By: Lauren Harper
As a child, you may have been one of those kids that could be referred to as a “picky eater.” Avoiding all vegetables, barely eating dinner, and only liking a select few menu items, picky eaters are people that many parents have a hard time pleasing. Now imagine that instead of being six years old and a picky eater, that person is 66 years old and a picky eater. At this point, it is a little more serious and actually accounts for up to 7500 adults in the United States. Nicknamed “adult picky eaters,” those that experience this problem have what is called selective eating disorder.
Selective eating disorder is the inability to eat certain foods or food types. Unlike picky eaters who don’t like to eat certain things, those suffering from selective eating disorder have only a select few things that they think they are capable of eating. Foods outside of their culinary comfort zone totally repulse them, and they usually stick to either their favorite foods or foods that are bland and processed. According to adult picky eater Bob Klause, peanut butter, crackers, grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate milk are among the very few things he can bring himself to eat. When it comes to other adult picky eaters, salty foods are preferred, along with bacon and raw carrots. Other fruits, vegetables and even alcohol are all rebuked by those with selective eating disorder.
Whether the disorder is a psychological or a genetic one is uncertain, but many researchers believe that those that are picky eaters in childhood have a higher chance of developing it when they are older. Whenever the “food environment is coercive or tense,” there is a larger possibility that kids will develop picky eating habits, Nancy Zucker of Duke University explained. The eating researcher also believes that when it comes to family dinners, they are a must to ensure that children have more exposure to different foods and smells that will encourage them to expand their food horizons. Traumatic food experiences and childhood memories have also been linked to the disorder.
There is no actual cure to selective eating disorder, but those suffering from it can go through counseling to help in determining its exact causes and parameters. Once they have done this, they may go through some exposure situations, in which they are gradually exposed to new foods over a period of time.
Though there are no direct consequences to the disorder, not eating a variety of foods hinders the person from consuming proper vitamins and minerals that they would normally receive in foods. This causes deficiencies in calcium and other vitamins, and can lead to things like osteoporosis and bone spurs. Picky eating may be very prominent in children, but if it gets to be too serious, it could develop into selective eating disorder and cause more problems later on in life.