This is quite a personal story that marked pretty much my entire childhood. What I want to achieve with this article is to give a little hope to parents whose kids are picky eaters but also to people who suffer from different eating disorders – or think they do.
When I was a child, I was what you’d call a picky eater. I had a very well defined list of foods I would allow in my plate. Yes, that list was very short and I’m quite sure it drove my mother crazy.
Besides that, I needed a whole hour to have lunch. I remember I was VERY carefully chewing each bite to make sure any forbidden ingredient didn’t slip in my plate.
I guess that’s the definition of picky eaters.
While this is quite common to happen to children, it happens to adults as well. Actually, the severe form of picky eating it’s called ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) in scientific terms and it can affect everyone.
There are not a lot of research about ARFID, but it’s a known issue in the medical world.
It’s in the genes
My family and I think that we identified the cause of my picky eating as a kid: my father.
Ironically my father has quite an appetite now and I can easily tease him about it.
But when he was a kid, he was a picky eater too. So were his brothers and sisters. I think it’s safe to say it’s a “family thing”. The good news — or the bad, for some — is that my Dad and his brothers turned their eating habits 180 degrees when they grew up.
So, I think it’s safe to say that puberty did its job right and we were all “cured”. Luckily, this happened to me as well — probably around my teenage years too.
Why I hated food
“Hate” is quite a strong word, but I had foods that I couldn’t even picture myself eating. While I still have things that I don’t eat, I don’t gag when I think about them anymore.
I’m not sure why I had such a complicated relationship with food.
I never liked fat in any type of food — not back then and not now. There are some types of foods I still avoid, but I guess we all do that in a way or another.
I remember there was something weird about the texture of the food. I didn’t like tomatoes and cheese, for example. Now I’m crazy about them. I didn’t like to have foods that had different textures or taste. And that’s pretty much the basics of how we’re eating food.
It may be the way I transitioned to solid foods as a baby — although my Mum says I was ok then, quite a foodie actually. Not sure what or why it happened this way.
All in all, if you have a picky eating kid, don’t force them eating things they don’t want or like. Accept them and try to understand why it’s happening. Things might solve themselves, eventually when he or she grows up.
How it affected me
Being a picky eater also made me quite skinny. Well, I got the skinny gene from Mum, but it didn’t go well with the picky eating. During my childhood, I got lots of:
- oh. my god! eat a donut!
- why are you so skinny?!
- I hate you for eating and not putting any weight on
Even though I had a limited amount of foods I was eating, I was eating quite well, but it was quite difficult to gain weight.
Which brought me to the conclusion that there was something wrong with me. Most people teased me when I told them that I don’t eat X food, or that I was so skinny in their eyes. I never openly talked about it with anyone, but my parents — giving my Dad’s weird relationship with food as a kid — reassured me that things will get better.
And eventually, they did.
How I changed my relationship with food
I never planned or wished to change my relationship with food, honestly. It simply happened in a very unexpected way and I’m very happy it did.
It turns out all I needed was some inspiration or a role model.
A pregnant lady
All I needed in order to change my relationship with food was a pregnant lady. And no it wasn’t me, but it was related to pregnancy cravings.
When I was a teenager I visited my uncles for a week or so. Back then my aunt was pregnant and she was eating a lot and in the weirdest combinations imaginable.
She always has been a foodie — or at least as long as I know her. She enjoys eating and cooking food a lot. It was almost impossible to not crave what she was eating or cooking.
So while I was visiting, I watched (and sometimes helped) her cooking and I also let her gorge me with a lot of food. I was feeling bad to refuse her. Who would say ‘no’ to a pregnant lady?!
Their fridge was always full. There were a toddler AND a pregnant Mum in the house, so it made perfect sense.
I started to snack a lot on different things. All. The. Time.
Having a pregnant lady around for a couple of weeks made me want to discover more foods.
Becoming a foodie
When I got back home I always asked for snacks and complained that we had “almost nothing” in the fridge.
Everything from fruits, yogurt or granola, my interest in food kept growing and very soon I was actually trying new foods and eventually I started cooking.
Getting into cooking
My Mum was never crazy about cooking. She was doing it just because we had to eat something. Luckily for her, my Dad’s also cooking and from about 12–13 years old, I started cooking quite regularly.
You remember when you were a kid and people asked you what you want to become when you’ll grow up and all girls would say something like “a doctor”? Well, I wanted to become a cook, like those ladies that cook things on the TV and they have tiny, tiny bowls for a pinch of salt and everything.
So, I guess it’s safe to say I had it in me from the beginning.
Since I was getting more into eating, I also wanted to be able to make my favourite foods whenever I wanted. If I saw something yummy on social media, I would go to my Mum’s kitchen and check if I had all the ingredients and start cooking.
I find cooking almost therapeutic.
Things simply went hand in hand for me: I was becoming more keen on food, but also I enjoyed making it myself.
There is still hope
Now my friends and family know me as someone with quite an appetite and they know that when I’m hungry (or if I’m craving something) I can turn into… quite a difficult person, let’s say.
What I wanted to point out with this article, is that things can turn around at 180 degrees, as it did for me.
If you have a picky eater kid or think that you suffer from an eating distorter, don’t despair and don’t pressure yourself. Things will come around in a way or another.