The road from your food comfort zone to a positive food experience is often littered with obstacles. Most of those obstacles are your own inhibitions and fears.
Your Food Comfort Zone
People often like to eat the same foods over and over again. Are those dishes really that good (maybe), or is there an underlying dilemma (also maybe)?
People may not necessarily LIKE to repeat dishes. It may be that they don’t want to spend the time meal planning. They want to do something simple, so they gravitate to what they already know.
They have a routine dish they make, and say, “Yeah, whatever. We’ll just have this.” OR “Every Wednesday we have this.”
Then they don’t have to think about it.
However, if they could have something unique and different and fun, they would LOVE it!
If a friend offered to take them out to dinner, they wouldn’t just say, “No thanks. Tonight is pizza night at our house.” OR “My mom makes her meatloaf tonight.” They would likely take their friend up on the offer to go out for a meal.
In the rush of the day with crazy schedules, people may not want to spend the time to actually go and explore and find something new. They are not spending the effort to explore and find fun things to eat.
A lot of people eat very basic things at home, and then say, “Let’s go out for dinner.” But even when they go out, it’s often not for anything special. It’s often the same types of food. The only difference is that someone else is doing the cooking.
They don’t make the connection that they could be making fun, delicious, and healthy food at home. Home food doesn’t have to be all _____ (fill in the blank with your regular go-to dish).
From a food perspective, people often isolate themselves. They don’t like to explore. They may not be as adventuresome. There are certain foods they don’t care for or like. That causes some people to stay in a safety zone. A comfort zone. They don’t want to venture out of that zone because it’s too scary.
When someone goes to a restaurant, for example, they don’t want to pay for something they may not enjoy from a flavor, texture, or type of food perspective. There are certain foods they know they like, and they stay with that. They don’t want to take a chance.
At home, they don’t want to buy a whole bunch of ingredients for a dish they have never made, on the chance that they may not like it. That is scary for some people. They are paying all this money to put something together that they don’t know if they even care for.
I Don’t Know
When a food outside of someone’s comfort zone is presented to them, a common reaction is saying, “I don’t know.” That expression communicates fear. They are saying, “I’m afraid to try that.” They are letting their fears of what that food experience might be stop them from what it could be or what it is.
As a result, they don’t get to know what it could be or what it is because they are wrapped up in that fear. They don’t necessarily have the strength or the ambition or the desire to branch out. They use “I don’t know” as a way out of taking the opportunity to taste new things.
They don’t eat healthy. They say they are sick of food. People are frustrated because they can’t control their desires. So then they eat bad food or they overeat or develop an eating disorder. The food is making them miserable.
They associate food with their bad situation. They blame the food. They are frustrated because they were never given a good role model regarding food. So they struggle with food and become fed up.
It’s no different from other things in life. There are a lot of things that are scary. There are a lot of things that people don’t know how to do. If they are going to gym for the first time, for example, they may be unfamiliar with the equipment, or how to do various exercises, so they get a coach. That coach helps them work through their insecurities and become comfortable in a new situation and then move forward on their own.
I myself have tried making different foods or different recipes that did not work out the first time. A good example is crepes. The first few times I made them, they didn’t come out right. The batter wasn’t the right consistency (too thick, too thin). The crepe pan wasn’t hot enough. I flipped the crepe too soon (or too late).
But I didn’t stop trying.
Recognize When You Are in a Food Comfort Zone
You are likely in a food comfort zone when you:
- Eat the same foods over and over again with little or no variation.
- Order the same dish at a restaurant every time you go.
- Refuse opportunities to try something new (at a friend’s house, at a party, etc.).
Once you recognize the problem, it’s time to move toward a solution.
Learning from Others
There is an endless bounty of good examples of exploring and experimenting with food.
Technology. The great thing about technology from a food perspective is that you can watch someone else make the recipe before you even venture out to the grocery store for the ingredients. There are dozens of different food blogs and websites, as well as YouTube videos, dedicated to helping you make a host of different recipes. Different cuisines. Different meals. You can get an idea of what you should or should not be doing with regard to the recipe.
Restaurants. Restaurants can be a great way to explore new foods without having to spend the time making a new dish yourself. Then you can determine whether you like it enough to want to try making the dish at home. A restaurant can be a safer way to try new foods. Yes, you are still spending money for something you may not like, but it may be considered a safer way to be adventurous, so to speak.
Preparing to Leave your Comfort Zone
A lot of people don’t realize the fun and excitement that can be part of the food experience. They are stuck. Everyone has different experiences in life. Some people paint themselves into a corner food wise, and then they don’t know how to get out.
It boils down to desire.
What do you really want from a food perspective?
Too many people say, “I’m fed up with food. I’m tired of eating the same thing over and over again.”
If that desire to break out of your comfort zone is strong enough, the next logical questions to ask yourself are the following:
- Why do I feel that way?
- What do I want from a food perspective?
- What can I do about it?
- How can I turn my situation around?
Once you have answered those questions, it’s time to divide the process into comfortable, safe steps where you can explore and experience new foods.
You can begin by exploring new foods in a very simple manner to become familiar with the flavor of that food. Try some foods by themselves. Combine other foods into a salad or soup. You don’t necessarily want to just bite into a jalapeño, for example. For some people, that may be too overwhelming.
Certain foods need to be combined. There are simple combinations for a person to experience what those foods taste like (a combination of 2-4 ingredients, for example). That way you develop your respective tastes for those ingredients or that combination.
You can visualize those ingredients when you look up a recipe. You don’t necessarily realize how simple or how complex a recipe is until you try it.
After a lot of practice, you can get to a point where you can simply look at a picture and know whether that will be a good recipe or not. You can see the types of ingredients, determine whether you enjoy that food, and then get excited about a new combination of ingredients.
It takes time. It takes preparation. It takes patience.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
The key is to focus on tiny habits to gradually work yourself out of a negative food situation and develop good habits.
Small decisions and changes can make a big difference in your food experience.
If you focus on making small changes, those changes can act as a catalyst for future changes. You keep adding small things, and then you don’t feel that you have failed. Achieving big goals is made up of many small actions.
James Clear describes two great examples of how small actions make a big difference. One example is the difference between eating a burger for lunch or eating a salad. You may not think there is much immediate effect. Over time, however, what you eat can have a big difference in terms of your health, energy level, and endurance.
Another example from James Clear is developing a habit of working out at the gym. First get into the habit of simply going to the gym. Go to the gym, stay for 5 minutes, and then leave. You are developing the habit of going to the gym. Once you have mastered that, you can add on other habits, such as actually doing a short workout or meeting with a fitness trainer.
Escaping the Comfort Zone
Getting out of your food comfort zone is attained through small habits. Doing so connects you with life success, or with other aspects of life.
For example, as you get out of your comfort zone from a food perspective, you likely have developed several habits and skills, such as reading, math, communication skills, and creativity. Those skills transfer to other areas of your life, such as work, school or service in the community.
The kitchen is a laboratory for learning and a testing ground for life connections. As you learn skills and habits in the kitchen, those skills and habits then extend out to other disciplines.
Food for Thought: What small habit can you begin with in order to get out of your food comfort zone?