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18 November 2007 @ 02:41 pm
Picky eaters unite!  
I was doing research to try to find the best way to encourage a young, food-phobic boy that I sometimes babysit to expand his menu a bit. It had become clear that the "just try a bite" strategy wasn't working. I remember being a "picky eater" which is such a benign description of what can be a serious problem for some people. I have managed to expand my diet over many years but as a child I had a very narrow range of foods that I could tolerate. Trying new foods actually made me nauseated and I would gag on some things. I recall the horrors of gristle in meat and the sliminess of the seeds in tomatoes--which I carefully cut out of each slice.

After doing my research, I found out that my own problems were pretty mild compared to what some people experience and that for the more extreme cases it never gets better. Imagine, if you will, knowing that you will gag if you try new foods and going to a party or dinner at someone's home. You don't want to offend your hosts or make them feel like their cooking is not appreciated, yet most people don't understand this problem and will try to cajole you into trying new foods. You know you will gag or even vomit if you do--and they don't realize this. Some will even laugh at your concerns. This is a problem that really isn't talked about or explored on talk shows. So you avoid dinners, trips to restaurants, barbecues, and all of the many food-oriented gatherings as much as you can. What kind of social life would you have? How often do we do social things that don't involve food?

The only good advice I found for kids with this problem was that if kids are exposed to the presence of various foods regularly, eventually the "newness" factor would be lessened and they might try them. It's also apparent that people with this problem do better with simple, bland foods rather than spiced or complex foods. (I nearly starved when I joined the Hare Krsna temple because all of the foods had multiple vegetables in sauces and I couldn't even tell what was in them. But after a couple of months I finally got used to the smell and appearance of some and was sufficiently hungry to try them--and now I love [most] Indian food.) Texture is often a factor--some like only raw or only cooked vegetables, or like them cooked one way and not another (crisp vs. mashed and so on).

I also learned that this problem can run in families. I have a grandson who is a picky eater and my children each had certain things they never learned to like. My daughter was also phobic about eating in public and hated going to restaurants.

There's not even a standard term for this problem. Two I saw that were gaining some popularity were Selective Eating Disorder and Food Neophobia (fear of trying new foods).

Here are some sites I found:

Psychology Today article





Mari Adkinsmariadkins on November 18th, 2007 11:33 pm (UTC)
Texture is often a factor--some like only raw or only cooked vegetables, or like them cooked one way and not another

I'm like that. I can't stand, f'ex, smushy veggies, especially when they're meant to be crispy - such as most vegetables, really. ;) Give me a mushy brussel sprout and I'll fling it across the room. LOL
lovediamondloveotter on November 19th, 2007 02:18 am (UTC)
I gag on bananas and cantaloupe. Not sure if that's the same thing though.
Mari Adkinsmariadkins on November 19th, 2007 02:53 am (UTC)
Well, if it is, then add me in with this one. I can't stand the thought of cow's milk. That's enough to trigger my gag reflex. When I have to cook with it, the smell alone makes me want to run straight out of my own kitchen. Never mind drinking the stuff...cnt do eet, capten!
Tapatitapati on November 20th, 2007 09:10 am (UTC)
Everyone has some foods that are just...ick. These people feel that way about all unfamiliar foods, making it nearly impossible to try them.

I sometimes feel that way about new foods, so I can kind of understand, but I have a much milder version and can cope much better.
Tapatitapati on November 20th, 2007 09:09 am (UTC)
If you automatically gagged every time you tried a new food or feel nauseated at the thought, then that would be what these people experience. It would be like every time they went out to eat or to a gathering, all that was served was bananas and cantaloupe. :)
(Anonymous) on December 1st, 2007 03:04 pm (UTC)
Hi, thanks for posting about this in such an understanding way, and for linking to my blog. I'm a "picky" eater - at 34, I've never eaten a fruit of any kind - I just couldn't do it. Also excluded are vegetables, pulses, rice, nuts, the list goes on. It does make life trickier, and I can't help feeling I'm missing out.