The Plight of the Picky Eater

No vegetables, nothing with seeds—and don’t let my carrots and peas touch each other! These requests may be tolerated from a child, yet what of the adults who never grow out of the dreaded food pickiness? For them, dinner out is a minefield, dining at a friend’s house an ordeal, and cocktail parties—filled with pastry-wrapped packages of who knows what—a foodish hell.

An interesting article in The Arizona Republic explores the plight of the food phobic, from simple avoidance of fish (smelly) or vegetables (taste and texture) to the “don’t let my foods touch each other” issue. One picky eater says, “I’ll build a little wall with mashed potatoes and not eat the portions that touched.” Mind you, this man is 58, not 5.

No one knows how many adults are afflicted with severe picky eating problems (forget being PC—in my book, not being able to enjoy your food is a problem), but the numbers of those seeking help is rising. Increasing awareness of obsessive-compulsive disorders may be contributing to this. “The line between food preferences and disordered eating is whether it hurts their quality of life,” says a doctor who treats such patients.

Some picky eaters are turning to the Internet for support, at sites such as Picky Eating Adults. With extreme picky eaters restricted to 20–30 food items they find palatable, and running in fear of business lunches or national holidays (the website founder describes Thanksgiving as “Black Thursday”), it’s clear that this is a cross to bear and understanding is called for.

Just don’t hold your breath for any picky-eating support-group potlucks—they would be strictly bring-your-own-lunch affairs.

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