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Pickiness: The Secret Eating Disorder

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  1. It is an interesting perspective and a phenomena that I haven't really given much thought to.

    I always take some issue with the lay press labeling everything a "disorder" (not just this). Psychological disorders are very serious and are clearly defined in the DSM. Diluting disorders by calling everything a "disorder" is a destructive path in my opinion.

    I did like how the article indicated that this behavior may be the result of PTSD or OCD, making it a symptom not a disorder unto itself.

    1 Reply
    1. re: thimes

      That is what captured my attention. At first I thought it was the disorder of the month type of tripe. But the more I read the more it shaped up to be something far more pronounced and real.

    2. Depending on how you define "disorder" every Chowhound suffers from a eating disorder.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        "Depending on how you define "disorder" every Chowhound suffers from a eating disorder."

        Still going through it on a semi-regular basis. To wit: "Hey, I tink dis order was mine?" "Dat one's youz order for sure"

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Well after reading through the thread about food rules I'd have to agree

        2. "Pickiness: The Secret Eating Disorder Nobody’s Talking About."

          Without even getting into other more serious aspects of this, I can tell you that people who have this eating disorder talk about it an awful lot.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ratgirlagogo

            Ha. It's true for a lot of picky-and-proud types. I think the truly disordered are probably pretty rare and not talking about it much.

            I used to have NO tolerance for picky eating (at least not in my head!). But years ago a former-picky-eater-turned-chowhound posted about their past and how they reformed. It truly was a phobia for them, with a real fear of unknown flavours and textures. In their case it was something they were able to overcome with time and effort. I gained some understanding and compassion via that post.

          2. Interesting. Now that i have young kids and read a lot of hippie parenting boards, many young children her our picky also have oral aversions.

            1. in college one of my roommates only ate the following: plain hamburger with salt; King's Hawaiian Bread; plain cheese pizza; and Hershey's Kisses. he couldn't eat anything else. it was really sad. he's now all grown up married with kids. he's seems to be really struggling but according to his Facebook page he's made some progress.

              1. Thanks for sharing. My first instinct was to roll my eyes, but it certainly makes sense that this is a very real thing. I think using the word "pickiness" does a disservice to people who are clearly suffering from something way beyond that. You don't have to be a chowhound to want to enjoy more than three or four foods over the course of your life. I cannot imagine ANYONE actually being *happy* living like that. I get the feeling that these people feel imprisoned by their extreme aversion to certain tastes and textures. As someone who admits to receiving great pleasure from food, it sounds like a very sad existence. I don't doubt that it is not a matter of want/not-want, but a true psychological disorder.

                1. I don't think it's an eating disorder per se, rather sort of a variant on OCD (well in my case anyway) maybe more of a reductive exclusive disorder. and yes I've noticed the ones that truly deal don't like to talk about it directly (who wants to ID as the outsider after all?).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: hill food

                    to clarify, I'm NOT picky - I'll eat almost anything, it just depends on the process, the context and even sometimes the portion size. umm ok so maybe I AM picky... yeah now that I think of it even the choice of flatware/cutlery can throw off my interest to the point I'll just go without for even days at a time.

                    but that has little to do with a classic eating disorder (self-denial or self-punishment) right?

                  2. Very interesting. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that some picky eaters were often just super tasters, people with more taste buds per square cm on their tongue, etc. I wonder if any of the people mentioned in the article are also super tasters? There is no reason why a sub-population of supertasters couldn't also have OCD or any OCD derivatives. Venn diagram, anyone?

                    1. I notice that the article doesn't cover orthorexia, which is another term for "pickiness" but is usually on the other side of the coin, where people are obsessed with eating only the right amounts/combos/organic foods to the exclusion of a social life and/or overall health (ironically). I used to think this was "made up" until I met someone with this disorder. It was unbelievable. I was on a yoga teacher training course, and he had brought coolers and coolers and coolers of the "right" food to combine, measure, weigh and eat every day. He had to chop all veggies into the right sized shape and size, and was absolutely obsessed with eating "perfectly". He had some high-faluting internet nutritionist who was guiding him towards achieving level 5 out of 5 for "perfect eating". He currently was at level 3. It was scary. He lost a ton of weight during training and he was slender to begin with -- he was at the end of training 5 ft 6 and 110 lbs because of this obsession with eating only the "right" foods at the "right" time in the "right" shapes in the "right" combinations and the "right" amounts to achieve a moralistically superior level of "well being". It can be hard to distinguish this from OCD, but I tell you, he has all the markers of orthorexia. In fact, we even covered this disorder during our medical side of our training, and he brushed it off. Didn't see any of the markers. None, even though he not only looked near death's door, didn't have the energy to finish a single yoga class, and was nodding off and/or catatonic during many of our lectures. I remember going to lunch and watching him negotiate the contents of his burrito at the local Mexican takeout place (I can't combine beans with meat, and I can't combine more than 2 oz of dairy, so can we hold the meat, half the guacamole, hold the sour cream, OH and I can't have grains and beans at the same time so no rice, either...that'll take me to a meal of 250 calories! WOOT! I'm still at level 3, gotta work harder....) Absolutely. Scary.
                      Like any disorder, I think the diagnosis really depends on the amount of impairment to one's life and the amount of disruption that occurs around a behaviour such as this. And it applies at both ends of the scales -- whether you eat only Chicken McNuggets or only organic tomatoes combined with avocado all diced up into no more than 1/3 by 1/3 inch cubes....

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: freia

                        wow, I'm going to have to let that one sink in before commenting.

                        I will say sometimes these things are about control, controlling one small bit of one's life when all else is chaos. hope he and any other finds a release.

                        1. re: hill food

                          I agree that this sort of thing could well be about control. With children it sometimes is about power, or the lack thereof in other parts of his or her life. But I know about power struggles between parent and young children. In this one area the child can win by refusing to eat.

                        2. re: freia

                          Orthorexia is not a recognized disorder in the DSM and is not to my knowledge in line to be included in the DSM.

                          Every quirk a person has does not constitute a disorder nor does every issue constitute its own disorder. That was a point I think this article did a good job of trying to give a nod to - many of what the general public likes to call "disorders" are not disorders in and of themselves but symptoms of other legitimate disorders.

                          1. re: thimes

                            If you really want to get into it, the DSM really is a questionable document at the best of times -- a compilation of disorders as defined through selection by a secretive committee as based on "popularity". I hardly put any faith into the DSM which is why I didn't really say it WAS a DSM "certified" disorder. Having said that, not being in the DSM doesn't make it any less of an issue nor life-altering condition for the person affected. Just because it isn't "recognized" doesn't mean it doesn't exist. And just because the DSM lists it doesn't mean that it is really a condition -- after all "caffeine withdrawl disorder" used to be officially listed as a psychiatric condition in previous DSM editions. Yup, if you had the shakes after too much coffee, and insomnia, you had a diagnosable psychiatric condition, for which the treatment was "watch and wait". Seriously. And on the flip side, Asperger's is slated for deletion from the DSM. Doesn't mean it doesn't exist -- it just means that those with this disorder will lose funding and support for dealing with this condition. Psychiatry is nebulous at best, and the DSM is perhaps its shadiest document -- and I'm going to stop there because this is kind of a hot topic for me.
                            In any event, I'm certain that if you had spent any time at all around my colleague, you'd get my point.

                          2. re: freia

                            Interesting article on orthorexia in today's Los Angeles Times and thought I would link it to your post: http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-o...

                            1. re: beevod

                              well then they're not real drinkers, are they?

                            2. It has to be incredibly difficult as a psychologist/dietician/MD to get to the root of what it's all about -- is this person a supertaster? Was food used as a reward/punishment in childhood? Is it a control issue (over themselves or others)?

                              There are so many possible contributing factors, I wonder if pickiness in and of itself could ever become an actual disorder, rather than a symptom of some other underlying issue.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: sunshine842

                                i agree that there's such a big array of factors that contribute to eating disorders. is it hereditary? brain disorder that's hereditary? however, i do believe some people develop disorders as a child. there's a preschool educator from down under who has a great blog and she has an entry about 'forcing your kids to eat' and how detrimental that can be. if forced, kids may not learn to self regulate then that spills into adult life. or using food emotionally as punishment (think going to bed w/out dinner bc you've been bad!) or rewarding a child with cake since they behaved well. and of course, food is human culture so you can't discount the fact that food and human emotions are intertwined quite often.

                                i was a super skinny baby and forced to eat a lot. as an adult i have to really make a conscious effort to regulate. i got fat as a child and i do think a part of it was due to being forced to eat. who knows maybe i would have gotten chubby without being forced but only way to know that is to live my life over again and that's just not possible.

                                from my experience with my college roommate i know that he couldn't help himself. it wasn't a choice for him like it is for me to either eat a banana or ice cream today. i could tell he really struggled and it's evident he still struggles with his pickiness.

                              2. I have a friend, middle-aged male, who is incredibly picky about foods, Eats only the typical kid stuff like spaghetti and pizza, and no veggie but green peas, But he is also a wine connoisseur.

                                I read once that french fries are the one food that almost all picky eaters like. No one's ever heard of an "only asparagus" picky eater.

                                1 Reply