Does the taste or texture of certain foods make you feel uncomfortable?
Have you ever heard of ARFID? ARFID stands for avoidant restrictive food intake disorder. ARFID has only been recently recognised as an eating disorder and as a result not many people have ever heard of it. When an individual suffers with ARFID, they will limit or restrict their consumption of certain foods and will often feel uncomfortable even with the thought of eating certain foods. An individual coping with ARFID will often reject foods based on their texture, taste, appearance, smell or temperature.
ARFID has in the past been referred to as "selective eating". I often work with individuals suffering with ARFID - however they come to me for help with food aversions or sometimes not realising that what they are suffering with is common. AFRID can however have a really negative impact on the mental health and wellbeing of someone suffering with it as it can prevent them from going out for meals with others, make them nervous around certain foods, cause them nutritional deficiencies and cause them to try and conceal their eating habits from others.
Many of the individuals that I have worked with suffering with AFRID will stick to eating mostly "safe", "bland" or "beige" foods. These foods may include bread, certain meats, some processed snacks and other foods that the individuals feels comfortable with. Usually off the menu completely are foods such as vegetables, fruits or other foods with very distinctive textures or tastes. However the condition does show up differently for each individual and the term AFRID is intended to cover aversions to a range of different foods.
Often exploring the individual's past reveals that they either had a negative incident with food in their childhood e.g. getting sick or gagging after eating a vegetable when much younger, or that they were allowed to be very fussy eaters growing up (and therefore not encouraged to eat or try a broad range of foods). There is however stated to be no single cause of the condition and usually a range of factors are at play in the development of the condition.
Unlike other eating disorders, ARFID does not tend to involve a preoccupation with weight or body shape/size. Instead the condition describes a fear of eating a range of different foods based on their taste, texture or another characteristic of that food. If you are wondering whether ARFID is something that you or a loved one is suffering with, here are a few other signs and symptoms that may appear if you/they are suffering with the condition:
- avoiding certain foods (often quite a broad range of different foods) due to their taste, texture, appearance or smell;
- getting scared to gag, choke or vomit when eating certain foods;
- avoiding eating in social situations;
- feeling anxious at meal-times;
- weight loss or nutritional deficiencies from not eating several foods/food groups;
- taking a lot of time over meals; or
- eating the same limited food options each day.
The good news in all of this is that ARFID can be successfully treated and someone with ARFID can get to a place where they introduce a broad range of foods into their diet. I find that in helping individuals to shift their mindset and how they think about foods - that they become curious to try new foods again and overcome their fear of these foods. This can have such a positive ripple effect for all areas of someone's life: enabling them to socialise around food, allowing them to go to restaurants, making them feel mort comfortable eating in professional contexts, improving their nutritional status and helping them to enjoy their lives once again. If you or a loved one would like some help with ARFID or would just like to set up a call to see if this something that you/they may be struggling with - please don't hesitate to get in touch with me at email@example.com
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— Chinese Proverb