78 answers

Selective Eating Disorder

Has anyone heard of "selective eating disorder"? My 7 year old son has always been a picky eater. What is different about him, though, is that he's not a typical picky eater. I have read book after book and read many articles online about picky eating. They are comical for me to read because he is so beyond picky eating. His doctor thinks I over react. One day I decided, instead of looking up "picky eater", I searched for "childhood eating disorder". BINGO. I found a disorder called Selective Eating Disorder.

Let me discribe my son's eating habits. I have made a list of things he will eat and there are only about 15 items on that list. Nothing of nutrition. He has NEVER eaten a vegetable and the sight of one on his plate makes him vomit. We have tried "when he's hungry he'll eat" theory. A symptom of this disorder is that they will allow themselve to be hungry and can go days with hardly and food. They see food as discusting. When I asked my son about this he told me that most food looks very gross to him. Absolutly nothing has gotten him to eat healthy food. I could go on and on about his symptoms.

Does anyone else out there have a child like this? I'm so frustrated with people telling me all of the remedies for a picky eater. They don't work with him. We really pracice positive reinforcement to reduce his anxiety about food but it doesn't help him eat healthier.

He is normal weight and overall healthy. He doesn't eat healthy food. The small amount he does eat is very high carb food. Only one kind of friut, no veggies at all. No meat. He's afraid to try new food. If he does, he usually throws up. He says he feels different than other kids because of the way he eats and that he doesn't like being like this. I want to help him so much but I don't know where to find help for him. Any help would appreciated.

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So What Happened?™

I am amazed at how may responses I have gotten to this, both on this page and private messages. What is frustrating is that very little is known about this. Currently my son is 9 1/2 . We "fired" our previous Pediatrician and found one willing to really listen and find us help. He has been going to an Occupational therapist for about 6 months now. It is really refreshing to have him work with someone who truly sees this problem and isn't out to judge ME. When asked if the therapy is working, yes, but it is extremely small steps forward and sometimes big steps back. I worry about him daily. He is starting to gain a significant amount of weight. This is really bringing his self esteem down. The most frustrating thing is, right now, there isn't to much I can do to control the weight. He's already on a very limited diet, there isn't much to eliminate. We have to monitor the amount of food he eats, so he doesn't over eat the foods he does like. My goal is for him to be able to eat 1 vegetable and unprocessed chicken. N. D. thank you for your post. I really understand the dangers of this disorder. We are doing everything we possibly know to do to keep our child as healthy as we can. I wish there was a better understanding with Dr's. To all the parents who have kids with this problem. Listen to your gutt, and don't let other's judgements of you make you ignore the problem. You will know if your child is more than "just a picky eater". Find a new Dr. if they don't listen. Don't give up, because trust me, the kids don't like being this way any more than you do. My son would give almost anything to be "normal".

Featured Answers

I recommend having him tested for celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease or allergy to gluten which is a protein found in wheat, barley, spelt, and rye. He may not want to eat because certain foods actually make him physicially sick. You can find some info at www.celiac.org.

1 mom found this helpful

My grandson is just like this...my daughter says 100%. She would be willing to communicate with you by email if you like. She lives in upstate New York and my grandson is 7 years old. Let me know if you would like to hear from her. I am L. at ____@____.com

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More Answers

Hi N.-
Did you also come across something called Sensory Integration Disorder in your research? Or Sensory Processing Disorder? Same thing, different names. I am a pediatric occupational therapist and have worked with many children who are very picky eaters and their diet is similar to what you have mentioned: mostly carbs, avoid veggies and fruits. Different textures, smells, or tastes make them gag and, like your son, just the sight of them can trigger this sometimes. Most of these kids also have other issues as well: sensitive to different kinds of touch, smells, sounds, movement (either crave it and move around a lot, or get car sick easily), visual, etc.
You could make an appointment with a pediatric occupational therapist to have him evaluated. Ask your doctor for a prescription for an eval, as some places require one, and he'll need a prescription to get treated. If you are interested, I can give you the names of places in your area of town that have OT's. You can also take a look at "Just Take a Bite"--I forgot the authors names, but Amazon carries it.
Good luck! I know this can be terribly frustrating but having a name and reason to his behavior can be comforting--and, of course, knowing that there is a treatment!


3 moms found this helpful

Former anorexic myself, I started in high school, selectively choosing what I would eat, then became obsessive, eating disorders are not about weight they are about control, nothing in your life is controllable except what goes into your mouth. It may not be about fun ways to introduce foods, as much as it is a counselor to get to the root of his eating habits.

Good Luck,

2 moms found this helpful

I'm not an expert on this disorder, but I have six children and they've all had different "quirks" about eating at different times. My 8 year old boy who had seldom seen a vegetable pass his lips since he began feeding himself, and has a thing against cheese, surprised me the other day by asking for the "cheese with holes" on a sandwich and lettuce too. Once we bribed him with the thought "If you want to be an olympic pole vaulter you need to eat your vegetables. It worked for one piece of lettuce and no more. Alas!
We've always just tried to make the eating thing a "no big deal" area of our lives. I provide healthy meals that vary (half of the kids put their nose up at the enchiladas last night) but I request a taste since I went through the trouble making it. Then it can sit on the plate while we have polite conversation around the dinner table...we sit down together.

I put it on the plate...they may or may not eat it but,they haven't starved...junk food from outside sources just isn't around much...they can eat PJ sandwiches or cereal later, but not right after an uneaten meal. As they get older they're trying more things...especially if they see us enjoying the food.
Idea#1 Plant a garden together
#2 Cook & serve the meal together
#3 Assure your child that just because they feel a certain way about a food now doesn't mean they'll always feel that way
#4 Coach your child on how to act when encountering that food when with another person. (I've smiled while swallowing something with mayo on it many a time. GAG!)Sometimes they'll try something for someone else that they won't for us.
#5 Keep putting just a tiny amount of whatever you are eating on the plate...one day they'll try...maybe.

1 mom found this helpful

I don't have any issues like this but you may want to look into the Juice Plus vitamins for kids. If he will take them at least he will be getting the nurtrients he needs (fruits & veggies) until you can find him help.

Best wishes!!

1 mom found this helpful

While I am not familiar with what you describe, it sounds like you should strongly consider talking with a psychiatrist who deals with childhood eating disorders. That would honestly be my next step if we were dealing with this. Particularly since he is saying he feels different from the other kids and doesn't like it. Either talk as a family or individually; both are usually beneficial. Hopefully you can find someone and you can help your son. Best wishes!

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I may be off base about this but I have heard of a case where a child reacted that way about certain foods and it turned out the foods the child was avoiding were ones the child could not break down because of an enzyme their body did not make. It turned out the child just shunned the foods that caused the reaction and the parents and doctor were unaware of the condition for many years. Perhaps there is more going on that just a picky eater or even an eating disorder. I would look into it more, even if you have to seek the opinion of a different doctor.

1 mom found this helpful

I am BIG on nutrition, so I did a quick web search. I googled strong gag reflex just to see what I would find. I wanted to see something like a certain candy or losenge that would calm the reflex OR make your son LESS sensitive to different textures in his mouth. (I too have a beyond picky eater). My son has a texture issue. So, what I found w/ the gag reflex search was hypnotherapy!!! Listing after listing was the same. It is definitly something to try. One, it's not exactly 'therapy' so your son's esteem won't be harmed. And it's not a drug where side effects could harm him. Even if you find a true diagnosis of the eating disorder, I think the hypnotherapy would help. The only experience I have w/ that is my mom. She had it done to quit smoking 20 yrs ago. It's the only thing that made her quit. I applaud you for researching your son's symptoms and supporting him. You sound like a wonderful mother. I would do anything it takes to get him to eat healthy. Even if it takes making popsicles out of whatever juice he likes w/ a (broken) capsule of spirulina. That is a blue algae that humans could live on even if no food existed. Your local health store could help you. Like there is strawberry protein powder you could mix as a shake...or freeze into a popsicle. I think that cold stuff is easier for that 'gag' reflex. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi N. -

If he is healthy and at a normal weight, why not view this differently. He says he feels different and he clearly acts differently re foods - actually getting sick.

There are two ideas that I can think of - have you ever heard of eating for your blood type? There is a book out on this. I read it and found that all the foods I am highly allergic to, are those that are not good at all for my body, re blood type - interesting!!! This is based on over 25 years of research, which the book talks about in full detail. I think it would be worth looking into for your son.

Another idea - have you read up on Indigo and Crystal children? I would google this and be ready to have an open mind when you are reading about these kids. Your son seems to fit what I have read about some of these children. Although some eat only low-sugar stuff, there are some that don't eat much at all and want what your son wants - those carbs.

If he is throwing up at sight, I would consider that his body just beats to a different drum and he seems to understand this so maybe everyone else needs to support him in that - as long as he is of normal weight. We are seeing more and more of this happening in society - many are beating to a different drum and rather than fitting into categorizing in a negative way, as our Western World can do, people are beginning to accept and appreciate the differences - realizing there is nothing "wrong".

Good luck and blessings to your son!

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