picky, picky

July 7, 2010

a new eating disorder?

picky-eater staple: the all-american grilled cheese
in pediatrics, one of the more challenging topics to broach at a clinic visit is nutrition. i am not kidding when i say that in my resident primary care clinic, it was the exception rather than the rule to have a patient on the healthy area of the weight-for-age or BMI growth curve.

not all of my patients were overweight — oh no, i had plenty of failure-to-thrive kids on my panel to balance things out. interestingly, one thing that both groups tended to have in common was pickiness. older adolescents would proudly admit this outright (“i don’t eat green things”), while parents of toddlers often expressed frustration about their kids’ unwillingness to tolerate even carefully shrouded vegetables in their meals.

i came across this wall street journal article and learned that apparently, this doesn’t always end in adulthood!

taken from the article, here is one adult’s ‘typical day’ of eating:

processed to the max, and OH what a lonely existence to always avoid eating with friends!

the article refers to this sort of rigidity as ‘a new eating disorder’ called selective eating. i don’t know — sometimes i wonder about the medicalization of certain traits which seem to stem more from environment. then again, i certainly could see how being this limited would be detrimental (both health-wise and psychologically) and might warrant treatment, so maybe the label would be a good thing.

i grew up eating tofu and homemade whole wheat bread. my parents DID accuse my sister and me of pickiness at times, but i think it was more wanting to eat what ‘normal’ kids had. they never prepped a special ‘kids dinner’ for us; until the ridiculously busy high school years, there was one meal served and really no alternatives. i may have groused back then, but to this day i’ll try almost anything as long as i’m not ethically opposed to it.

i hope to do the same when we have kids — but of course it IS different with every kid and you never know how things are going to play out!

were you a picky eater growing up? how about now?

do you think this should be classified as ‘disorder’ or is it just a product of our society?

if you have kids, what kind of strategies do you use to avoid this picky fate?

into the swing of things
for anyone curious, my first day ‘on the pager’ went just fine! it turned out not to be a terribly busy day (NO new consults – just follow-ups) so i had plenty of time to get eveything done. there is so much to learn, though! i tried to treat every page i got with a question as a chance to look up something new. maybe after a few months of this i’ll actually feel like i know something about pediatric endocrinology . . .



workout: 5 miles with 2 @ tempo.
miles 0-1.5: 9:12/mi
miles 1.5 – 3.5: 8:12/mi average
miles 3.5 – 5: 9:08/mi


cooking: did not happen.

HP update: i have one day left to focus on my current resolution of keeping work and play separate. while i haven’t been perfectly adherent to my resolution, just having it out there has made me more aware when i think about checking my non-work email or (horrors!) facebook at work or opening up our hospital lab system to check on things randomly in the evening at home.

i think this is okay — after all, there is a time and a place for taking breaks during work, and if done sparingly, it can be a nice reward for a longer period of focused productivity. but doing so consciously and with intention is the way to go. i’ll be continuing to work on this throughout the month but will add on another goal tomorrow!


  • Reply Diana March 10, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    That typical meal makes me sad b/c it&#39s so true! sounds like what most of my co-workers and probably friends eat. blech! I was pretty picky growing up, but my parents always encouraged me to eat healthy and would take us to farms to pick our own veggies, which of course made us want to eat them. I think learning where your food came from helps you eat better. Now I LOVE veggies! 🙂

  • Reply Elizabeth Edith March 10, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    Coincidental – I read that article about 2 minutes before I read your post. I generally like it when people from the triangle area (Heather Hill) make national news, but I like it even more when it&#39s for good things :-/

    My original reaction was, "no way, I&#39m not picky at all", but after thinking a little, despite the fact that I can eat and enjoy the taste of almost anything, I choose to be a pescatarian, and a lot of people consider that to be being picky, which annoys me, since it&#39s not about the taste, it&#39s about the way the meat was raised. I could keep ranting in run-on sentences, but I think I&#39ll just write a post about it, so thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    I do think it should be classified as a disorder. I think if people heard their problem was a legitimate disorder, they&#39d be more likely to get help. If more people needed help, best practices for helping people would be developed and taught to health professionals, and the process would be easier for everyone. I may change my mind about this in 20 minutes, but that sounds good to me for now.

  • Reply Sara March 10, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    It&#39s funny you posted on this topic, because my boyfriend is SUCH a picky eater. I never thought of this as something to be called a &#39disorder&#39 though. He just doesn&#39t like certain tastes and textures. We wouldn&#39t call someone who disliked only spinach disordered, or even someone who disliked three types of vegetables. So where would the line be? Perhaps someone who is experience serious quality of life issues (e.g. can&#39t go out to restaurants or eat with friends) then perhaps it could be diagnosable… but I&#39m not sure.

  • Reply inmytummy March 10, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    People call me a picky eater now, but I&#39m really not. I just don&#39t like fast food and fried stuff and things of that sort.

  • Reply Jess March 10, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    I was a very picky kid and gradually grew out of it. I think most people do and it could only be classified as an eating disorder in extreme cases like the one in your post.

  • Reply atilla March 10, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    I&#39m picky….anything I can pick up I&#39ll eat

  • Reply caryn March 10, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    I actually do not remember either Sarah or her sister being picky at all, and it is true that I made only one dinner each night. I think that parents that cater to their children&#39s pickiness do them a disservice. Assuming the meals are healthy, there should be no reason (unless, of course there are real allergies involved)for making a multitude of different things. Sarah and her sister could tell you that I started them on plain unsweetened yogurt when they were babies, somethng that most adults will not eat.

    This a complicated topic, however. I like every vegetable and guess that that is true or mostly true of Sarah and her sister, but is that something we inherited, or was it the nutrition nurturing that we received?

    Another point is that picky eater adults most likely do not feed their children food that they, themselves, will not eat, thus continuing the picky eater cycle. Like everything else, parents need to be good role models for their children if their children are going to acquire good habits.

    – Mom

  • Reply BroccoliHut March 10, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    I read that same article! Nancy Zucker, who is quoted in the article, was one of my favorite professors in my time at Duke. She told us some crazy stories of picky eaters like you described in your post.

  • Reply Molly March 10, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    I&#39m not even slightly picky, mostly because I just love to eat. My kids are moderately picky, on par with the average kid, I think. The decision I&#39ve had to make is whether I want to have them enjoy eating or whether our "eating table" will become a battlefield. I think that a family dinner table has so many benefits in terms of both food and family bonding that I elected more for the former than the latter. I do make two meals some nights (the kids&#39 meal being fairly simple), but the rule is that they at least have to try one bite of everything on our plates. Several times, after 3-4 small bites at separate meals, they discover they like it. Happened last night with broccoli and I did quite the little victory dance (can&#39t believe I&#39m admitting to that!). The kids didn&#39t feel forced or criticized and we still had a good outcome. There are lots of things we do as parents that we thought we wouldn&#39t do, like two meals, but overall, I&#39m pretty pleased with how the monsters are turning out (and we do let them order from the kids&#39 menu at restaurants, when we&#39re brave enough to take all of them out!).

  • Reply The Happy Runner March 10, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    I guess I&#39m lucky b/c my son tries most everything at least once. I introduced him to fruits and veggies as his first foods, though, not rice cereal. I had read that avocado is a better first food than rice and I went with it. He loved it. From there, I just expanded on what I gave him. maybe that&#39s why he&#39ll try new things? I also don&#39t make special meals for him. If he doesn&#39t like what I serve for dinner, he&#39s more or less out of luck.

  • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger March 10, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    molly and happy: you both definitely sound like you know what you are talking about! as someone in peds AND future parent, i really appreciate your experienced perspectives!

    molly also you are my hero with 3 at this point. YOU AMAZE ME!

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