Dear Mealtime Hostage: Is my picky eating all in my mind?

Hi. I came across your website when I googled searched ” Is my picky eating habits all in my mind”? I’ve been a fussy eater since birth and my parents still seem to think it’s all in my mind. I can only tolerate certain foods and the rest make me anxious! Whenever I’ve been force fed I’ve ended up in tears. I’m looking for answers. Is it in mind?


Hello Anonymous:
Being a fussy eater since birth suggests your food preferences are inherent, not a willful choice, and because you say your parents seem to think it’s all in your mind suggests they have not been supportive of your ability with eating. Please understand, your parents lack of support likely stems from attitudes that support their beliefs that their actions are an act of love and helpful, even though we both know reality is very different.

Being force fed is an assault on the individual being forced to eat something they don’t want to; tears and anxiety are a very normal response. Not only is force (coercion, bribery, deception…) and other forms of feeding pressure unlikely to improve your relationship with food, these strategies tend to entrench feelings of shame and guilt for being unable to please your parents with expectations you are unable to achieve.

Is it in your mind? Let’s examine this question on common ground. I cannot stand dill – I don’t like pickles, I cannot stomach the smell, I hate the sound of pickles being eaten by others, and I find the sight of pickles repulsive. If someone force fed me a dill pickle, I would seriously question that person’s intentions. It would not make me suddenly want to eat pickles.

Everyone is “picky” to some degree. Your relationship with food is unique to you, and left to your own devices, you WILL find your own path with food in your own time. After all, you took the time to write to me, and that says – on some level – you want something to change. Your parents (I believe) want to help but don’t know how – and as a parent, I can tell you it’s very scary to know your child needs something you don’t know how to provide. You may never be an adventurous foodie- and that’s okay. You may never be an Olympic athlete or a world renowned quantum physicist either… and that’s also okay. You do have talents and gifts, and there is food you CAN eat. Train your parents/ friends/ colleagues – and especially yourself – to see what you can do instead of harping on you for what you can’t.