All five of our senses are used when we eat: taste, sight, sound, feel and of course, smell. It’s the sensory experience that can make eating so pleasurable. If you’re missing smell or taste, make an effort to focus on the other senses to compensate for the gap. Think of the five points of a Sensory Star to guide your eating experience.
Taste: different from smell, these are the areas of the tongue that tell us whether food is sweet, sour, salty, bitter or umami. What can you really taste? Sweetness? Salt?
Sight: it’s true, we eat with our eyes so make your meal a special occasion. Think about the table setting, the lighting, the plate you use. Choose foods in different colours to create a feast for your eyes.
Sound: crunch, chew, fizz. All these sounds are a very important part of the experience. Research has demonstrated that the sound of bubbles make drinks seem more fizzy, and the sound of the sea made seafood taste more intense.
Feel: An important part of part of our eating experience is the trigeminal nerve, the part of the mouth that is stimulated by food. Things like the tingle of mustard will stimulate the trigeminal nerve. Research reveals five ways to get this experience of feel: texture, temperature, tingle or burning sensation, astringency from foods like rhubarb, and carbonation.
In Chinese culture, the feel of food is highly appreciated - think of the different sensations involved in eating chicken’s feet. They even have a word that roughly translates as ‘bouncing teeth’ to describe the feel of food like pasta.
Smell: Well, if only... but focus on what you have rather than what you are missing.
Eating out or eating with others can be really off putting for some people with smell disorders. To see people enjoying what you cannot really rubs it in sometimes. In these situations it can help to focus on enjoying the company rather than the food. Try asking people to describe what they are tasting and share in their pleasure. Just relax into being in the food space and think about different ways to participate.
Researchers also suggest looking for the things outside of food that give you pleasure. Laughing at your favourite TV show, walking in open countryside, curling up with a good book. Consciously do things you enjoy to keep your pleasure levels topped up and it may make eating seem less important.
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Five ways to overcome altered eating
The full webinar recording