Saturday, July 14, 2012

American Food Does Not Satisfy Me Anymore

At least that's how it feels. I've never been a stress eater so I don't *think* the stress or missing my hubby is causing this. I would love to hear your thoughts and tips though.

When I first came home I was super excited about the food. I went to all my favorite places and ordered all my favorite foods. I even fell back into some unhealthy habits I had beaten long ago. One prime example is Dr. Pepper. I started drinking that soda when I was just a little kid (which is probably why I'm short now) and by the time I was a teenager I didn't start a day without one. Dr. Pepper was to me what coffee is to many people. I'm not sure if it was an addiction as much as a comfort but that's something only a therapist could determine so I won't get into it here. It's boring stuff, I swear. Lol.

Anyway, I quit drinking it (several times in my adult life) and I had my last one about 6 months before leaving for India. It wasn't even that big of a deal to quit but I did notice that it caused me a lot of fatique. It messed up my sleep schedule but after I quit, I stopped getting that mid-day crash caffeine drinkers often experience. And what was the first thing I got when I stepped off the plane?

Not a Dr. Pepper! Can you believe that I was at 2 different airports and neither of them had Dr. Pepper. I was starting to wonder if I landed in the right country. I did get one when I got home though. And now, they're right back to being a staple in my pantry. And again, after 5 weeks of hitting the Dr. Pepper hardcore like it's my job, I'm again weaning myself off of them. Funny how easy it was to fall right back into that habit when I got here.

And now I realize I've veered off topic. At least not that far right? I've noticed over the last few weeks that after I eat, I don't feel satisfied. Most of the food tastes good, though not as good as I remember, so that's not the issue. I'm not quite sure what is the issue but I'm starting to think that American food is not as filling as Indian food.

With the exception of a few items (like the Cracker Barrel Chicken and Dumplings I had for lunch), it doesn't seem to matter what I eat. I eat a serving, savor the flavor, and drink a drink. Yet I don't feel satisfied. Quite a few times I've waited 20 minutes after eating (because that's how long it takes your brain to realize you're full) and I still feel unsatisfied. A couple times I waited an hour and still didn't feel satisfied.

This isn't about the size of the meal either. A couple of times I went to Wendy's or Burger King and got a chicken sandwich with all the veggies, fries and a large drink. Couldn't even finish it because I got full but still didn't feel satisfied. It's quite a weird thing to experience. I would love to say that the fast food I ate and the sodas are empty calories (because they are) but they are not the cause. I had a massive salad at Ruby Tuesday's and that didn't satisfy me either. It almost did, and it was amazing but still I wanted more.

I fully intend to investigate whether or not this could be the spices used in Indian food or the difference in hormones/chemicals used in growing and processing. It should be quite interesting since my dad doesn't eat spices at all and every other guinea pig...err family member...I have is picky and probably won't try much (except my mom). I'll keep you all posted with anything I find out. I may be onto something quite interesting here.


  1. Hi, I'm a new reader commenting for the first time. That is interesting. To tell you the truth, even after a decade of staying in the US, I just cannot be satisfied eating American food. I used to love eating fast food once in a while, but now, I absolutely hate burgers, fries and stuff.

    Good thing you've weaned yourself off Dr Pepper..that stuff must contain a ton of sugar!!

  2. i am sure you are onto something very interesting. I have been to Europe but never to US. Since american fast food penetrate Europe quite well so my euroopean experiences would also be valid. Also some american fast food is present in India too so that makes for a very good comparison.

    I felt the same whenever I ate out in Europe. I never gave it much thought at the time. Most of my lunches were outside and most of the rest of meals were in my home cooked by me. I shrugged off the unsatisfaction thinking that I am anyway going to eat my self-cooked food in a few hours. After reading your blog, I feel I probably should have thought about it a little more.

    In India, It is the same unsatisfaction I feel whenever I eat at McDonalds (it is a different thing that I don't like McD much anyway). PizzaHut also feels the same. But I am never unsatisfied while eating at Indian/chinese/thai restaurants.

    My guess for the likely reason would be the preponderance of vegetables/lentils in Indian food. I also feel that unleavened bread made of whole wheat flour called roti/parantha/puri/etc (and cooked fresh, the brown supermarket bread is just not the same) and rice eating habit is also a probable cause. But I am not confident about your theory of spices being a cause.

  3. American food didn't quite live up to my memories the first time I went back to the US after 2 yrs. Krispy Kreme raised glazed just tasted oily & too sweet, my chai latte at Starbucks was way too sweet, homemade baked mac & cheese still tasted great though!
    I am a native Californicator not a Southerner so I've not grown accustomed to Cracker Barrel type fare. My dad's family is from Lousiana so what 'Southern' style food I do eat in 'rock your socks off' Cajun/Creole stuff, my Indian family actually loves my Cajun hushpuppies, Creole collards & 'dirty rice'. 
    I do miss fresh salads & grilled chicken, and especially the wonderful sourdough bread with the crispy crust we had in northern California. Oh yeah- when I was in Florida last winter the local fresh avocados were everywhere- YUM!!!

  4. I think a lot goes into this. It can also be climatic changes when moving back. I think a lot of people face this when moving to or back to a particular country. It's amazing to try new foods, but then adjusting the body to finding them desirable or fulfilling is surely another aspect altogether. I find myself often eating for necessity and not because I desire anything. I had these phases in the US and, now, in India too.

    There is something about cooking from scratch with a bunch of people that makes the food satisfying in a different way, too.....

  5. I felt compelled to add here....

    American food as many know it who have not grown up in America is often relegated to fast food. Though this is American food, it's not the homecooked (homely) food that people would make and eat in their homes. The kind of satisfaction got from eating fast food and homecooked food (in any country) cannot be compared.
    I can say the same about Indian food, which I adore. Going out to eat Indian food everyday, it's heavy, oily, full of ghee, salt, masalas. It's rare to find a person making this kind of food in their homes everyday. We'd all have coronary disease if we did!

  6. I have a little bit of expertise on the topic of fast food, as I covered the major U.S. companies as a journalist, so I hope you don't mind me weighing in. What I can tell you is that in most American chain restaurants--from McDs to, yes, Ruby Tuesday's--what keeps customers coming back for more (and more) has in large part to do with the consistency of the food's texture and its signature taste. Tens of thousands of McDonald's, lets say, get their food to taste pretty much the same all over the world thanks to mass produced chemical preservatives and taste enhancers (i.e. high fructose corn syrup among many others). They are in everything from your salad dressing to your Big Mac patties to the wheat bread at Subway. The body metabolizes these chemicals differently than it does more natural foods. The chemicals stimulate a reward response system in your brain that, much like a drug addiction, will leave you wanting more. This has all been proven-- no controversy here. It's in part why so many Americans are obese. If you've grown up with it, it can be very hard to break the habit (short of moving to India!) especially since it's also in so many grocery products (just look at the back of of any Kraft bottle of BBQ sauce and you'll see what I mean.)  So that could well explain your inability to be satisfied (though I can't explain the magic of Cracker Barrell!)
    Regarding India, I've only been there a few months at a time, but I'm sure the typical Indian dine-out experience does not usually such Frankenfood-like ingredients. That said, as others have noted here, Indian cuisine has its own challenges. I ate very well over there, and always left sated and satisfied (and actually, spices DO play a roll in that). However, the first time I went I came back 20lbs. heavier! (Thank you, Garlic Nan, Idli, Dosas,etc.) The next time I went I (tried to) stay away from bread and ghee as much as I could and did much better. But Indian digestive systems are used to that. The real problem is that as the Indian middle class has expanded in the last few decades, multinational food companies have made their way into the mouths of the nation, introducing all the bad stuff. Obesity and diabetes rates have skyrocketed and are expected to continue doing so. 
    Sorry--this is WAY too long. But once I get started...Anyway, nice blog again Kristy!


  7. Yeah, burgers are nowhere near as good as they sound/look. And fries have really gotten nasty since I left. They've changed so much that they just don't taste good anymore. (To be fair, I didn't like but one or two brands of fast food fries before I left anyway lol.) I'm going to have to work on figuring out how to eat more satisfying foods here now. I miss feeling like I ate and then being hungry again whenever it's time for the next meal. (As opposed to being hungry all the time or only eating once and just mentally not wanting anything else because it's not satisfying.

  8. I'm going to investigate both - the grains/veggies/wheat and the spices. I eat whole grains as much as possible at home and I also eat rice (here and in India). Just yesterday I fixed one of my favorites from India using American ingredients. I was surprised to find it didn't taste as good nor was it satisfying either. I've made the recipe at least 200 times but it just wasn't the same this time. I rarely ate roti/paratha's in India though. I was a big naan eater lol. I'm already dreaming up ideas how to make it here and get close to how it's made there. I'll keep you posted on that too because I don't expect it to go well in the beginning lol. Did I mention I'm starting to miss tandoori foods???? God help me!

  9. I love jambalaya and dirty rice! I can make a pretty good version of both of them (with and without spices since some of my family can't eat red chilis). You just reminded me I haven't eaten Cajun yet! Of course, I still have quite a few places on my list but there's always room for Cajun!

  10. It does. I take over the kitchen and my mom talks to me and there's happiness associated with that. It's also cold here compared to India (minus that heat wave last week where it got to 105 almost every day). I know cold weather slows metabolism and maybe that's got something to do with it as well. I've been cold most of the time I've been here. It feels like fall instead of summer.

  11. Great point. I've been to fast food, mid-level restaurants like Ruby Tuesdays, home-cooking style diners, and posh eateries but it's all the same. Still not fully satisfying. And just for the record I would like to add how utterly disappointed I was when I got to Ruby Tuesdays and found out they had scaled back the salad bar and now it's this tiny thing without too much to offer. I went there just for the salad bar and they cheated me. Ugh. Guess I'll be changing favorites now lol.

  12. I don't mind you weighing in at all! I know the hormones in our food are killing us and most Americans know it but nothing is being done no matter how much we raise hell about it. I also know not having those hormones is what caused me to lose so much weight in India. I wasn't eating steroids and antibiotics. My detox in India took 4 months to get it all out of my system.

    I can explain Cracker Barrel for you. I ate Chicken and Dumplings. Dumplings are a type of heavy bread. So they fill you up quick no matter what. It's that "stick to your ribs" kind of food you would have definitely heard about while writing. It's the kind of thing the Southern US is famous for.

    Thanks for your reply, I think it really added to the discussion.

  13. Kristy, I agree with you about Ruby Tuesdays. They have changed their menu so much in the last one year, it's almost unrecognizable to me! Of course, my choices, limited to the vegetarian options, sooooo......

    You bought out a lot of good points, though. I wonder for you, what you need to do to find food satisfying. 

  14. I'm going to figure that out, one meal at a time!

    1. I definitely agree with most everyone here. I think that the more you stick to whole ingredients and stay away from additives and things like high fructose corn syrup. HFCS not only suppress the feeling of satiation it can cause a diffuse inflammatory response throughout the entire body.

    2. I definitely agree with most everyone here. I think that the more you stick to whole ingredients and stay away from additives and things like high fructose corn syrup. HFCS not only suppress the feeling of satiation it can cause a diffuse inflammatory response throughout the entire body.

  15. I know a lot of fastfood food and restaurant food the world over contains some additive that supress the feeling of being satiated, high fructose corn syrup being the most well known, so that could be a reason why you didn't feel satiated, you weaned yourself off the stuff while eating home cooked food in India.

    I have not experience that kind of feelign going back to Switzerland in 2008, but I ate out very rarely too. There a meal consist of one portion of meat, 1-2 serving of steamed or stir fried veggies and one portion of carb be it potato, rice or pasta, and there is always a side salad, whcih prompted my husband to call us Swiss goats because we eat so much raw greens LOL
    We also swear by our traditional cheeses and yogurts, most Swiss actually do not believe in low fat dairies, but in moderation eating the real stuff, and I have never ever been able to eat a single serving of low fat yogurt without feeling hungry again an hour later, the full fat one can carry me 2-3 hours.
    And back home people who have to eat out for lunch everyday tend to lean toward something as closed to homecooked as possible, I worked in a corporate canteen for a while, most skipped the sauce on meat, and asked for more veggies rather than a full portion of carb, the chef prepared the food in the kitchen home style, no fancy shmancy stuff, and us serving staff had the meal after service and I always felt full with just a regular plate.
    So I think as long as a diet is rich in fiber and protein but lower in starchy carbs one is good to go

  16. I experience it here even with home food and veggies. I am sure there's hormones in the food and also other additives the human body doesn't need. There's been a lot of complaints and action on those things in the last decade here. Nothing seems to have changed but our organic movement is growing so hopefully some better quality and less injected foods are on the horizon.

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