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  • Writer's pictureClaire Wortley

Just Eat It!

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

As I sit here typing I have tears tumbling down my cheeks, my stomach is doing somersaults and my heart feels like it could burst. Do you want to know why?

Today I have discovered something about myself. Something that I have suspected but never known for sure.

I have an eating disorder!

In an earlier blog Called 'Rudey Foodie' I questioned whether this may be the case but left it as that without looking into it.

So why am I crying?

Relief! I will try to describe the immense relief I feel right now not only for myself but for my parents too. I feel as if I am finally allowed to recognise this part of me rather than hide it behind a veil of shame. No longer shall I accept the labels of 'attention seeker' or 'needy'. No more will allow myself to feel embarrassed when others judge me on my eating habits. Knowing that my eating habits have the driving force of a phobia rather than choice empowers me!

To be honest I have suspected a phobia may be at the helm, when it comes to trying new foods, due to the extreme reaction it causes when people wave foods in my face encouraging me to try them.

Selective Eating Disorder or Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Selective Eating Disorder (SED) is a phobia related to trying new foods. A person with SED may sincerely desire to eat new foods, might even like the look and smell of new foods, but be unable to bring themselves to taste them. The most common reasons is that they start to gag or retch if they do.

In the past SED was referred to as ‘fussy eating’ or ‘picky eating’. This however is a widespread misconception. My young children are fussy eaters (they will not eat any food that does not look in pristine condition). That is normal for young children. They do not however have a phobia, so to simply label people with SED as ‘fussy eaters’ is doing them a grave injustice. SED is as real and as valid as spider-phobia, snake phobia or flying phobia. It is the same phobic mechanism at work. It just so happens to have been historically associated with food rather than the more familiar targets of phobias. As a general rule of thumb: the difference between picky eaters and people with SED is that picky eaters they CAN eat foods but choose not to and in SED people want to eat foods but CANNOT.

Being a 'fussy eater' as a child is often seen as a phase when the child is trying to get their favourite food or push the boundaries. I can honestly say that I have never known this to be the case with me. I remember that I liked certain foods and felt happy and safe eating them. I trusted my caregivers to feed me healthy, safe food I liked. The trouble would come when we had to eat elsewhere. Thankfully most restaurants offer a variety of foods nowadays which mean I can find something I can tolerate and perhaps even like but as a child this was terrifying. You see I am, what some would call, empathic and would pick up on my parents concerns over finding somewhere that would cater for my plain taste in food. Anxiety would start to grumble away and as I became more uptight I became more afraid and hyper vigilant, especially around food. My poor mother would become desperate as she tried to convince me that a tiny piece of onion in some mince wouldn't hurt me. I, in turn, would become tearful and feel guilty for being the way I was. All I wanted was for everyone to be happy and to eat things they liked. I couldn't understand why it was a problem but then again I was only a child.

Over the years I have discovered more foods I like and foods I can tolerate. For example, when my daughter came visiting I took her to a pub for lunch. When I first looked at the menu my heart stopped as everything on the menu was interfered with. By that I mean that everything had another flavour added to it. The potaoes were coated in something or the meat was cooked in something with a powerful flavour. As I re -read the menu I felt the sweat form on my forehead and trickle down my sides.

'Crap, there's nothing I like,' I thought to myself. This was the only eatery for miles and we were both in need of sustenance. I looked for my 'go to' emergency dishes but even the chips were coated in something hot and spicy. YUK! Having just peeked at their menu again I see there was a steak dish but that would have been to heavy in the middle of the day and I still had a fair way to drive.)

Finally I decided to try the 'Scottish Stovies' described as 'traditional vegetable stew with braised beef and creamy mash.' Fingers crossed their were no 'aliens' in it.

My daughter and I chatted for a while admiring the decor and delightful aromas emanating from the kitchen. Our food arrived and once again I felt perspiration run down my sides.

Here goes....... first I tried the potato expecting to get another flavour like chives but was pleasantly surprised. It was beautiful creamy unadulterated potato. Oh the joy!

Next came the beef in the vegetable stew........hmmmm. This had a flavour I wasn't so keen on. As usual the cogs in my mind turned faster as they analysed the flavour. I'm like a machine in a clinical lab analysing a substance lol.

Garlic! That was the answer, then quite a strong mushroomy taste. Now although these are not things I would choose to eat, especially Garlic with its flavour that taints your tongue so you can taste nothing else for that day, I found I was able to tolerate the food. I certainly had no severe gag reflex or desire to push the plate away. The overall look and smell of the dish was pleasing and made my mouth water too. Mushrooms, NO! Too slimy and well, gross!

So there you are, I survived that meal and the day. The garlic did hang around on my tongue for quite a while but it was warming rather than intrusive.

Today I made a discovery, a very important one. In the future I may well seek professional help to see how much more I can learn to tolerate but for now I am happy as I am as I learn to accept and understand myself further.

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