Rileigh’s Story: A Fear of Food

Recently, we featured a four-part series on feeding issues in children. We thought it might be helpful for some of our parents to hear from one of our patients (now an adult) who has faced this kind of struggle with food. In today’s guest post, an eighteen year old young lady and Kid’s Creek patient – we’ll call her “Rileigh” – shares what it was like growing up with a fear of food and how she manages today, and Rileigh’s mom adds some of her own thoughts at the end.

Rileigh’s Take

Have you ever watched Fear Factor?

As a kid, it was one of my favorite shows. People did dangerous and thrilling stunts for a huge prize. I even aspired to participate one day. However there was one thing I knew I could never do…eat anything abnormal.

That was true of my daily life, too. I grew up eating PB&J or pizza Lunchables for elementary lunch nearly EVERY day. I didn’t get sick of it because the idea of eating something else was unfathomable. For me it wasn’t the texture, the taste, or the smell. I actually enjoyed a couple things that were really out there! I loved eating lemon slices – they were delicious to me. No, it wasn’t the aspects of the food. It was the IDEA of eating the food.

Most people couldn’t understand.

They’d insist I was being rude, picky, or stubborn for not eating the majority of regular meals. Normalcy and belonging at a dinner table was like a million dollar prize I couldn’t bring myself to reach. The food I wouldn’t eat was like spiders. Sure, perhaps it wouldn’t taste BAD necessarily. Even a small, quick bite would win that prize. However, simply the thought of it made me push it away. It made me panic to see it on a plate. Even if it was dead and covered in chocolate, could you bring yourself to eat a spider? Perhaps your answer would be yes, but would you really blame someone for saying no?

It wasn’t just a phase.

Food is still an incredible challenge for me. The number one support has been my mom because she understands that I’m not just throwing a fit – the last thing I want to do is make a scene or be an inconvenience. I wanted to get better (and still do). I WANT to eat new foods. I have lived my whole life this way. My diet is still very limited, and I often find myself in awkward social situations.

I just recently reached the age of 18, and some foods have become a little less daunting. Familiarity has become my aid. Since I liked burgers, I tried beef. Since I liked beef, I tried pork. It’s a process. There’s a goal I want to reach, and I need understanding from others that I will fail where they may easily succeed.

Rileigh’s Mom’s Take:

It is a disconcerting feeling when your child won’t eat.

It’s an issue that can tear at your heart because you are the one who is supposed to make sure that your child is fed and satisfied. If I heard it once, I heard it multiple times, “just make her eat what is in front of her, don’t make something extra for her to eat.” The problem with that advice is that a child like mine will actually not eat and starve themselves because the root problem isn’t just about being “picky”.

Going out to eat with friends or gathering for holidays with family always was and still sometimes is difficult. Although they are well meaning, others will point out that my daughter “should” try other foods and question her about when she is going to start eating other things. It makes my heart cringe because I know she has anxiety over food.

The good news is that over the years we have worked with feeding therapists who have helped my daughter learn how to interact with food (yes, it has to be taught to some kids!), how to tolerate being around certain foods and smells, and how to try new items. It has been a long journey, but definitely worth it. Now that she is an older teenager and able to make her own decisions about her care, she has asked if she can start working with a feeding therapist again so that she continues to improve.

The progress continues!

Do you have a child with feeding issues? There is help! The most important piece of the puzzle is working with a feeding therapist who uses a non-threatening approach to feeding therapy. A program with therapists trained in S.O.S (Sequential Oral Sensory approach) can be very beneficial for kids with a fear of food. If you or someone you know would like to learn more about how we can help your child, contact us for a free consultation.

Photo Courtesy Pixabay/Title Added

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