For as long as I can remember I have had a bad relationship with food. I don’t remember liking a range of foods as a child and honestly, we didn’t have the most varied of diets. My Mum worked long hours in a pub and we were never a well off family. ‘Proper’ home cooked meals weren’t really a thing in our house and if they were, I only sort of remember eating roast dinners. We did always go to my Nanna’s for dinner on a Wednesday and that would be the same kind of thing a lot of the time.
My childhood up until around maybe age 9 or 10 is somewhat hazy for various reasons so there’s probably a lot I’m forgetting. Mum probably did cook more than I think she did but it’s definitely not something I can recall. Something that does get stuck in my head though was picking at fish fingers to make sure there was no bones and having horrible discussions about what hot dogs were really made from (and none of it was actually true).
When we talk about, or read anything about picky eaters, I think we tend to associate that with toddlers or children. I have spoken before about Erin being a fussy toddler and how we’re trying to make sure that isn’t something that sticks. The truth is, I don’t want Erin to grow up like me, a 33 year old picky eater.
When I say I’m a picky eater it’s not an exaggeration. Even writing the words makes me feel full of shame and like it’s a dirty little secret I’ve been hiding away.
Not liking what most people would think of normal foods made being a child quite difficult. Going to friend’s houses for tea was near impossible because I wouldn’t eat anything that resembled a normal meal. Once I went for tea at a friend’s and their Mum couldn’t believe I wouldn’t eat peas. I remember that day clear as anything. I wanted to cry because it was like I wasn’t normal.
I couldn’t really tell you what I ate as a teenager. My sister once took me out with her friends to a restaurant but the only way she would is if I tried jacket potato, beans and a vanilla milkshake. Before this day I can’t ever remember eating or drinking any of those things. I would avoid going anywhere with friends if it involved eating something I wasn’t sure of and especially if there was a chance that I would actually have to try something new.
My picky eating habits have never really gotten better and I’m not sure why how or why I got stuck in such a position. I think I just got to a place where I was past trying new things and at this point, I think I was too scared and too ashamed to say I didn’t eat a lot. When I first visited Toronto in 2016 I tried pasta for what I can only say was the first time. If I had it before then I didn’t know about it. It must sound so silly to most people to hear that I, at 20 years old, tried pasta for the first time. The pasta was in a white sauce and also had carrots, broccoli and peas but I wouldn’t even touch the latter two. Now, I eat pasta quite a lot so without having that, the list of things I eat would be even smaller.
If that wasn’t bad enough, I don’t know if at any point I have eaten or even tried lasagne, tomato based pastas or a chicken pie. Not once have I tried a stir fry. I’ve never eaten a whole range of fruit or vegetables and I probably couldn’t even name a lot of them.
I could probably list an absolute maximum of 20 meals that I will eat. That might be pushing it actually. The problem now is that I have gotten myself into such a position, and such a state, about food that trying new things actually scares me. It doesn’t matter what people say or how nice someone says something is, I just cannot bring myself to do it. It’s not just being a picky eater any more. There is an actual fear and worry of trying something new and if I’m put in that position I want to cry most of the time. I wish I could say this is only in public places but it’s at home too.
Because of my food issues we struggle as a family and we don’t eat a range of foods. I worry how this will affect Erin growing up. John loves food and eats pretty much anything and he gets stuck eating the same thing over and over again with me because he doesn’t want to eat separate meals, no matter how much I say he should.
Being an adult picky eater means constantly worrying about if there is something you can eat at any restaurant, asking for special cooking instructions and things to be left off a meal. It means making sure you can eat somewhere when you go on holiday. It means making excuses about why you can’t go out for a meal with other people sometimes or going to a restaurant event for work and worrying for every single second that you’re there.
I would love more than anything to eat a more varied diet, to try something new and be able to go for an Indian with my husband. In reality, something stops me from even trying and it’s easier to just stick to what I know.
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5 thoughts on “The Shame Of Being An Adult Picky Eater”
This is a refreshing read; thank you for sharing. I was diagnosed with ARFID last year and trying to explain it when I’m eating in front of people who don’t know much about it exhausting.
My Mum is very picky and we noticed it a lot on holiday with her. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it but feel sad that you worry so much. I wonder if there is support for something like this to help you feel better after trying new things? x
You sound like my husband! It was only after 10 years of us being together that he tried pasta and fish. Besides that, he has a very bland diet of about 10 meals. I do feel bad for him, but luckily it hasn’t rubbed off on the kids!
As someone who has anxiety, and slight PTSD from being so ill when pregnant that I have gone off a LOT of foods I used to love, I do get how hard it is to explain to people that you have issues with food. It’s not easy. Even the smell of some foods puts me off a meal now.
There are adult speech and language therapists who specilaise in food aversion therapy, I don’t know if that’s an option you might consider if it’s something you wanted to try and work on. However, I have family who are “picky” eaters (I hate that term because it isn’t picky, it’s a real thing, you can’t help it) who have lived it all their lives. I can imagine it is hard and frustrating for you.
I think everything comes down to personal choices and we should feel free to have favourites when it comes to food and things we equally don’t like or want to try and you shouldn’t feel guilty about that