Picky eating is a curse! Harsh words, maybe so, but it is true. Too many years I have spent avoiding some of the world's best flavours, yummiest fruits and vegetables and much much more! It takes years of practice to develop skills of dodging the foods that you don’t like. Never really admitting to anyone that you are simply scared of it. Guilty on all charges here!
I can talk about it openly these days at a mature age of 37. Haha… I can list a selection of fruit and veggies that I still don’t eat, but there is a difference now. I have actually tried it all and didn’t like it by choice, not by fear.
I don’t claim to have all the answers here. I don’t know all the techniques that could be useful in helping you with your fear of food or your fussy and picky eating habits. This is simply a story about me and how I overcame my struggles and what helped me along the way.
How I overcame my Fussy and Picky eating habits.
Me, the picky eater.
I was a very picky eater, no doubt about that! I reckon borderline ridiculous! Hahaha… I was so scared of vegetables that it caused me to loose out on a lot of things in life. Yes, a lot!! For starters there were times when my parents offered me prizes for eating specific food, but it never worked on me. One story comes to mind every time I talk about my fear of food.
When I was about 7 years old, about the age of our daughter Lily, I was faced with a choice: eat a sandwich with two slices of tomato and get a kids motorbike as a present, or don’t eat it and get nothing. I remember sitting in the kitchen staring at the window with tears running down my cheeks. It was not fun at all. Two red slices of tomato burning the terrifying image into my brain, that I carry with me all my life. Yup, really scary stuff when you are 7 years old.
Tomato, to this day, is my number one nemesis and it is the fruit that I will forever associate with a ball of snot! Hahaha… I know that some of you just went: What?! This magical and evil fruit looks a bit like that to me. When you slice it in half all the snots fall out! Hahaha… Yup, that’s just me. However, this very unappealing (to me) tomato is present in almost everyday of my life. Take for example pizza, pasta or lasagne. These days, some of my favourite food on earth, but it hasn’t been like that always.
I think my first time I had pizza was when I was in my late twenties. Missing out! I know. I even went to Italy when I was 17 and did not eat any of the Italian cuisine. Much different from our Italian honeymoon two years ago. My second trip to this greatest pizza and pasta centre of the world was filled with all things tomato based. How do I explain it? Simple. Travel helped me with my fear of food. The more I travel, the more I want more. The overwhelming desire to explore new places and new things, somehow overpowers the fears! Theses days in every country we visit, I will try everything! Well, minus one small fruit. Yes, the evil tomato! Hahaha…
Food Neophobia – Fear of Food
As I started to research my fear of tomato and all other foods which I class as “no thanks”, I came across the definition of food neophobia.
According to the National Institute of Health, it goes a bit like this:
Two factors have been shown to contribute to rejection or acceptance of fruits and vegetables: food neophobia and ‘picky/fussy' eating. Food neophobia is generally regarded as the reluctance to eat, or the avoidance of, new foods. In contrast, ‘picky/fussy' eaters are usually defined as children who consume an inadequate variety of foods through rejection of a substantial amount of foods that are familiar (as well as unfamiliar) to them.
I think I will put a giant tick under both of those. For the longest time I was living in denial, never admitting my fear, but why? I don’t know. But I do know what helped me. Travel is the key, but you have to travel with someone that is not afraid of food. Yes, the opposite of yourself. In my case it was my wife. Until I met Jolene, I was living in the world of predominantly 2 spices; Salt and Pepper. In my fridge, you would find only a few vegetables, like carrots, potatoes and mushrooms. That is the extent of my life long lessons in how to eat healthy… Yes, I did mention, that I started exploring the food a bit more and started eating pizza in my late twenties. The only way that I will ingest tomato sauce into my mouth is in minuet amounts and under a layer of meat and cheese. That is it… Ok, continue. Travel with my wife has helped me with my fear of vegetables and opened up my mind to so many beautiful and extraordinary tastes and flavours!
Why you should try new food?
A lot of people in my life had different reactions to my fussy and picky eating. Most of the times I heard words like; “Really?”, “Why?” “That’s ridiculous! You have never tried it?” or “You should just try it!”. These words never really bothered me, I do what I want anyways, but I missed out on a lot because of it.
If someone really wants to help you to overcome your fear, the encouragement approach should be a little bit more like this, I think: “Would you like to try a bit? It’s really delicious.” Jolene described the tastes to me and never pushed me. It is my choice after all and it shouldn’t be judged. You can’t push someone out of a plane and expect them to love skydiving just like you do. It takes time to understand the thrill of the ride and the benefits of opening yourself to new horizons.
Nowadays I love trying new food, even the ones that gross me out with its look, but I know that I don’t have to like it. The curiosity is another key factor in overcoming the fear of food. I would put curiosity equally as powerful as a fear. So I guess it cancels each other out, when faced with the choice.
Tips for picky eating
Ok, so lets simplify it. These are some tips for picky eating that helped me with my fear of food:
- Travel to destinations that excite your taste buds. For example: If you are after Italian cuisine, go to Italy!
- Travel with someone with a strong craving for new delicious food.
- Let your curiosity fight your fear.
- Face your fears, nothing gives you better sense of satisfaction than to conquer them.
- And the last one: If you don’t want to try something, simply don’t and feel good about it.
Yes, so I called my picky eating habits a curse. Well, just like in all the movies that you watch, all curses can be broken. Mine has! Yes, it has taken quite a long time, but better late then never.
Are your ready to face your neophobia or picky eating?
Do you have any other tips of what helped you with your fear of food?
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