Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Olfactory sensations and food relations

Sometime last week I had to go out to my parent's house for a quick visit.  Okay, the truth is I am scheduled for jury duty but I start a new job tomorrow, so I had to go beg the judge to release me from jury duty.  This took a matter of minutes because he was already aware of the situation as my dad used to be an elected official and he had already spoken with the judge about the matter.  I just had to go into the courthouse and bring my summons to make things official.  As I was leaving the courthouse, a building I practically grew up in, I smelled something familiar.  It was a cross between cedar and lavender that I only smell at that building.  I mentioned this to my mom and she said it was the cleaning product they use.  Whatever the product it is, this matter has heightened my awareness of my sense of smell, memory, and the correlation of both to my weight and my memories. 

I have many food memories, as my mother owned a food company.  The smell of gumbo roux flour browning in the ovens of the old factory, the spices in the air when Ms. Janet would mix the products, granted this occurred during the day while I was at school, but those days that I was not in school on a weekday, you'd better believe I was next door at my granny's house playing, watching As the World Turns, baking cookies or waiting for stuffed bell peppers to come out of the oven so I could eat only the stuffing from them.  To this day, I can not stand to eat the actual green bell pepper, nor do I like cooked pineapple, mostly because of the smell it gave the house when granny made her favorite cake: pineapple upside down cake. 

Tonight, as I was reading a research article on post-bariatric patient care, or the lack thereof currently in the bariatric community, there were a few bits and pieces that brought back the olfactory sensory issues with regard to food.  Just this morning, I was telling myself, "If they made candles that smelled like Earl Grey Tea, I would burn them all the time."  I pondered this for a long while, realizing that some food smells trigger positive reinforcement of good food behaviors.  Others, not so much.  I know smelling cake baking will trigger a ravenous reaction to want to find sugary goodness, so I don't buy Birthday Cake scented candles.  Fruity Mango scented candles make me want to drink my weight in margaritas, but interestingly enough, lavender, verbena, lemongrass, or cedar candles seem to calm my desires to binge eat.  

I doubt there is any clinical research yet on the specifics of our sense of smell to passify our eating behaviors, if so I'm sure it must be limited.  But I know a cup of Earl Grey tea with a light touch of cream will calm my appetite in the morning.  I wonder if an Earl Grey candle would stimulate my brain in a similar way at night when it's the toughest not to ruin a full day of hard work making sure I don't eat the wrong things or ruin an hour at the gym in ten minutes by delving into a bowl of ice cream. 

Anyway, this entry is really just about my wondering if I'm the only one out there who finds lighting certain scents stimulates the brain away from food and centers the attention elsewhere.  It is a topic I would like to dig into deeper and I would love to hear what triggers everyone's food memories or what pleasant smells can curb your appetite.... 

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