My daughter has never eaten fruit. She’s never eaten vegetables. My super healthy, athletic, outgoing, (almost) fearless child who is almost 9 years old hasn’t ever eaten anything even with fruit or vegetable flavoring. No juice. No gummie snacks. Never.
Ok, perhaps not “never”. She has twice been able to accept the juice for communion. She can eat Skittles but no other fruit flavored candy or sucker. She will usually eat pizza sauce on her pizza. As long as there are no big chunks of tomato or onion- but those are things she’s “picky” about, not part of her Selective Eating Disorder. You see, its more than just me being a horribly negligent mother, letting my spoiled brat kid get away with controlling me by what she eats. No folks, my child isn’t just picky.
She is picky about what kind of mac & cheese she wants to eat. She’ll throw a hissy fit just like a toddler if I make regular blue box style instead of the Spongebob that she actually wants. THIS is being a picky eater. This is what most people think of when I say my daughter won’t eat fruit. That she’s just being picky. In her case, however, she is genuinely afraid, no terrified, of something as simple as a strawberry.
Putting a strawberry on her plate, be it as a fruit snack, jelly, juice, sliced with whip cream, dipped in chocolate, or something that isn’t even a strawberry but vaguely resembles one used to trigger a panic attack in her similar to what you’d expect had it been a spider on her plate or locked a person with claustrophobia in a coffin. After months of OT, she is now able to allow one on her plate AND I even snapped a picture of her licking Nutella & sprinkles off of one once.
After I explain this to people, the next few questions (or comments) are generally:
- Have you tried XYZ food? (yep, terrified)
- What about XYZ fruit juice? (yep, didn’t I just say she won’t eat ANY fruit?)
- Does she take a vitamin? (well, yes, and look at her, shes petite, but super healthy)
- Have you told the doctor? (yes, they can’t find anything medically wrong)
- What about therapy? (we did that for months)
- She will just grow out of it. (ok, sure, if you say so, but this started over 8 years ago)
Here’s the deal, she never would even eat it as baby food. No apple sauce, no juice, not cooked, baked, fresh, or pureed. None. Ever. As an infant we assumed she was just not physically ready and as a breastfed baby it didn’t matter much. Slowly as she was a toddler we realized it was not so simple. By the age of 3 we had her evaluated and started occupational therapy. We currently keep her in cooking classes and garden club so that she can continually be exposed and less anxious. To my knowledge, she’s never eaten anything they make in cooking class or from her garden club, but she’s no longer afraid to see certain things get too close to her. She used to cry at the sight of grapes.
Every day I expose her to the foods she’s scared of trying to get her to eat them. I can yell at her, take away the computer, and I suspect try to starve her until she has no other choice— yet I think she’d go with starving. That is how bad her anxiety is, so we just try to make it more tolerable.
Here’s an example of her trying a new food. In this case, broccoli of all things! She is very brave & you can probably sense her anxiety. This was absolutely amazing & unusual. She didn’t know the camera was rolling & this is a cut well after a significant build up of courage (like 5 minutes of attempts before she got it into her mouth) Of course, with a flare for drama she does “faint” at the end 🙂
As she gets older this is more of a social issue of course. Fortunately for her, she’s homeschooled, or I suspect we’d have all sorts of issues at school. But when she goes to someones house for a sleepover and I pack her nutella & a pizza lunchable (no, she doesn’t eat the sauce in that either) you’ve gotta trust me that unless you want a crying terrified child on your hands, just feed her what I sent with. And yes, camp counselor, it is kinda odd that I pack the same sandwich meat, crackers, and brownie each day for lunch. But I have spinach and blueberries pureed and baked into that brownie, so as long as she eats it, just be happy she’s eating something. And no, thats not why she’s so small. Her dad & I are short. Our grandmothers were all very particularly petite ladies too (hmm, I’m thinking all of them were right around 5′ or less!) Its genetics, not her diet, trust me, I monitor her health closely.
The moral of the story, don’t assume my kid is just a picky eater because she doesn’t eat a big variety of foods. And don’t assume its because I don’t try to get her to. And especially, consider her anxiety tolerance as you insist she “just try a little” and she starts to cry. She’s embarrassed. She’s frustrated.
She wants to do it, but she just can’t.