12 April, 2017

My life as an Adult Picky Eater

Being a picky eater is something that people assume you leave behind in childhood, but for some adults, it carries far past our childhood and creates havoc in our lives. I want to start this post by setting the record straight on a few myths about picky eating, especially in adulthood. Most of this is just to educate others about how life can be for an adult picky eater because it's certainly no walk in the park.

So what exactly is a picky eater? Well, it's a person who has an aversion to food. This can range between a mild aversion to a serve aversion, and the foods can vary greatly. Some picky eaters only have a handful (under ten) "safe foods" while others (like myself) can have more but still a very limited diet (under fifty).

When children are picky the reaction from adults can usually vary from compassion and understanding to "you can't leave the table until you finish what's on your plate" type of situations. No matter how it's handled as a child, adults who suffer from picky eating walk forwards with deep levels of shame and discomfort around food. This is then compounded if you suffer from any degree of any eating disorders. 

Myth: Adult Picky Eating is a choice.
False. If I could just magically wave a wand over myself and suddenly like tomatoes, onions, steak and blackberries, trust me I would. I would happily leave the comfort of the thirty-four "safe foods" that I have to be able to order anything off a menu at a restaurant. 
For some picky eaters trying something new takes years of wanting to try it, and months of building up to it (that's the case for me, months), while some will gag, or vomit at the very idea of trying something new. In either case, this isn't a choice. For the picky eaters who only have five-ten safe foods, trust me they aren't happy with their options, but something in our brains tells us that these "safe foods" are ok, and everything else is either disgusting, unsafe, scary, or weird and we can't move past that. 
For example, I love scrambled eggs, I eat them a couple times a week. I, however, can not eat any other type of egg, no hard-boiled, poached, fried or any other method of cooking an egg is allowed. And when I eat scrambled eggs I'm very particular about how they look so I usually only trust a handful of people to make them for me (four to be exact). 

Tip: You should just keep trying it until you like it. 
I can say from experience that most of the time this doesn't work because as soon as we try that food the first time, we have an incredibly bad first reaction and why would we want to try it again? I will say it again, I'm on the lucky few picky eaters who've been able to as time has gone by, been able to try things and found myself comfortable with new things, but even the new things I don't immediately choose them when offered, I tolerate them generally. 
One crucial point for a picky eater is not forcing us to do it, you'll immediately turn the situation into a negative one if you attempt to even peer pressure force us to try something. Most (I can't say all) picky eaters suffer some type of anxiety when it comes to group settings of eating around people that don't respect their picky eating. I have a few people who 100% understand and respect my picky eating, and around them I don't mind eating, but anyone else I'm immediately uncomfortable and usually avoid eating or trying to fill my plate with a little of everything and make a quick trip to the trash can before people can see that I didn't eat much of anything. 
Restaurants, however, are a nightmare, before going to a restaurant, I'm known to google and check the menu. On my recent trip to London (which you can read about here) I spent hours every single day trying to find restaurants that would have food that I found "safe" most of the time going through 20-30 menus before finding something or giving up and going back to garlic bread or chips. When we have to go to restaurant where there is nothing on the menu, it's just downright a horrible experience, I'm lucky that I can tolerate salad, but I'm again lucky, quite a few adult picky eaters can't (see my use of the word can not), so they're left with the only option of maybe a side item like fries or bread or mashed potatoes, if the restaurant even has them. And let's just hope this poor picky eater isn't forced on short notice to go to an ethnic restaurant. 

Another common theme I've noticed in at least my picky eating, is the tendency to eat the same "color" which tends to be a beige, white, light brown or pale yellow (see mostly carbs, cheese, chicken breast, and ground meat) and I rarely eat anything of color, except for ketchup. I can't speak for all picky eaters but I can say that a lot of us tend to gravitate towards carbs, so whatever it is that makes a picky eater it might be based on the colour of foods. 

As a picky eater, I typically eat the same things over and over. My breakfasts and lunches are almost always repeated and while I don't get bored easily, I sometimes get fed up and need to switch it around. For breakfast, I rotate between a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter and a banana with a large glass of milk and 2 scrambled eggs, 2 turkey sausages and an English muffin with light butter. It just doesn't change, because it's safe. But understand that many, many picky eaters suffer from getting bored and frustrated that they can't move beyond their food choices. 

I have been lucky enough recently to find people who have not only been understanding of my food issues but accommodating of them. It's rare to find people who take the time to understand picky eating let alone respect it, so these acts of kindness that have been shown to me, mean the world to me. Thank you, Lauren, Emily, Robyn, Diamond, and Matt. Your moments of kindness are burned into my memory and I will never forget them, thank you. 

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