In which the human lizard reveals a superpower

A year ago, give or take a couple of days, I lost my sense of smell. This means that I can’t smell anything and can only taste bitter, sweet, salt and sour. Or to put it another way, it means I can happily eat half a bowl of cereal before noticing that the milk has lumps in it.*

A few appointments and an MRI scan** later, the ENT consultant said she didn’t know what had caused it and that there was nothing she could do beyond advising me to check my smoke alarm regularly. I cried. It was awkward.

Arm Fall Off Boy detaching his limb

Recently I’ve been trying to view anosmia (the medical term for loss of olfaction) as my superpower. For example, when I walk into a bar with friends and they start complaining that it smells like vomit, I remain as happy as Larry. Yeah, it’s a rubbish superpower, but there are worse. There’s also a money saving element to the condition. I’ve always been quite a thrifty shopper (my ex called me The Miser) but I now buy Sainsbury’s basics EVERYTHING. When I did Live Below the Line last year the 27p baked beans almost broke me. These days I rather enjoy them.

Cooking for other people can be a bit more of a challenge. The instruction ‘season to taste’ feels like a bit of a kick in the face and I’m paranoid about serving food that has gone off. My tactic is to stick to tried and tested recipes and to take use by dates very seriously. However, if you’re ever eating something I’ve cooked, please don’t be afraid to pipe up if it tastes odd – for both our sakes.

Green cakes and chocolate flapjacksI’d really like it if anosmia helped me to eat healthily. While it’s true that I don’t really like chocolate anymore, I eat more sweet food than ever because ‘sweet’ is my favourite of the four flavours available to me. If it looks like cake and tastes like sugar, I’m in.

I was very reluctant to tell people about all this to begin with but over the past year my loss of smell has gone from being a secret entrusted to just a couple friends to something that I can joke about. Mostly. There’s no getting around the fact that it totally sucks but, fingers crossed, I might catch a whiff of coffee, fresh cut grass, or even vomit, any day now.

* I really wish I could say I stopped eating my cereal when I realised that the milk was off. Low point.

** Top tip: When they ask you which radio station you want to listen to while you’re in an MRI machine, do not say Radio 4. The machine is so loud that John Humphreys and Sarah Montague really can’t compete – some background music would be far more appropriate.

4 thoughts on “In which the human lizard reveals a superpower

  1. Ellen

    I TOO belong to the anosmia group for a couple months. I am not able to email posts as I am having yahoo mail issues – trying to resolve.. Anyway my problem sounds almost if not exactly the same as you have described. I have for some years tried to eat less carbs to keep my weight down, but since I lost taste and smell last October after a cold, I like my cereal everyday for the sweetness and eating more foods that have some sweet flavor to it and salty… bigger fan of salt than ever! I get a whiff now and then of an odor but it passes quickly. I still have an appetite and that makes it so much worse… to see a food and want it but can’t really enjoy it like I used to, and that includes chocolate. I don’t enjoy cooking much and much less than ever now. I rely on others to tell me if food is spoiling in the refrigerator, etc. I eat more when I am really hungry as opposed to just eating for the sake of eating or because something tastes/smells good. I can tell the difference between some foods but the one ingredient that tells my brain what exactly the food is, is missing. I am afraid that these senses will never come back… scary

    1. thehumanlizard Post author

      Yes, sounds like a very similar experience. I find it so frustrating to see a food I really want when I know that it will be a huge disappointment to eat. It’s been really hard to stop myself eating chocolate, even though I know I don’t like it! Scary indeed, but hopefully we’ll get it back.

  2. Liz Rice-Sosne

    Hi Human Lizard. I too am a Liz and when very young was a Lizard. I have total empathy for/with you. My anosmia is from really bad sinusitis gone awry. I lost my sense of smell about a month after I delved into what was to be my third career as a perfumer. One definitely needs their nose for that. I used to love to cook and was frankly very good at it – always tasting and never following recipes. Like you I am a taster of the 4 flavors. Now there is a fifth called “umami” but I have not really followed up on it. Today I am not sure which is worse being sick all of the time or being anosmic. Good for you for writing about it. I found you at the Yahoo group. There is also a Facebook group. However, although it is good to commiserate with others I am not really sure how much good it actually does. Liz

    1. thehumanlizard Post author

      Hi Liz, thanks for reading. It makes me feel better to hear from other people who get what a big deal it is – I think it’s very hard for other people to understand. However, there is a danger of just wallowing, which is what I’ve been doing for the past year so this blog was my way of putting an end to that. I’ve heard about this unami thing before – must investigate that one.


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