Confession: I hate tacos. There, I said it. I'm sure you're thinking, "Wait, what?!" As a millennial, I feel like there's some unwritten rule that I'm supposed to equate tacos with FUN! and awesomeness. But there's just never going to be much love there. We all have our weird food hang-ups, and this one, ridiculous as it may seem, is mine.
Don't get me wrong. I want to like tacos, in the same way I want to like camping and swimming in the ocean. It's not about the flavors—I love to throw together a taco-inspired salad with spicy ground turkey, guac, and salsa, or whip up a bowl of taco-inspired oatmeal for breakfast. I just can't make the leap to tortillas anymore. And it's not about the carbs. See, while there are plenty of elements I enjoy about them, tacos basically just remind me of all the things I'm not: hip and uncomplicated. Cool girls like tacos. And I have never been cool.
It might sound bizarre but food hang-ups like mine aren't uncommon. As a dietitian, I've talked with countless people about what they do and don't eat. One thing I've learned is that food aversions are rarely just about food. Sometimes, yes, it is a straightforward taste or texture thing. But ninety-nine percent of the time, when you dig a little, there's a story there.
So here's mine: Eating tacos makes me think of how much I hate dating. In my twenties, especially, dating involved a lot of eating tacos with boys I met online. Fresh out of a four-year relationship that had started when MySpace was still alive and well, OkCupid was totally new to me. And I was both amused and puzzled by all the usernames with "taco" in them—and by all the guys who listed tacos on their list of six things they could never do without. So, naturally, a lot of first and second dates involved tacos, plus all that awkward alcohol-enhanced small talk and the terrible kisses and clammy palms and stories I can't believe are in my own little book of WTF. (Like the sleek-creepy Lobster Taco Guy, who tried to hold my hand while I was eating said lobster taco, or the Tacos Al Pastor Guy who made it clear he wanted to get married to the first eligible thing with hips.)
I went on a lot of happy hour dates with $1 tacos with sweet-but-flaky and noncommital guys. I was always trying to be the "cool girl" and not voice too many preferences or ask too many questions or push to define anything. After one date too many with one of those "live cheap, travel light, be awesome" startup guys I always seem to fall for—guys just looking for a chill girl to go camping or to the beach with as they outrun real-life responsibility—I realized I wasn't so into being "cool" after all.
As I got into my late twenties and early thirties, I stopped apologizing for my freaky morning-person, anti-beach-bum lifestyle. Instead, I developed a taste for those hyper-driven entrepreneur types who don't think I'm weird for loving my work. (Again, though, lots of taco enthusiasts in the bunch.) While I didn't vow to give up tacos forever or make some sweeping declaration about dating, having a clean slate finally gave me a chance to pause and say, "Hey, wait. Why do I keep trying to go with someone else's flow and try to make things work that just aren't meant to be?" (Related: Becoming a Vegetarian for My Boyfriend Was the Worst Decision Ever.)
So me and tacos—nope, and that's okay. For the record, I have no problem joining friends at Mexican restaurants. There are other things on the menu, after all. Someday I may revisit my aversion. But for now, I'm totally content with my taco-JOMO (joy of missing out).
If you've got a food aversion yourself, there's no rule that you have to move past it and make that food your new favorite. Here are some ways to deal:
Don't expect other people to get it.
Whether it's a taste preference or an emotional thing, to the person who has that aversion, it's very real. But others may not get it. If you're reading this and thinking, "Girl, why can't you just eat a taco?" someone else is probably wondering why you won't touch grilled chicken or ask people to move the potato salad to the other side of the table, or why the suction-y sound of your coworker eating a grapefruit sends you into spasms of "ewww."
Acknowledge your hang-up but let go of the idea that others will understand. Exceptions: Legit allergies and intolerances, religious dietary restrictions, or if you're committed to a particular diet (vegan, sugar-free, etc.) for reasons that are important to you.
You can try "exposure therapy" if you really want to.
If you want to work through it, then don't shy away from occasions where the food in question will be present. For me, that means going to a Mexican joint and knowing there are lots of other delicious options on the menu (or that I have the option of skipping the tortillas and eating the taco filling with a fork—I can always make a joke about carb-phobia). If mayonnaise gives you the heebie-jeebies, see if you can be cool with the bowl of macaroni salad in front of you at your annual family reunion BBQ. If you're feeling up to it, challenge yourself to try the food that flips you out. You can take it slow, too. Starting with a bite of a family member's dish, for example, is a great way to dip your toe in without committing to a whole plate of something.
Find your middle ground.
If you're looking to introduce something that makes you uncomfortable, start with integrating it into a food you already like, or preparing it in a similar way to something you dig. For example, if you've always hated fish but really want to give it another shot, try baking salmon in that same teriyaki marinade you love on chicken. You can always try making it in a new way that might rewrite your negative script about it. If you hate cauliflower because it makes you think of the watery frozen stuff you had to choke down as a kid, try tossing it with olive oil and sea salt and roasting until it's super-crispy—totally different experience. (If only your mom had known that recipe!)
Ask yourself if you need to call in a professional.
If your food aversions have a big impact on your day-to-day life, or if you find yourself frustrated or overwhelmed by them but can't seem to figure out what to do, book a session with a therapist or a registered dietitian to help you get a handle on where the issue stems from. Food shouldn't run the show. It should be an enjoyable part of life that makes you feel well and balanced. If you're struggling, working with an expert can help you feel like your best self.