Mind Over Mushroom Challenge

The Challenge: Overcome Severe Dislike of Mushrooms

The Rules: Mushrooms must be eaten is some form each day for 25 days.

The Iffy Stuff: A dedicated effort to eat all of the mushrooms in each meal/serving must be made, but a failure to consume them all does not denote a failure of the challenge.

The Exceptions: Two free days are included where I do not have to eat mushrooms. These days may or may not be used.

Test Day: An entire normal serving of mushrooms must be eaten on the last day. However, since this is a “feeling/mind” challenge without a clear numerical or visible sign of success or failure, the dislike level will be determined by me and I will provide an honest account that will ultimately decide the outcome.

The Background: I hate mushrooms. As a child, they have made me upchuck and as an adult I still have a gag-reflex in place that mushrooms can extract from me. I am somewhat of a mushroom detective in that it doesn’t matter how carefully concealed those shrooms are – I will find them. I will find them and I will remove them from my meal no matter how impolite it is because barfing all over dinner is, well, much more impolite. It’s not so much the taste, although that does give it away that there is a mushroom lurking nearby; it is the texture. Rubbery, an unappetizing form of chewy, and often slimy. There’s also the physical appearance which is quite *blech* for me.

Everything that we think and feel is a matter of the mind. My body might physically reject mushrooms, but it is only because my mind tells it to. I do not have an allergy – I just have a weakness. With this challenge, I am attempting to eradicate this intense fear/hatred/dislike/disgust of mushrooms by changing my mind. The mind isn’t an easy thing to change, but it can be done and if you can train your mind – if you can change it – about the most intense thing that you dislike (mushrooms) then you have so much more power over what you can and cannot do. Hate, mixed with a gag-reflex, is possibly one of the hardest things to overcome (for me). This challenge may seem to be about mushrooms, but it is not. Eating mushrooms is just the vessel.

Although not rigidly following the idea of 21 days to make or break a habit (or 28 or 30 or whatever number so-called studies advocate for) the challenge grew from this. While there isn’t an actual number to how many days something takes because each person is different and each task they’re taking on is different, the concept is still there in which you keep doing something in an attempt to train yourself into making the action an inclusive part of your life. I am going to attempt to eat mushrooms each day for 25 days and by the end I want to be able to eat them without inciting the gag-reflex. I am not trying to create a habit of eating mushrooms. I am just trying to overcome how I feel about them and how I experience them when they’re on my plate.

The Journey: I ate umpteen pounds of mushrooms over 25 days for a total of 28 meals that included mushrooms. Brown ones, white ones, small ones, big ones, round ones, saucer-shaped ones, alien-looking ones, medusa-like ones, whole, sliced, diced, processed – I covered the spectrum pretty darn well.

I learned that…

  1. Mushroom soup isn’t the worse. Mushroom skulls are.
  2. I have been a massive baby about mushrooms my whole life.
  3. While knowing #2 to be true, I still have a mushroom aversion.
  4. Some mushrooms are better than others. There actually is a difference.
  5. Whole mushrooms are the hardest to eat.
  6. Fresh mushrooms are the easiest to eat.
  7. Mushrooms aren’t that bad (says my mind).
  8. Mushrooms are horrible (says my heart).

But perhaps, the biggest lesson I learned is that

  1. A changed mind takes constant work. You can endure many things and if you endure long enough you just might be able to tip the scales.

I changed during this challenge. Every challenge does that – it’s part of the reason why it’s important to push yourself, to try new things, to attempt to become better in some form. In this challenge I tried to overcome my aversion (hatred and disgust) of mushrooms. While ultimately I failed, I can’t admit that this was a complete failure – far from it, in fact.

I began with a rampant refusal to ever eat a mushroom. I ended with having eaten an astonishing amount and variety of mushrooms. I don’t like mushrooms – that still remains – but I no longer have an excuse (not that I ever really did) for leaving mushrooms on the side of my plate or refusing food because there is a mush chunk in it. I can eat mushrooms. I can do it. My dislike for mushrooms isn’t nearly as strong as it once was.

Your mind can be a prison guard if you let it. It’ll close those doors and throw away the key and you won’t even realize it. But if you can open it up enough to face your problems, to try and change, to let the understanding that what you have always held as truth may not be true, then you have more power and strength than you know. People (myself included) like to bury themselves in ignorance. This challenge may have been about mushrooms, but it could have been about anything. The hardest part is admitting that what you knew to be true, might be wrong.

Most times, when people are faced with this, they entrench themselves even more so in their beliefs rather than trying to see another perspective. It’s scary. Opening that door just a crack could change everything. So most of us resolutely slam it shut and turn a blind eye. It’s bigger than mushrooms, but if you can look your fear or problem or issue in the metaphorical eye than you stand a chance at overcoming your own ignorance and seeing real truth, not just your version of it, not just the version you want to believe.

Today, the real truth is that mushrooms aren’t the worst. The final thing I would like to leave you with is a request. When you find yourself in a you vs. something else situation, try and see that other perspective. Really try. Life is truly lived in the gray.

Outcome: Failure

(But with great strides of progress)