Tag Archives: ARFID

The People Who Are Afraid of Food (Medium.com)

The restaurant in southeastern Virginia is the kind of place that makes its own fresh-squeezed juices and has kale on the menu in three different places. The waiter lets diners know that any grain dish can be made gluten-free. As he takes orders, the dishes, from octopus ceviche with wasabi dressing to pan-roasted salmon with quinoa and lemon aioli, are complex. Elyse, a 29-year-old sales executive, reluctantly opens her menu and prays. Please let there be a kids’ section. Please tell me they have regular fries.

This is a work lunch for Elyse; her dining companions are prospective clients, and she wants to make a good impression. She does not want to give the speech she’s given a million times, answer awkward questions, or pretend not to notice the puzzled looks that follow after she orders her meal. But Elyse can’t bring herself to eat seafood, meat, or most kinds of dairy. She eats no vegetables and few fruits, unless they’ve been pureed into a smoothie. “I’m almost 30 years old,” Elyse says. “And I still eat like a toddler.”

Most days, Elyse drinks a smoothie for breakfast, has potato chips and chocolate milk for lunch, and makes a tray of potatoes roasted with olive oil, plus another smoothie, for dinner. She also eats bread, crackers, chips, mixed nuts, and popcorn. “It used to be french fries every lunch and dinner,” Elyse says. In high school and college, she went to McDonald’s twice a day, nearly every day, to get fries. “I always wondered what the people who worked there thought of me,” she says. “I mean, they aren’t going to judge you for eating fries, but at a certain point I’m sure they wondered, ‘Does this girl eat anything else?’”

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Filed under Eating Instinct, Freelance Life, Health, On Eating and Writing, Reading List

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[On Reading]

This week, I’ve been reading Bee Wilson’s First Bite, which is the fairly masterful book everybody asks “have you read…?” when I say I’m writing a book about how we learn to eat. This is actually a reread and I am once again dazzled by how poetically Wilson writes about scientific findings. Anyone who has to read medical journals on a regular basis knows that scientific studies are mostly written in the least exciting language possible, but Wilson has a real talent for turning those dense nuggets of research into accessible stories. She also tracks down some of the most incredible early research, like a 1926 study by Dr. Clara Davis, a pediatrician from Chicago, who “borrowed a number of infants” (mostly orphans) and fed them in controlled laboratory conditions for six years, in order to understand how our appetites and food preferences develop.

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On Carbs, Comfort and Kids

This week, I’ve been interviewing parents of picky eaters, as well as a few adults who are themselves intensely picky. And there’s been an interesting moment in every conversation when I ask, “so, what do they eat?” Because almost every human, as it turns out, eats carbohydrates: Toast, pancakes, waffles, pasta, mac and cheese, bagels, pizza, some cereals, French fries, and maybe a heavily breaded chicken nugget. The most selective eaters may not be able to handle that whole list (one mother told me that the smell of pasta being dropped into a pot of boiling water can make her daughter gag). But they all eat at least a few foods on it, and often, very little else.

This makes a lot of sense. Every cell in our body requires glucose as its primary source of energy, and our brains, especially, depend upon it. (A child’s growing brain, even more.) Plus, carbohydrates, especially the processed kind, are predictable. “Bagels are always round, always the same color, and I know they’re filling,” one adult selective eater told me. “They feel very safe.” No other food group is as reassuringly uniform. The texture of a hamburger is entirely different from a steak or a chicken breast. Fruits and vegetables offer even more variety, as the flavor, color and smell of a single banana can transform completely from the day I bring it home, slightly green, from the store, to when I offer it for breakfast three days later, now covered in alarming black spots. Is it still the same food? Is it still safe to eat? My three-year-old doesn’t have the life experience to navigate these questions and she is understandably suspicious.

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    The Eating Insinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America by Virginia Sole Smith

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