Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mental Health Diary: Selective Eating Disorder

Since my post on my depression and anxiety went over so well, I thought I'd open up about a few of my other issues. I've been a picky eater my whole life. Anyone who has ever shared a meal with me knows about my aversions to foods and the lengths I will go to to avoid eating things that aren't on my "ok foods list". Not that I have an actual list. I have what is called Selective Eating Disorder which is basically a picky eating adult. It's a mental illness just like anorexia or bulimia but instead of stemming from body image issues, it stems from having issues with the food itself. Sometimes, it's an issue with the food's texture (like melted cheese on pizza, which makes me gag) and other times it the actual flavor of the food (like green onions, which are just disgusting).

People with SED tend to count out whole food groups, such as fruit or vegetables, from their diets based on these things. I love almost all fruit and will eat most vegetables. I do however have to have vegetables prepared in a certain way, like broccoli, which has to be cooked and never raw. SED sufferers are also very repetitive in their eating and sometimes eat the same meal everyday for weeks, even months. Just look at Anderson Cooper and his daily lunch of turkey and cornbread from Boston Market. If I lived alone, I'm pretty sure I could be the same way.

My husband, who is much more adventurous with eating,  asked me to come up with 5 new meals we can make for dinner because he's sick of eating the same things all the time. For most people, this is a piece of cake but for me, it's the start of an anxiety attack. I've resigned myself to the fact that almost every meal with have something in it that I don't like and will have to pick out. I love fried rice, but I hate the egg and vegetables mixed in. Even with accepting this, it makes finding new meals very difficult. A lot of times I find if I omit the offending texture from the food, it changes the flavor, which I like. So, I soldier on and pick through things. Casseroles and meatloaf however... forget it.

I have opened myself up to some new foods in the past few years. I will now eat guacamole (although, not the onion chunks), twice baked potatoes (minus the green onion), fried eggs, and I've discovered I really love kung pao chicken (I pick around the peanuts). While that might not sound like much of a victory to you since I'm still picking through things, it's HUGE for me. I would have never touched sauce covered chicken 5 years ago. I am stuck in a rut over some things, however. I still pull all the cheese and sauce off my pizza only to put minuscule amounts back on and I don't eat the chunks in queso. Every time I go to a Mexican restaurant, I order the same thing: refried beans and flour tortillas and I never ever put condiments on hamburgers or sandwiches.

Things I have major issues with:
thick, melted cheese (like on pizza or in mozzarella sticks) It makes me gag.
raw broccoli
ground beef mixed in things

Things that I love but shouldn't in theory:
fried okra and fried pickles
black olives (not in stuff though)
dill pickles
strong unsweetened tea

I read a horrible blog post about someone mocking Anderson Cooper for his pickiness basically telling him he needed to grow-up and get over it. If only it were that easy. Like any mental health issue, it's in your head and you can't just walk out of that jail cell. It's not that we are just adults stuck in a phase of being difficult about the foods we can eat. Most of us are desperate to be able to go in to a restaurant and eat anything off the menu. It's a source of shame, anxiety, and major frustration. If you know someone who is an adult picky eater, ridiculing them or constantly pointing out their pickiness is just about the worst thing you can do. Trust me, they know and they hate it. Also, if they do have a victory of eating something new and enjoying it, acknowledge that it was a big deal for them. It often seems like all the focus is on what we won't eat and not what we have overcome our aversions to eating.

So, if you invite me over to your house for dinner, please know that I was raised to be polite and will eat almost whatever you make. I will probably be picking through it though. Don't take offense to this as it's not your cooking, just my brain.


  1. This was very eye-opening. I had no idea that this was a thing, let alone a diagnosable disorder. I'm a texture person - I can't deal with beans, save for fresh peas/peapods and while mushrooms chopped finely into things don't bother me, if there's a big ol' chunk of mushroom on something, there's no way I can deal with the squishy, foaminess of it. But for me, it's clearly an isolated category.

    It's great to read that even though you know you have SED and accept that as something about yourself, you're willing to put yourself out there and try things on occasion to open up your options of what you can eat. That certainly does not sound like an easy task.

  2. I have a friend who is just like this. She won't eat the cheese on pizza and shes horribly picky about everything! I'll eat anything and I'm glad my husband will also. I never knew about this, so thank you so much for enlightening me, I hope I will be more understanding now!