When I started this blog, I was certain that my son’s quirky eating was nothing more than an ingrained case of picky eating. I was sure that I could cure him with a disciplined approach, with hints and tips, and with suggestions from well intentioned bestowers of ideas.
Then I discovered the Duke Study.
“In 2010, psychologist Nancy Zucker and her team at the Duke Center for Eating Disorders launched the first large-scale study of adult selective eaters through an online survey. Zucker says she expected to get a couple hundred responses, but 18,000 people have since participated. She hopes the industry can use the center’s future findings to create a way of categorizing people with food restrictions that impair health and functionality, but don’t necessarily entail the goal of weight loss.”¹
Two research surveys are currently seeking participants with selective eating habits and food phobias:
The Food F.A.D. Study (Finicky Eating in Adults)
Scientists know very little about the range of adult eating behaviors and problems. We are conducting an online survey of unusual eating habits in adults. (REF# 19967)
Finding Foods Fearful: A Study of Children and Adolescents with a Fear of Trying New Foods
If you think your child has a fear of trying new foods or has such a limited food variety that it gets in his or her way, join our online registry of parents who have a child who struggles with food neophobia. (REF# 29440)²
The Duke Study is an important milestone in recognizing eating disorders that are not related to weight loss. 18,000 people have already responded. My son is one of them. We are not alone.
Yesterday ended a 5 day run of mealtime bliss. My son has been somewhat receptive to the idea of experimenting with new food baked in the form of a pie. So I hauled the pie shell I bought last week out of the freezer and filled it with the bare essentials of a basic lasagna recipe. Pureed chicken, cottage cheese and garlic. My daughter gobbled up her portion and asked for seconds. It’s quite delicious, actually for something so simple. The sight of said pie on my son’s plate induced an epic meltdown, mostly over the pie crust, the part I wasn’t expecting a problem with.
I can’t explain how frightening it is to watch your child, not much more than a skeleton under skin, refuse to eat. And not just refuse to eat, but to be visibly distraught by the very idea of eating. I’m considered by most to be a very patient person, but this defeat was more than I could bear. I locked myself in the bathroom and cried.
Today, I’ve reset all that I’ve learned about getting a child to eat. We didn’t have these issues with food when he was an infant. What changed?
Was it the texture? Is that what brought on the episodes of choking? What harm is there in going back?
As soon as my son saw me pull out the blender, he raced to bring the step stool to the kitchen. “Can I pour the stuff in?”
I hand him 1 cup of homogenized milk, flavoured with our staple brand of no name chocolate syrup.
He adds 1/4 cup of full fat cottage cheese. “What’s this?”
I hesitate. Cheese is not on his list of safe foods. If I tell him what it’s called, he won’t touch it. “It’s….. smoothie pudding.”
This is acceptable, but I don’t want to risk lingering on the topic either. I quickly change the subject by handing him a peeled banana. “Can you break this into chunks before you put it in?”
The ingredients whirled away in the blender. I snapped a few pictures of him drinking his smoothie through a straw. He had barely started when he declared he was full.
It’s now 4p.m. and this is the first thing he’s eaten all day. How can he possibly be full?
Rule number one is don’t force food on a child. I hid my distress and put the smoothie back in the fridge. Two hours later, when we sat together for dinner, I put the smoothie in front of him with a plate of bread and apple slices. The rest of us had meatball subs.
My son and daughter discovered that the syringe we use to measure medicine, out for my son’s daily iron supplement, are vacuums. They figured out that if they jammed the syringe into the straw and drew back on the plunger, the contents of their glasses could be sucked up through the straw and fill the syringe. This is how they both drank from their cups at dinner. I’m sure there’s some principle of physics to be learned here, but what was really awesome is that neither of their glasses left the table containing a single drop.
This is rule number two. Eating, or in this case, drinking, must always be fun.
I have also learned that my son’s eating is a part of who he is. Everybody has their preferences. Some people prefer salty, some sweet. My son’s preferences aren’t quite that broad and I have to learn to accept that this is the stage we are at. It would be nice to be able to move beyond liquid dinners, and I still hope that one day we can.
Until then, my son will accept food only on his terms, which brings us to rule number three. Let my son’s pace be my guide.
Sources: 1. The Daily Beast. Pickiness: The Secret Eating Disorder Nobody’s Talking About http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/03/01/pickiness-the-secret-eating-disorder-nobody-s-talking-about.html 2. Clinical Trials - Duke Health http://www.dukehealth.org/clinicaltrials/clinicaltrial_list?subject=Eating%20Disorders