Have you ever been labeled a “picky eater?” Does one of your loved ones struggle with their relationship with food? Do you get overwhelmed at events with food because you’re not sure if there are going to be options you enjoy?
Just a reminder if you are struggling with your relationship with food or body in any capacity, you deserve to get care and treatment. In this post, we discuss 6 signs of ARFID.
ARFID vs Picky Eating
I want to be clear that “picky eating” isn’t necessarily a “bad” trait. Some people have more limited palettes and don’t enjoy certain foods or categories of food. If those people are eating enough and able to overall enjoy activities that surround food, there is no reason to pathologize their eating habits. Fruits and vegetables aren’t going to be everyone’s favorite foods and that is totally okay. We can consume the vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables through other means (both through foods and supplements). The judgment that is projected on limited eaters comes from diet culture and a narrow definition of health. There are many, many ways we can prioritize health if that matters to us that doesn’t have to do with eating certain foods. This includes going to regular doctor appointments, engaging in self-care, spending time with loved ones, and eating *enough* food.
That all being said, if you or a loved one’s limited palette leads to malnutrition by an extremely limited food intake or prevents you from doing things you love, it’s possible the “picky eating” could be something more. This is known as Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, or ARFID. Now let’s discuss some signs of ARFID.
6 Signs of ARFID
Please note: these 6 signs are absolutely not all-encompassing. If you think you or a loved one is struggling with ARFID we are here to help. Contact us today to learn more. We are happy to set up a complimentary discovery call to learn about you or a loved one and to share how we might be able to help.
1. Forgetting to Eat or Lack of Interest in Food
Many people with ARFID have a general lack of interest in food or eating. They may forget to eat. Even if they are hungry, they may choose not to eat if there are no foods available they like. Food is oftentimes not interesting to someone with ARFID.
Many people with ARFID are unable to consume enough energy (or calories) to fuel their body’s day-to-day activities. This leads to fatigue, lack of focus, and other physical symptoms (dizziness, coldness, low heart rate…). Additionally, malnutrition causes an increase in food anxiety and thoughts. It can actually make it mentally difficult for someone with ARFID to eat more if they are already malnourished.
3. Disruption of Social Life
Social events can be anxiety provoking for someone with ARFID because there are minimal, if any, food options for them at these events. A person with ARFID may feel uncomfortable and unsure how to navigate events like dinners, holidays, or work or school parties.
4. Extreme Aversion to Certain Tastes, Textures, and Smells
Someone with “picky eating” preferences of course chooses to not eat certain foods. If presented with food options they dislike, they will likely politely decline. Their palette may be minimal, but their aversion to non-preferred foods is typically mild. However, Those who struggle with ARFID often find their aversion to non-preferred foods is moderate to severe. It may even be difficult to be in the same vicinity as certain foods, even if they aren’t eating them. For example, if a client doesn’t like ketchup, and someone around them is eating ketchup, they may be extremely turned off by just the smell.
5. Physical Reaction to Trying Certain Foods
Some people with ARFID might gag or feel the urge to vomit after trying new foods or eating foods they already have an aversion to.
6. Fear of Choking or Vomiting
Do you or a loved one have a fear of choking or vomiting after eating? Some people with ARFID have this fear. Sometimes the fear began after a traumatic event – like having a horrible vomiting episode or a choking event. Sometimes people with ARFID have this fear without ever vomiting or choking. This fear might lead to developing strong negative associations with foods they suspect could cause choking or vomiting.
How Courage to Nourish Can Help Treat ARFID
Thank you for reading our post on the 6 signs of ARFID. Whether you believe you or a loved one is struggling with ARFID or you are a “picky eater,” Courage to Nourish is here to help. We support our clients in finding ways to fuel enough throughout the day and expand their palettes if they wish. We take a gentle, collaborative, and non-judgmental approach.
Courage to Nourish is a group of eating disorder specialized dietitians. We have in person locations in Alexandria, Virginia, Columbia, Maryland. and College Park, Maryland. We offer virtual services across the state of Virginia, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. We offer individual nutrition therapy. As well as support groups. We would love to guide you in building a better relationship with food.
Alex is the founder and owner of Courage to Nourish. She opened Courage to Nourish to create a practice that aligns with her values in eating disorder recovery. She is a Certified Eating Disorder Dietitian and Approved Supervisor through iaedp. Alex loves working with children, high school and college students as well as athletes. Additionally, Alex is a proud anti-diet dietitian and works with her clients through a Health At Every Size © and intuitive eating framework. Read more about Alex here.