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Family dynamics

13th May 2024

Is ‘picky eating’ unacceptable past childhood?

Niamh Ryan

Is picky eating really that bad?

Many parents will know the dreaded feeling of planning meals for picky eaters.

The struggle of wanting to keep things nutritious and healthy while also avoiding a tantrum at dinner time is better described as a battle. Whether they can’t have their peas touching their carrots or shriek at the sight of red sauce, it can be difficult to get them through mealtime.

But is picky eating merely a phase that only toddlers go through?

What does the internet say?

One woman (26) posted to Reddit about her struggles with eating, something she has grappled with since she was a child. In the post, she explains how she won’t eat vegetables without spices on them and how she strongly dislikes most meats.

Despite telling her in-laws about her struggles with food and even preparing her own food to bring as backup, she said they “were offended by my not eating what they had made and they were offended we had brought food.”

After eating with them multiple times after that, she stopped bringing safe foods to eat, hoping to ease the tension. However, when this didn’t help, she eventually stopped attending and told her husband to go without her.

She wrote in the post about her in-laws’ reactions, “They said it’s an [a-hole] move to refuse to attend and I am behaving like a child.”

Many commenters on Reddit replied in support of her struggles.

One person said, “They can’t have it both ways – either cook something you eat or allow you to bring your own…stand your ground.”

Others suggested that she should be firmer with her husband and make him deal with his parents’ behaviour: “He is the person who needs to set the boundary with his mother and father and enforce it, telling them they may not continue to argue with him or you about your food choices.”

A deeper issue

While this is certainly true, it’s also important to address the root of the issue.

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, or ARFID, is a disorder that most commonly develops during infancy or early childhood and persists into adulthood. According to the National Eating Disorders Association ARFID relates to “a lack of interest in eating or food, sensory sensitivity, and a fear of aversive consequences.”

The disorder can be debilitating to those affected by it and can lead to issues such as weight loss and nutritional deficiencies.

While this woman’s in-laws may be offended by her not eating the dinner they’ve cooked, her aversion appears to be more than just ‘picky eating.’

Also, if it’s possible for her to cook meals that suit her needs, it surely shouldn’t be too difficult for them to accommodate her.

As another commenter put it, “If I know my celiac brother is coming I’m not cooking spaghetti and garlic bread…if my vegetarian bestie comes, I’m not cooking steak.”