Sunday, 1 February 2015

Growing up picky

When you are young people expect you to be a little fussy with food, but not to the extent I was. I would insist that I didn't like foods I had never tried, which may be reasonably normal but this has continued to adulthood.

It wasn't just that I refused to eat these things, it was how badly I refused that was the problem. I would get really upset about even the suggestion of eating certain things and a lot of food made me feel sick.

I also had to have foods prepared a certain way, or some foods could only be eaten with other foods. For example when I was really young I wouldn't eat any other vegetable but tinned carrots, if mum made fresh carrots I could tell the difference and wouldn't eat them. I eventually refused to eat all carrots for some reason, although they are one of only four vegetables I eat now as an adult.

For the most part, my picky eating really wasn't too much of a problem as a kid. Mum was really good about it and never forced anything on me or tried to hide vegetables in food (that's never a good idea, no matter what that television advert says, it creates trust issues). Sure she encouraged, and even sometimes begged me to eat things that were a bit more healthy; but she knew there was an issue here and never forced food on me.

School was a different matter, the food was horrible and you were forced to sit there until a teacher said you had eaten enough and could leave. I pretty much never got to leave, it was those potatoes. I hated those, the roast potatoes were sort of hard but also squishy and the boiled potatoes, although peeled, had a weird skin on them that made them inedible to me. I would happily eat both boiled and roast potatoes at home, although after a few years of being forced to at least try the school ones I started refusing boiled ones.

I tried as much as possible to get my mum to make me a packed lunch, but it wasn't always possible. for a while I got free school meals due to the family income and I sort of had to take them. It was awful. I went to a very small school and the teachers and dining room staff knew that I was 'funny' with food, but no one went out of their way to make life any easier, although in fairness I don't know what they could have done. The dinner ladies would say 'no veg for you' when I was telling them what I wanted because they knew me that well, they would then ask me if I wanted boiled or roast potatoes and when I said neither they told me I had to have one or the other. If they had just let me not have the potatoes lunch time would have been such a better experience, perhaps I could have finished my lunch like all of the other kids. Instead in my seven years of primary school, not once did I finish a school lunch. Oh and don't get me started on the puddings!

I still don't have much of a sweet tooth these days but back then I was even worse. I didn't eat anything sweet at all apart from cheesecake which my mum made from time to time, and a caramel slice type thing that the school would occasionally have; IF I could get them not to put custard on it! They would always cover your pudding in custard, whether you wanted it or not. Custard was actually the one other sweet thing I liked, but I liked cold custard from a can not this abomination of warm lumpy stuff that very vaguely resembled warm custard. Why on earth they cared whether I ate custard or not I really don't know, but whether you wanted it or not, you got custard on your pudding. It made me feel sick with those weird lumps in it.

High school was much better because you weren't made to eat a meal, you could have other things like chips or sandwiches and sometimes they had burgers too. I survived high school on chips and cheese or chicken sandwiches but at least I was eating something. School was a long day for me since I had to travel so far to get there so it was important that I at least ate something during the day. I would always come home from school starving because all I had eaten was a tiny portion of chips (they were meant as a side order) or a sandwich.

I avoided staying over at friends' houses because I didn't want to eat unfamiliar food, or to have to explain to a friend's mum that I couldn't eat something. I knew I had a strange relationship with food, but I didn't know till much later that I had a real problem. I have an eating disorder.

Actually the idea of me having an eating disorder wasn't entirely new to me, my doctor had mentioned to my mum that she was concerned that I might have bulimia in my early teens because I was sick so often and ate very little. Truth was I was literally terrified of being sick, I used to have full blown panic attacks where I was sure I was going to die pretty much every time I even felt like I might be sick. I am sure that made my food issues worse because if a food made me sick I would never eat it again in case I was sick again. There was no way I was deliberately making myself sick! I also never lost any weight or binge ate, which are both common with bulimia and although I was always overweight, I never cared about it. I wasn't a self-conscious kid, never cared what people thought of me. So the idea of bulimia was thankfully dismissed, unfortunately so was any attempt to find out what the problem actually was.

I saw the dietician once or twice, but she just told me I needed to eat better, which I already knew, and tried to convince me that I had to eat fruit and vegetables. No one ever tried to understand what the problem actually was, or if there was actually anything else that could be done to help me.

I honestly don't know if there is anything that can be done to help people like me, but it wouldn't have hurt for someone to try. At the very least it would have stopped me from shying away from doctors who clearly weren't going to actually try and do anything to help. I had bad kidneys growing up and was always in and out of hospital, but I wouldn't engage with treatment really because every time I went in they would weigh me, tell me I was overweight and that I needed to eat more fruits and vegetables. I stopped attending the renal clinic in my late teens, there wasn't really any point in going anymore. they told me there was nothing they could do for me anyway and the only thing they did do was moan at me about my weight.

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