Picky eating disease

AmericaWhen his mother advised him to try cucumbers at the age of 19, Jacqui Tetreault had a panic attack.

Tetreault is now 28 years old, a travel event specialist in Boston. She shared: “I also want to like those foods, but I can’t. Even though I tried, I still don’t like them. I feel so ashamed that I can’t do the things I want and adapt to it at the same time. others”.

Tetreault has been a picky eater for a long time, but when she panicked over a cucumber, she decided to seek advice. Tetreault was diagnosed with a restrictive eating disorder (ARFID).

Hana Zickgraf, an assistant professor of eating behavior research at the University of South Alabama, says many people with ARFID eat less than 20 foods, mostly carbs (starches, sugars) and dairy. This is the most severe form of picky eating, affecting about 0.3-3% of the US population. Meanwhile, 30% of the population identified as picky eaters in general.

This is partly due to evolution. As omnivores, according to biological instinct, humans will be wary of new foods, so as not to ingest toxic substances. Children reach their peak of picky eaters by the age of 2, shortly after they have acquired the necessary control, motor, and chewing skills.

Everyone will pass their peak picky eater by the age of 5 or 6. However, people with high sensory sensitivity and cognitive rigidity will find it difficult to change.

As adults, people who are not picky eat more and more foods, enhancing those that are beneficial to the body. “Even when we encounter food with a strange taste or texture, we have enough of the experience that the nervous system doesn’t react to it as something completely new,” said Professor Zickgraf.

However, people with picky eating cannot do this. “They will find it very difficult. They are aware it is safe, but the nervous system is reacting in the opposite way,” she added.

To overcome this situation, Zickgraf recommends that picky eaters actively expose themselves to new dishes.

People with restrictive eating disorders eat only 20 foods or less. Image: iStock

Don’t feel ashamed

Professor of psychiatry Nancy Zucker, director of the Duke University Eating Disorders Center, says picky eater adults often struggle with feelings of shame and isolation.

The first step, she says, is to open up about your condition when dining with others, to let yourself feel heard and understood. “Give yourself credit for trying something new, rather than demeaning yourself when you don’t like something,” says Professor Zucker.

Keira Oseroff, psychotherapist and lecturer at the Ellyn Satter Institute, agrees that “shame has never been an effective motivator” for dealing with eating disorders, because changing habits can have It can take months or years.

“Patience is key,” she said.

Learn about specific foods

Jennifer Thomas, co-director of the Clinical Eating Disorders Research program at Massachusetts General Hospital, recommends that picky eaters make lists of foods to try. These can be foods that are easy to appear in gatherings, have nutritional value.

For example, says Thomas, many picky eaters prefer to try salad because it’s a popular dish at business dinners. With such a mixed dish, Thomas suggests trying each ingredient, such as lettuce and tomatoes, separately before mixing them together.

After having a list of foods, picky eaters need to choose 5 specific dishes to taste the next day. Initially, Thomas suggested eating raw fruits and vegetables, because the flavor of the main dish will be stronger. “But do whatever you feel most comfortable with,” she added.

In a private space, you can put foods in front of you and describe how they look, feel, and taste, trying to avoid negative thoughts.

Zickgraf recommends relaxing your face when eating, because frowning and wrinkled nose is a physiological response to the body’s defense against toxins. They will send signals to the brain, making it impossible for people to continue eating.

“Breathe deeply, describe the food. If possible, take another bite. If not, try again the next day or so,” he said.

Research shows that babies need only 7 to 12 exposures to new foods to get used to and eat regularly. According to Thomas, repeating small actions over and over will create a habit, forming a feeling of enjoyment. She compared it to listening to a new song. “The first time, you might hate it. But the fifth time, you’ll sing along,” she said.

Thuc Linh (Follow Washington Post)


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