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Struggling With Food Aversions

By November 20, 2012

I have real issues with eating fruit and vegetables and anything unknown to me. This is just how I have been forever. I have slowly increased my repertoire but I am still a long way from being able to eat a balanced diet. I intellectually know what I should eat, but I just can’t do it. I have sought help before with little steps but nothing long term. I arrive late to functions and sometimes just won’t go because I feel sick worrying about the food and not being able to try it. I have been told to just eat it. It is a lot harder than that. I have been this way for 36 years. I don’t like it. Of course I would love to be confident to try new foods, to eat a salad and reach a healthy weight. I am overweight and nothing I do helps as my diet is too restrictive and I simply don’t eat enough of the right things to make it work. I have tried shakes and diets with my likes but it is never going to work. I have 2 children and I am very concerned that I am passing on my eating habits to them which is not good, but I need help to fix this. What would you suggest? – Lizette

Dear Lizette,

I hear that you are struggling to incorporate more variety into your eating, but there are a number of positive aspects to your letter, so let’s start with those. First, you recognize what kinds of foods would be healthy additions to your diet, and have tried to include some of them. Very gradually, you have made progress and “slowly increased” your “repertoire.” Additionally, you want to be healthier and recognize, through experience, that diets and meal replacement shakes won’t help—which is actually true for everyone (95% of people who lose weight on diets regain it within five years). Last, you also express a desire to model and teach healthy eating habits for your children.

Without knowing your background, I can’t speak specifically about the cause of your food aversions, so I will give you some general information. Some people have very sensitive palates to the bitter tastes of fruits and vegetables, and this might be your case. For these people, multiple exposures to a food are needed before they can start to enjoy it. So allow yourself to simply have one bite of a new food 10 or 12 times over the course of a month, and see if that helps. Also, look for recipes that include ingredients that you know you do like, especially to flavor your vegetables (instead of preparing them in a bland and boring way). It’s okay if this is a gradual process—be patient, because this is how to make lifelong changes. On the other hand, if you suspect that there are emotional reasons for your food aversions—and your fears of eating at social functions—then I would recommend that you explore those with a professional who specializes in disordered eating.

I don’t know the ages of your children, but I think you would benefit from understanding feeding dynamics both from the perspective of a parent and as someone who is struggling. For more resources in this area, you can check out the web site www.ellynsatter.com, especially the book Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family. You can learn a lot for yourself as you teach and guide your children.

I sense that your desire for change is very strong, which tells me that you will be successful at improving your eating to include a wider variety of healthier choices. Keep us posted on your progress!

Ann