selective eating | beyond fussy eating
Something you don’t hear many parents talk about is an eating disorder referred to as ‘selective eating’. And while it is not fatal nor necessarily accompanied by other psychological difficulties, it does cause a lot of parental anguish and by extension, childhood distress.
So, what is selective eating? ‘SE’ is a condition in which a child eats only a very narrow range of foods and refuses all others and yet where the child’s growth is normal. Such children do not respond to persuasion, bribes, punishments, gold stars (reward systems) and that age old tactic of being left at the table “until they finish their food” doesn’t help in the slightest. Parents of selective eaters report regularly having tried all these things and more to no avail. These children would literally prefer to starve than eat food outside their range.
And what a range it is! Cheetos, chocolate syrup in a particular kind of milk, smooth (hydrogenated) peanut butter, chicken nuggets from McDonald’s only, white breads, mostly starches and sugars and fats. And to add insult to injury, rarely will this child eat just any old white bread or any old peanut butter—no, it has to be from a certain place and cannot be altered in any way. Can you imagine how frustrating this is for the parents? They see their paediatrician, they are told the child is normal and will grow out of it.
Well…. normal, yes. Grow out of it, unlikely, and they usually enter adulthood able to eat only a very narrow range, becoming that husband/wife who only eats ‘white things, plain and unembellished’—no green vegetables, only corn, no fruit, etc. They are otherwise fine children, perhaps they do have a fear of change and new things in general, but they are definitely not mentally ill.
But the parents’ distress is real. Mothers in particular come under fire from well-meaning advice givers: “take away his iPad until he eats something good for him” or “just make her sit there, she’ll eat when she gets hungry enough”. Oh no they won’t. And this is not a failure of parenting nor a failure of caring…
Luckily our friend Beryl Comar, Emotional Intelligence Development Specialist, former headteacher and university lecturer uses a range of techniques including NLP, EFT, Timelines and Parts Therapy and is no stranger to this disorder!
Here is a story as narrated by Beryl of a former patient:
When she arrived Amal was doubtful, her mother was cynical (even I was wondering what we could do in such a seemingly desperate case – what if nothing happened?!).
14year old Amal was diagnosed with SEDs (Selective eating Disorder) and she ate only tomato soup, a specific type shell pasta, tomato sauce, French fries and one brand of chips (crisps in UK). She was hospitalized for 2 years with a feeding tube. Amal and her desperate mother needed help and fast!
We went through the ‘Freaky Eaters Process’ of removing imprints and memories of food in Amal’s timeline, and we talked to the different parts of herself that make decisions as a result of previously held beliefs. She wanted to keep her eyes open, although on occasion, she closed her eyes through this process.
And then it came to the food testing…Fruit salad, cheese, cottage pie, beef and dumplings, broccoli and sweet potato, all foods that Amal and her mother had chosen previously that she would want to eat if she actually could. She proceeded to taste each one calmly. Then, she actually had to be asked to stop eating the fruit salad so as to have a go at other things. Which she did one by one. Finally, she took the fruit salad again, and ate it on the way out.
Over the past years Amal has had: daily group therapy, regular 1-1 therapy, family therapy and a food supporter during mealtimes. Now she is taking life one small baby step at a time, making very small changes every few days. And her parents are delighted to have their teenager back.
Beryl Comar is here to help you and your children with difficult issues such as those above (although obviously not always as extreme or instantaneous to resolve), and she will be at The Hundred from April 2nd to May 8th and look forward to helping with you with any fears, phobias (such as social anxiety and public speaking), unwanted habits (nail-biting, eating issues, bedwetting) and also can help eliminate smoking, obsessive behaviours and limiting beliefs.
All you have to do is take the first step and make an appointment via email or on 04 3447333 and spend 90 minutes with me to begin making the change – or even leave already having made the change you wish to make.