So for as long as I can remember I have always been a picky eater, about 20+ years, I just could never sit down and eat a proper meal. And if i'm being honest it has really got to me. I just don't fit the eating pattern.
As I have said, this has been haunting me for more than 20 years and given that i'm now 30, tha'ts a significant portion of my life to not eat normally! I can only describe it as a mental block towards food, its taste, textures, feel or smell - I simply cant stand to be around certain foods.
It got to the point where I have "Safe Foods" and "Safe Places" where I can buy food from, including fast food. I just trust the food, the food preparation, the staff and the fact that I've explained this to them and they understand. But anywhere that I go where I have to eat socially or in front of people, trying to explain this to them is absolute hell, they just think "Picky Eater" and that i'm being fussy, but in reality its much more than that!
The NHS don't list SED/ARFID on their websites, it would be classed as OSFED - Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder. The lack of knowledge or understanding of SED was very visible when I decided early last year to pluck up the courage and go to my Doctor and seek medical help for this condition. I went in to the office and explained the foods that I could eat because this would take less time to explain than the list of foods which I cant eat. THIS WAS A BIG DEAL FOR ME TO TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT THIS. But my optimism quickly dissipated and sadness set in, the doctor had recommended to try new foods and to take vitamins and supplements to make up for what I was lacking from my food - I was left in disbelief at the lack of understanding or empathy for the situation.
I could only liken that to the doctor telling someone with depression asking for help to go home, cheer up and take some caffeine or Prozac to help.
Even though I was distraught at this point, I was determined to not let this stop me, so a couple of months later, I again summoned the courage to go to the Doctor and take a stand and seek help. This time a different Doctor acknowledged there was an issue and I was referred to CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to find out the cause of the problem and how to overcome it - something which I still receive help for today!
So because of this, and because this blog has me thinking more about my kids, it has led me to two questions:
1) How can I make sure that I don't allow my condition to affect the relationship my kids have with food?
2) How can you or I spot if our children are starting to go down a similar path, and how to treat it in its early stages?
I regret not getting help sooner, I have missed out on being able to taste and eat some fantastic foods,social events, all because someone couldn't spot that I needed help instead of assuming I was a picky eater! But I am determined to turn this all around.
So you may be asking what can I do to make sure that my kids don't develop an unhealthy relationship with food? Well I am trying to make sure that everything appears normal to them!
I love to cook - even though I cant taste or eat the food I prepare. This allows my kids to see that I'm not afraid to cook and that cooking is a normal part of family life. I continually encourage them to watch and partake in the cooking of meals in our house, even if its sitting on the worktop putting the peeled potatoes in to the pot of water - simple things!
At mealtimes when we sit down to eat, sometimes they don't want to eat or they don't like the taste of certain foods - it has to be accepted that this is toddlers being toddlers - so instead of forcing them to eat food, we ENCOURAGE them to take another couple of bites, or to try again. If this does not work, we don't give up, we quietly reintroduce said food at another point in the week, perseverance with subtlety.
When we all eat, 99% of the time, I'm not eating the same as the rest of the family, so I try to eat something similar from my Safe Food palette, or else I eat something else once the kids are asleep so they don't witness it and become introduced into bad habits.
I will continue to encourage my kids to eat and drink new things to open their tastebuds to new things and encourage positive eating behaviour.
With all that being said, I can't do this all with the wonderful help and support from Clare, who not only actively encourages this positive behaviour for the kids, but who understands what I have to deal with on a daily basis and supports me all the same - the basis of any good relationship is understanding each others strengths and weaknesses!
So this brings me on to my second question, how can you spot this behaviour?
Well firstly, always encourage good eating habits and try new foods. Don't indulge in snack foods and fast food. Have set meal times with your family and eat with them, and make food a normal thing.
Everyone has certain food or tastes that they don't like, that's normal! But if your kids don't grow out of this habit after 6 years old approx, or the list of foods that they refuse to eat gets longer - have a chat with them. Find out what could have triggered this dislike of that food, trace it back! Ask them what it is about that food that they don't like, whats the reasoning for avoiding it!
My advice would be to not ignore the signs and disregard it for being picky. If you notice it is becoming an issue then go to your Doctor and don't be fobbed of like I was initially, ask for a second opinion!
Unfortunately for me, I left it too late to ask for help with this, and I now suffer from Anxiety relating to Social Eating - I simply can't handle the stress and pressure surrounding it, to the point I cant do the normal things married couples do - like enjoy a romantic meal!
I know of adults and children that suffer with this, so if you don't know someone you can turn to then feel free to leave a comment and I will be happy to get back to you!
For further support on this topic if you feel you need more advice, there is a very good support group on Facebook called Selective Eating Disorder - SED/ARFID Support Group, go there and you will get all the help and advice you can!
The picture I have put up shows you some things to look out for!
Thanks for bearing with me through this long post!