Picky? Puhleez!

This will probably be my 2nd biggest blog post to date. It’s going to offend some, but hopefully educate others. This post is long overdue, but especially needed in the “picky eating” community. Tread with caution. This post will consist of my own words, but it’s the thoughts and overall experiences of my 7 year old daughter, B, and may other children like her who have challenges eating everyday foods. I will also be standing up for the “picky” eater parents who struggle with their own issues regarding this topic. Stepping into my big girl panties…

Picky eater. That word offends me beyond belief. I know it’s all over the internet. Many books, articles, and blogs have been written on the topic. Yet, picky eating doesn’t even begin to describe what my daughter and many other children like her deal with on a daily basis. It goes WAY beyond picky eating. What these children deal with, is almost a phobic reaction/response in the way their bodies deal with food.

B is finally old enough to explain, in limited words, how the whole eating experience impacts her. When a food is new, she can’t physically and emotionally handle how it looks and smells. Taste is a whole different level. If/When people push her to try a new food (keep in mind, we haven’t done this for YEARS), she explains that her body freaks out. She would cry and want to run away (her own words). She starts to hyperventilate and her body goes into fight or flight mode.

We did try the Sensory Oral Sequencing (SOS) Approach when she was younger, and while the program did definitely help her learn to experience and accept new foods without the initial fear reaction, B started putting up emotional road blocks after a few years. We’ve since started trying the Division of Responsibility Method (DOR).

How can I tell the difference between picky and extreme? It helps that B has a younger sister. Her sister is what I would describe as a finicky eater. Unlike B, C ate all kinds of foods as a baby. She ate meat, sandwiches, fruit, veggies, yogurt. All kinds of foods. Around 3, she became more selective about what she would eat; however, she is still a major carnivore. She will eat sausage, hamburgers, brats, hot dogs, turkey pepperoni. She’s even tried and liked grilled chicken breast with a side of ketchup! Meat is a texture that is very difficult for selective eaters to tolerate. It’s can be chewy, tough, fatty, grizzly. C’s never had an issue with this.

The other major difference is that C will try new foods when other kids around her are trying something. This is a HUGE difference between “picky” eaters and kids like B. B was in daycare at the age of 2, and the teachers would comment all the time on how she would NEVER try something just because the other kids did. C when comfortable (and not pressured) will eat many things. One of her newest experiences at snack time was trying applesauce in a pouch.

So, after stepping on my soapbox about B’s experience vs. her sister’s experiences what words do I used to describe her eating habits? I prefer the term selective eater. She is very particular about the foods she accepts. Most of these kids are. For B, foods are dry and crunchy in texture. Rarely wet and chewy. Is it a matter of semantics? Maybe, but when selective eaters, like B, are judged and lumped into the “picky” eater category it makes my blood boil. There’s a definite difference. Keep that in mind as the holiday’s approach. Using the word “picky” eater around mom’s of kids with selective eaters will send us through the roof. Only, we’ll grit out teeth and put on our smile simply so we won’t make a scene at the dinner table 🙂

Now, here’s where I’m REALLY going to step on some toes. The thing most parents of selective eaters cannot STAND is reading Facebook post after Facebook post and article after article about “healthy” eating.

If your child is considered failure to thrive or only eats 3 foods TOTAL as an infant/toddler, we couldn’t care LESS what kind of foods they are. Well, really we probably wish they are super healthy fruits and veggies, but let’s be real here….they’re freaking eating! They tried a new food! They touched it! They smelled it! They asked to take a bite! The truth is…we celebrate any and all food successes. That includes McDonald’s french fries ya’ll! That includes the time my daughter ate and liked a processed oatmeal cookie from the grocery store.

Believe me, during SOS feeding therapy, we exposed her to many healthy food options. Carrots, celery, yogurt…and because they have a wet or ribbed texture she couldn’t even attempt to adopt them into her everyday diet. So forgive me if you cringe at the fact that my daughter LOVES Ritz crackers with peanut butter and chips and homemade sour cream dip for dinner.

As parents, we want our children to ENJOY their eating experience as a whole. After all, our society is all about social eating. If we can’t accept what they are willing to eat, how are they ever going to feel confident enough to go out to a restaurant and enjoy time with their friends and family. Who cares if all B will ever eat when she goes out to restaurant is a plate of french fries? I certainly won’t. I’d much rather she be a part of our family laughing and sharing stories at the table in a setting we all enjoy than expecting her to eat a plate of pasta (she’s never tried a noodle in her life).

Again, as the holiday approaches, think twice before offering advice or commenting on the type of foods so and so brought for their kids. We know what we’re feeding them. We know 99% of the time it’s not “healthy” or organic and that it’s probably genetically modified. We also know that it took our child 3 years to even lick that item, or touch it with their fingers. We celebrate the fact that they are eating SOMETHING!

Give parents a break and stop judging. Tis the season of thankfulness and good will toward men. Please remember that when you’re visiting families who have kids with selective eating disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism, or any other special needs.

**For anyone who has a selective eater here’s the goal of the DOR method courtesy of Skye, author of “Mealtime Hostage.”

“The goal here is not to teach your child to eat a wide variety of foods. The goal is to teach your child to enjoy eating. Once your child enjoys eating, they will naturally explore different foods from different food groups all on their own and in their own time.”

You can check out Skye’s amazing blog at http://mealtimehostage.com/ and also on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MealtimeHostage for more information

Credit given to Ellyn Satter for the creation of The Division of Responsibility Program http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/

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About Jessica

I am currently a stay at home mom to my two beautiful girls. B is 7, thoughtful, and has sensory challenges. C is 5, spirited, and keeps me on my toes. Before B, I was a special education teacher. She's taught me more in her 7 years than I learned in my 5.5 years in college and my seven years teaching combined :)
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13 Responses to Picky? Puhleez!

  1. Vicki says:

    Thank you. THANK YOU!!! You just described my son. Wow. We’ve always referred to it as resistant eating. We’ve done feeding therapy, and occupational therapy. He will not eat fruit, veggies or meat. WILL NOT eat them. It’s nice to know that we are not alone in this battle. I sure get judged but you can only understand when you live it first hand! Eating is a natural part of life. How sad it is when your child fears food!!

  2. LOVE this post. Love you. Thank you for speaking out and sticking up for B and all the other kids (like our C!) who have such a strong response to food. I always get anxious about the holidays. Other people’s food, loud environments. It’s so hard.

    Much love your way, always. You are an awesome mom and advocate.

  3. Hi Jessica, Gosh, this is one of those moments when I hate a computer. I just want to sit down with a good cup of tea (or beverage of your choice) and chat with you. Not only do I completely understand where you are coming from, I am one of those professionals who uses the term “picky eater” (although never in front of the child). Here’s what I struggle with: As a pediatric feeding therapist who regularly talks to parents with kids that range from non-oral eaters, to hesitant eaters, to selective eaters, to picky eaters and even adventurous eaters (and all the kids in between) the term I start with is “picky eater.” I have to use it in my blog posts, in the descriptions in my seminars, in articles for magazines. That’s because that’s the term that the general population understands and that’s what draws their interest at first. It’s also what parents “search under” to find help. Plus, my work involves the range of kids – including “picky.” Then, if I can begin to talk about all the ranges of feeding and eating challenges, I can begin to educate. Naturally, not every article or interview can cover the scope of what you and I know to be selective eating, etc. I’m very grateful for your post here. It offers insight and raises awareness, thank you! So many of the families that I have worked with have said “Oh if ONLY I had a picky eater! That would be so much easier” but in my experience treating kids for over 15 years, it’s not. It’s not easier. It’s all just very, very stressful and each family is unique. Please understand that I’m not disagreeing with your feelings. I’m trying to explain why I need to use this term, why I try to educate that there is a spectrum of feeding challenges and that we are all in this together. Just last weekend I opened my workshop at the Oklahoma Autism Conference with this exact same discussion – because I want parents to understand that picky is just one term that doesn’t encompass the variations that I encounter as a professional. Thank you for your article again – I’ll be pleased to share it on My Munch Bug’s page too later today.

  4. Ev says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  5. Sybil says:

    Well said, Jessica!! I have noticed a difference in O since starting the DOR method. He is much more comfortable around food and mealtimes. I love taking him to any restaurant that has tortilla chips (one of his favorites), because I know he will eat them, which means he is enjoying the whole experience of eating out with our family!

  6. Reblogged this on cheeriosmilkandspoon and commented:
    I am reblogging this here as I could not have written it better,

    Thank you Jessica

  7. Jen says:

    Awesome.
    I love that B ate that oatmeal cookie – good for her!! Major success.

  8. Nancy C. says:

    Well said!!!!

  9. Jillian Bean says:

    Great post! I am a pediatric feeding therapist who long ago relaxed completely about everything in therapy-I want my kids to be happy and be able to make choices about their food-and to just enjoy eating. I never judge my families-they so just want the best for their kids. They would not be trying therapy if they didn’t!

  10. mel says:

    Thank you! You described my life in a nutshell!

  11. Thank you for this. I have been dealing with my selective eater for 11 years. It’s so hard to make people understand who haven’t lived it.

  12. This is a great post for parents to read. I run Fruit and Vegetable classes for children in Australia. My main aim in class is to help parents stress less, understand what is happening for their child and enjoy a family mealtime. I love that you prioritize the mealtime laughter and story sharing. Good on ya!

  13. Reblogged this on Play with Food and commented:
    Yep, I post lots of healthy eating recipes and ideas. HOWEVER, this mummy has a very good message here. It is hard to think “healthy” all of the time when you know your child has sensory aversions to most foods. At Play with Food Classes, we try different approaches to see where the selected fruits and vegetables lie on the steps to eating hierarchy for your child. We want you to learn where your child is at and we want you to have a happy mealtime when you find that understanding.
    This is a US Blog so some of the terminology is different to what we may use. If you have any questions, contact me (Simone@playwithfood.com.au or ph: 0402696928)
    🙂 Simone

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