picky eater for a dad, so I ate a lot of bland foods. Now that I'm an adult, I've started trying a larger variety of foods, and I feel much more satisfied when I can taste *more* flavors. If a sauce has more spices in it, I eat less because it satisfies me. So perhaps the opposite of your hypothesis is true.

Also, anosmia can lead to depression, and please don't think depression is a trivial disorder. It is very serious.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:43 PM on July 29, 2007

that sort of taste in food seems to be common amongst people from his particular ethnic/dialect group

Um, you can't post a zinger like that and not elaborate. What ethnic/dialect group has notably bland food? It's not the English, is it?
posted by Deathalicious at 3:01 PM on July 29, 2007

I remember seeing on the news a few weeks ago a story on a mouth wash that messed up taste. I think the manufacturer claimed the taste-changing effect lasted half an hour or something but there were reports of people that apparently had much longer lasting effects. The story went on to show them testing whatever particular chemical on people and having them eat something sweet and sour. I think it made a lemon palatable but ruined a chocolate.

I searched but turned up little conclusive. It's possible SmartMouth but maybe someone else knows for sure. That's probably a good start if you really want to pursue this since the effects don't seem to be permanent.

Or you could have a small stroke. That worked for someone I know.
posted by 6550 at 5:38 PM on July 29, 2007

Crest Pro Health mouthwash, 6550?

Also coming back to me is the time, about a month and a half ago, that I burnt my tongue. Try really super hot hot chocolate, served with a straw. (Also a minor head cold to get rid of the sense of smell.) Not only could I not taste anything, I was also not so keen on eating because it hurt like hell. (Other side effects include your tongue turning a funky fuzzy texture, and the skin on the roof of your mouth going stringy and peeling off.) (I did, still, actually eat. Slowly, yes, but my food choices were still wretched, something about being in distinct need of comfort food even if I couldn't really taste it...)
posted by anaelith at 6:25 PM on July 29, 2007

I think the biofeedback mechanisms of satiation and having a set-point at your maximum weight are what control your caloric intake, and there is almost nothing one can do about that apart from a herculean effort of willpower. I've struggled with weight gain ever since I got type I diabetes, and the only thing that seems to help is to eat more frequently, and to work out daily.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:41 PM on July 29, 2007

IANAD, and I think you'd be crazy to do this... However, If you do want to temporarily eliminate your sense of taste (I'd start with taste, then try smell), I'd investigate botox injections (obviously you want an ENT to assist with dosages so you don't lose your ability to speak or choke to death on your own tongue). If you want to permanently eliminate your sense of taste, I'd work with one of your body modification contacts who specializes in branding, some topical anaesthetic, and a soldering iron or controlled heat source. You'll want to use a q-tip and various flavors to map out salty, sweet, sour and bitter to go after (get a good chart of the tongue). A little trickier is umami, which is evenly distributed across the tongue. If you do go after sweet, you probably want to completely eliminate it, as you'll just compensate for reduced ability to taste by eating sweeter things. I would not completely eliminate bitter or sour though, but you might have to diminish them or things like kale will taste unbearable.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:40 PM on July 29, 2007

I realize that it is frustrating that most people are not "limiting comments to answers or help in finding an answer", but try to understand that most people are trying to talk you down from a ledge the same way they would be if you asked a question like 'What is the best way for me to kill myself'.
My $.02:

If you really don't want to become an overweight, 35 year old woman perhaps you could consider changing jobs.

Or just gradually introduce healthy habits into your life.

You're not too young to make big, positive changes in your life.

As far as permanently injuring yourself, I think you would be out of your fucking mind if you did so - and I think that most any medical professional would try to tell you the same thing.

Shoot for something temporary if you really feel the need to test your hypothesis, but i'd really recommend channeling your energy into learning to like the taste of healthier foods instead of learning to hate the taste of unhealthier foods.
posted by itheearl at 10:59 PM on July 29, 2007

You should watch the movie Ratatouille to see what a bad idea numbing your sense of taste is. Or more to the point, what a strong sense of taste gives you. As far as the sweets go, that's a matter of willpower. Chew sugarless gum. I quit smoking recently, and I've been drawn to eat more--in fact I think I've gained some weight. But I kill two birds with one stone if I chew gum: gets rid of the smoking and eating impulses.
posted by zardoz at 11:13 PM on July 29, 2007

You don't want to eat because of the taste; if you did, you'd simply chew 'em up and spit 'em out. It's more complicated than that -- it's the sugar your body craves, it's the full feeling you get from eating certain foods, it's the smell, it's the convenience of eating an Oreo instead of cooking a meal. Taste is just one component.

Your better bet is this: replace the sugary bad convenient food with healthy equivalents that are just as healthy, and make it inconvenient to eat the bad stuff. If you always have a bag of carrots at hand, but getting Oreos means going to the vending machine and/or brushing your teeth afterwards, you'll eat the carrots. Doesn't have to be THAT healthy, either; lots of Whole Foods-type stores carry cookies that are surprisingly tasty and healthy (but they're more expensive than Oreos, which is because Oreos are made of cheap stuff that's not so good for you.)

Besides, it's also habit. I have two-year-olds, one of whom recently sat staring at a piece of pizza in one hand, and a piece of broccoli in the other -- looked back and forth, back and forth -- then put down the pizza and ate the broccoli. This is relevant to you because she made that decision on taste and habit alone -- and awesome not only because "hey, my two-year-old prefers broccoli to pizza!" but because BOTH choices were healthy, and she isn't in the habit of eating garbage (and so didn't reject both and beg for a cookie.)

ps -- yes, she gets cookies once and a while, but rarely enough that she knows they're treats instead of meals. Habit is a BIG part of this.
posted by davejay at 11:13 PM on July 29, 2007

I'm not patient enough to weed through all of this green, but has anyone mentioned this product in development from Compellis Pharmaceuticals? It seems to be exactly what lizzicide is asking about.
posted by scblackman at 6:35 AM on July 30, 2007

Here's a suggestion: get out of that office and go back to university.

The only person I ever met with no sense of smell and, as a result, no sense of taste, lost it doing a PhD in matrix isolation on high temperature inorganics (picture yourself standing over boiling bleach for several years). It's not too late to get on the January intake for a degree course, so who knows, by late 2017/early 2018 you too may have lost your sense of taste. 2014 if you do it in the UK.

FWIW, I'm in my 30s, work in an office, and am still lean, mean and have a cookie sometimes. How? That wacky lifehack called bring a salad for lunch every day and run three times a week. YMMV, but human biology suggests otherwise. Something else I learned at university.
posted by methylsalicylate at 6:53 AM on July 30, 2007

This will not work. My sense of smell was badly damaged a few years ago; many things now have a taste but no flavor. I've gained a lot of weight since then, I think because I can't really appreciate my food anymore and eat too much to make up for that.

Please, please... don't do anything permanent. You will regret it for the rest of your life.
posted by Malor at 9:04 AM on July 30, 2007

Another angle - people have been trying to lose weight for ages. And this includes trying all sorts of crazy, off the wall things. I'm also betting this particular hairbrained scheme has also been tried. And failed. Because if it worked, even in the slightest, or people looking for a buck could even convince people it *might* work, I can guarantee you there'd be places popping up everywhere promoting this new weight loss miracle, and charging poor saps tons of cash in exchange for tastebud altering (or whatever you want to call it).

I hate to burst your bubble, but this is not a new idea, and you are not some great visionary who has stumbled across a legitimate weight loss solution. There is no simple solution. The only solution is to learn healthy lifestyle habits, including eating quality, healthy food and exercising.
posted by cgg at 9:19 AM on July 30, 2007

scblackman, if you had pressed ctrl+f and searched for compellis, you would have seen that yes, it was mentioned.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:06 AM on July 30, 2007

As far as temporary taste-killing goes, alcohol-free mouthwash (the lovely Crest Pro mentioned above) is excellent.
Shangri-La oil-drinking, I have found, is decent for feeling full, but far, far better for making me so queasy that the sight of... really, any food at all is enough to make me cringe. Sugarwater didn't really do anything for me either way.
But as for actually changing my habits, I've found that as a 25 year old woman in an office full of 35-55 year old women with baked good fetishes, the only way was to eat healthily and a lot, which for me meant Nutrisystem. It's sufficiently tasty to make me not feel cheated of flavor, and once I've eaten everything, I'm full to the point of being able to take, at most, a bite of coworker A's cranberry orange glazed pound cake and not want any more. I'm the sort of person who needs a plan; you may not be.
The salad-pushers above are well-intentioned, I'm sure, but if you're not beginning from a foundation of excellent eating habits and food-related willpower, the way to resisting the siren song of office treats and oh-what-the-hell-i-will-has-cheezburger lunches is not to go completely cold turkey and start bringing leaves and roots to nibble on in the hope that somehow they'll fill the Oreo-shaped void within that you've developed.
I would encourage you to break down the problem a little further, since taste is but one component. The easiest to fix in a technical sense, but as others have said, not the whole of it, and because it's not, fixing it and nothing else will not necessarily take care of the problem, or help you avoid the problem completely down the road. You know rationally that the food you're tempted to eat isn't what you should eat. If you examine the reasons why your reason is overcome, you can develop a multi-pronged plan of attack. For me this means making a point of indulging myself in non-food ways, never ever going to work without at least 250 pages of something interesting to read, bringing my iPod so that if the "here's what I'm cooking for the block party this Friday" discussion gets too heavy, I can discreetly slip mentally away... and, most importantly, bringing lots of my own food. I eat 85% of my food at work so that slip-ups are extremely rare occurrences, and when I get home, there's nothing in the house except stuff that's okay for me to eat. Note that this does not mean I bring only carrots; it's a mix of prepared food, vegetables, yogurt, fruit, and dessert. There's usually chocolate involved somewhere. With a bit of planning and work, it's very doable without something like Nutrisystem- I just don't have the time right now to do it another way. The important thing is that I'm not just addressing the urge to eat sweet/creamy/salty/evil things, but also the fact that I eat more when I'm stressed or bored, and that my coworkers are often an unfortunate influence.
Using this and walking, I've rather painlessly lost most of the 30lbs I added on when I took this job in October, and am working on losing much more. Good luck!
posted by Gingersnap at 12:33 PM on July 30, 2007

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