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to want to tackle my 12 year old on her restrictive eating?

(111 Posts)
NewYearsEvelyn Fri 11-Jan-13 14:00:02

She has always been a poor eater. We've had battles since she was tiny and food is her favourite weapon. She has, with me persistently pushing her, got to the point where she eats fish, chicken, beef, lamb,turkey. She will eat chips but not roast potatoes or mash and pasta, dry of course. She will eat carrots, cucumber, peppers. She has rice krispies with a little milk. She likes bread and some cheeses. She will eat fruit. This sounds quite good BUT it all has to be cooked a certain way, has to look a certain way and if anything is touched by sauce of any kind, it will not be eaten, even if it just touches the edges. She is less fussy than she used to be about things like chips, but she is still very fussy with food.

Her dad doesn't help as he doesn't see it as an issue. We manage as a family unit with this BUT he doesn't see all the times when we go out with her friends and their mums and the eye rolling that goes on...the limits to where we can eat that has to be dealt with and the increased stress she is put under in those circumstances.

The question I'm asking is, was I out of order this morning raising this matter and telling her that she has a problem? It was in the context of her complaining about food tech and how 'useless' it is. I tried to tell her it would be good for her to learn more about food and to try new things and she objected so strongly and started to get upset. I have outlined to her that we can cater to her needs at home, but that she will have issues in the real world in future and actually, she does now. We can't easily go out to friends for meals. We went away with a friend recently and couldn't eat in a number of restaurants with her because she won't eat pizza, pasta with sauce or anything similar. We had a big, bosting stand up row this morning and she was distraught, which made me feel awful, but I would not back down. Now I wonder if I should have.

I don't want to give her an eating disorder, but she is a really clever, thoughtful kid and I think if I give her this info at the right time she will actually look at her behaviour with food and start to revisit her strategies. What do you think. Was I unreasonable to raise it? Should I not make an issue of it?? Help, please...

Kayano Fri 11-Jan-13 14:04:39

do you not think by ' battling' her you have made it MORE of an issue. She know it bugs you so she has dug he heels in. Just ignore an disengage an let's he get on with it.

ps, I will only eat raw veg - annothing for some but it not exactly a harmful big deal. an if coleslaw touches my salad - forget it! I'd rather not eateat.

I do think you will mmake it worse pushing the issue all the time.

sing left to my own devices I eat a lot more!

Kayano Fri 11-Jan-13 14:05:57

She can ask for pasta by itself with no sauce surely?

DumSpiroSperHoHoHo Fri 11-Jan-13 14:21:53

I think you need to stop making an issue of it for the time being (really hard I know) and perhaps see your GP on your own and see if they think it is just fussiness or something more involved that might benefit from some kind of therapy.

lljkk Netherlands Fri 11-Jan-13 14:22:33

It sounds to me like you are perpetuating the battle by trying to get her to change. it's the worst age to crack down on them for trivial things (and yes, compared to what else a 12-14yo has to deal with, it's trivial).

I'm with your DH. Hands off.

I do sympathise, DS4yo is similar, restrictive diet & very fussy HOW it's presented & prepared. Sometimes in restaurants he doesn't eat & otherwise we can usually order chips (he does usually eat). Would your DD have had bread roles in the pizza joint? I think most of them would have that available. And a glass of juice. That might just have to be her whole meal until some other snack can be obtained that meets her exacting requirements.

DumSpiroSperHoHoHo Fri 11-Jan-13 14:23:22

BTW - as far as going out is concerned, most places are pretty obliging.

We went for pizza recently with a friend of DD's who doesn't eat tomatoes so we just asked if they could leave the sauce off. Basically she had cheese and ham on toast but she was happy and ate the lot!

manicbmc Fri 11-Jan-13 14:25:12

Does she have any SEN? I only ask as it's a rather common trait in ASD kids that they hate food touching and find sauces or foods that are 'mixed' hard to cope with.

Could you do some food prep with her at home or get her cooking her own meals so she has things the way she wants?

Sirzy Fri 11-Jan-13 14:26:41

Sounds like I was at that age. I was very fussy and set in my way about food.

I have managed to grow into an adult who will try most things and manage to eat a full balanced diet. I still wont eat fried foods though and don't like a lot of meats.

If you make a big issue of it then it is more likely to become a battle ground. She is eating and from your list a lot more than I did. Don't pander to her fussiness but at the same time don't make it a big issue.

sooperdooper Fri 11-Jan-13 14:28:16

I think you're right to have brought it up, she is taking it to extremes where it's effecting what you can and can't do

If you eat out, do you order for her, check menus beforehand etc? Surely there must be something on most menus she will eat? If not, does she make the specific requests herself or do you make them for her? Maybe if she has to ask herself she would back down and try something different?

1NewMessage Fri 11-Jan-13 14:30:35

I would let it lie too.

FWIW I work with a woman who won't touch any kind of cooked veg or any sauces whatsoever. I personally hate if food types are mixed, I like it all separate so I can choose the ratio of foods I have in my mouth at one time. Both me and my colleague are pretty normal and manage to eat out smile

We all have our 'things'.

NewYearsEvelyn Fri 11-Jan-13 14:31:12

That's helpful Kayano, thankyou, and I know we all have likes and dislikes about food to some degree, but I just worry so much that she misses out by having 'issues' around food. I have no doubt I contributed to them, but it is so hard as a mum to sit back and watch a child with a restricted diet become fussier and fussier. She only has the range she has because I have battled and cajoled and probably bullied her into eating certain foods. If I had ignored it earlier on she'd still be eating dry pasta and bread, chocolate biscuits, chips and cucumber, which she fixated on as a toddler!

We did end up in an Italian the last time we ate out with friends and she had ceaser salad without the dressing and the parmesan. So I paid £15 for a chicken breast and lettuce. Oh, and she left the lettuce! It almost makes me laugh, typing it out now, but it drives me insane.

I really think it will impact on her when she starts going out with friends. They'll want pizza or to eat Mexican or Indian and she'll have to stay home or say no because all she wants to eat is chips and chicken! It's life limiting...

I know making a big issue out of it will make it worse and I swear, I don't raise it often. Do you really think ignoring it is best??? Is there nothing I can do to make her eat a bigger range of food?

Sirzy Fri 11-Jan-13 14:32:56

Would you be happy if someone was forcing you to try something you didn't like or didn't want to eat?

valiumredhead Fri 11-Jan-13 14:33:22

Let it lie!

She could have had plain pasta at a restaurant.

valiumredhead Fri 11-Jan-13 14:35:20

She might well broaden her horizons later on. Personally I would completely ignore while making sure she takes a good multi vit.

LibraryMum8 Fri 11-Jan-13 14:37:28

I so sympathize but I agree hands off. As far as restaurants the things you mentioned they would probably have...fruit plate, etc. if this is the way she is, fine but she is going to have to learn eat around what she won't eat.

Easy for me to say, I'm sure hard to do, but I'd let her take some responsibility - have her make up her meals as she likes them, not you, if she's going to eat differently. I would not limit where I wanted to eat out at all, she's best to learn now how to eat around things - she might be doing it her whole life.

DeWe Fri 11-Jan-13 14:43:24

Dd1 is like this, she's also 12.
In her case she was a brilliant eater as a baby and toddler-right the way up to pneumonia at age 8. Since then we've got less and less she eats. If we have it too often she goes off it because she's had too much. Unfortunately there's 7 days in the week and about 5 things she eats without complaining.

I don't make a fuss over it. She'll try stuff, so that's fine. I try to make sure there's something she'll eat, even if it's just the pastry on the outside. She was only eating raw veg-now she's got a loose tooth, that apparenly hurts, so she can't eat it.

We get the tgrembling bottom lip when we go somewhere there's nothing she likes to eat, but she knows it's not going always with what she likes. If there really is nothing, she can have fruit when she gets home.

SirBoobAlot Fri 11-Jan-13 14:46:34

You're going to make things worse if you make it in to more of an issue. Access someone for her to talk to about it, if she wants, but don't make her feel bad about it.

NewYearsEvelyn Fri 11-Jan-13 14:47:12

Thank you all so much for your measured responses.

Dumspiro I did speak to GP about it and he said it was probably because she was an only child, I should have more hmm. That advice was particularly useful as I have had recurrent miscarriages before and after dd and she will never have siblings. I have changed doctors since and maybe should see this new one about it.

IIjkk you are right.

Manic - she has no SN as far as I'm aware (I'm a SEN TA, so recognised that too) though she does have a bit of a thing about control, likes watching the same dvds over and over, she hates loud noises and she is really sensitive with her food. On the flip side, she's socially able and has no real issues with school or life in general, apart from food! She definitely has some autistic traits, but I think she's just a really controlled/control-freak type personality. She is great with children with special needs too...perhaps she is on the spectrum, or brushing up against it at the very least.

Sooper We do generally pre-check menus and restaurants. We got caught out on a trip to London with friends where we struggled like buggery to get food for her during the day. She ate toast and chicken ceaser salad (no salad, no dressing, just the chicken really) all day. Breakfast was a delight, though, as they had a fruit bar and a toaster. Happy days!

1NewMessage I don't think it's going to go away, so maybe I just need to wrap my head around it.

I'm in bits at the moment, because I know I shouldn't have entered into a row with her about it. We were both crying before school because I am a little hormonal and she was just enraged with me! I explained to her that I really didn't want to upset her and I only worry about it because I want her to have the fullest life she can and I don't want her to miss out. She understands why I worry about it, but she says she's alright (which I know she is) and she is a tall, willowy blonde with few health issues and a lively life. She is, perhaps, being more pragmatic about this than I am... Thank you so much for your advice though. Looks like I have a little making up to do this evening.

CailinDana Fri 11-Jan-13 14:49:30

Let it go. Food is such a personal thing, forcing someone to eat things or questioning their food choices will gets most people's backs up straight away. I can understand your worries but making her conscious of it and berating her for it will absolutely not help.

Have you ever asked her why she is so restrictive with food?

NewYearsEvelyn Fri 11-Jan-13 14:55:00

I can't believe how helpful everyone is being. Thank you. I am taking on board everything that you're saying. I thought I'd get loads of, 'you made a rod for your own back there' kind of comments, so I'm really pleased no-one has gone there.

She does do o.k. on the whole. I try so hard not to baby her, but I think I do protect her totally from the eating issue. With her being an 'only' I can meal plan around her. DH and I have suffered as a result though and have eaten way too many chips this year! That stops now. She can eat what she can, I'll cook a portion of whatever we eat without sauce, but I'll explain we all need to eat more heathily as a family and she can make herself pasta if she wants to or eat what we are having...her choice.

I don't make her eat what she doesn't want to and have tried so hard this past few years to be chilled. I just flipped this morning though...I can see that she sees food as just fuel and not something to be enjoyed. She'll probably never struggle with obesity with that attitude, but I can't stop myself feeling like she's missing out. Thanks for your advice everyone. It's so much appreciated.

CailinDana Fri 11-Jan-13 14:55:23

X-posted. It sounds like she could be on the spectrum and needs control over her food as a comfort thing. If that's the case I would absolutely let it go completely - challenging her on it will only increase her anxiety and possibly make the situation a lot worse. I used to work with children with ASD and when the school misguidedly tried to root out the comfort obsessions of some of the children, all that ever happened was that the child developed a more severe, more dangerous obsession, often involving hurting themselves. So a child who flapped a scarf suddenly started biting himself, another child who was into dinosaurs stopped talking altogether. We all have things that make us a bit quirky and different - hers is a little extreme but it's not rude, it doesn't hurt anyone and it won't affect her health so there's no need to tackle it. She may decide to tackle it herself later on, at which point your support will be needed but for the time being just apologise for this morning, make it clear you are backing off but that you will always be there to talk if she needs it, and don't mention it again.

lljkk Netherlands Fri 11-Jan-13 14:55:32

Well done OP for being open-minded. It was a point of derision for my mother if a person was very close-minded about foods, so hard for me to understand people who can be so ridiculously rigid in their preferences. DS sometimes drives me mad too. DH's whole family are close-minded about most foods, they just love staying within their little comfort zones.

CailinDana Fri 11-Jan-13 15:00:14

How would she respond to doing a meal for the family once a week do you think? Having that level of control might be great for her. Equally it could be huge pressure so check carefully first.

Be very wary of projecting your own views and feelings on things onto her. As a teenager I was very bookish and was often told I was "missing out" because I didn't enjoy drinking and clubbing. I was absolutely not missing out, just because others my age enjoyed it didn't mean I should. Those sorts of comments made me feel freakish and left out, because I couldn't force myself to like something just because others expected me to. If she's not into food, then she's not into food, that's just how she is. She eats enough to keep her going and as you say will never be obese, so it's all fine really.

NewYearsEvelyn Fri 11-Jan-13 15:00:51

CailinDana she says she doesn't like food. She dislikes the taste of most things and doesn't really have a favourite food. Food is just something to be endured for her. I've tried to explain she hasn't tasted most things, but she won't listen. I have pointed out the foods she didn't eat when she was younger that she now enjoys (as much as she can) and she just shrugs and says that doesn't mean anything.

At one point she wouldn't eat sweets, other than milk chocolate, or drink juice. I can see she's grown out of that, so maybe she will grow out of different restrictions at different times.

I try not to berate her for her eating, but I also try to encourage her to try new things. I bought her cook books for Christmas as I'd told her we would be cooking more in the new year to get her ready for university. (She wants to go to Oxford or Cambridge, so I've told her she needs to learn practical skills to go with her academic skills).

We have cooked meals for daddy which she won't try. We've tried different ways of cooking things and she won't entertain trying it. We've baked, she's helped me shop and she's helped me meal plan. It doesn't change anything and she insists, she doesn't like food. It's just the way she is, I guess...

Thingiebob Fri 11-Jan-13 15:03:28

Can I tell you my experiences? I was an incredibly fussy eater as a child. I lived on marmite sandwiches, meat, potatoes and fruit! No veg, no sauce, no 'mixed up foods' and so on. Meal times and food was a source of concern and anxiety for me. I could never eat at friend's or relatives houses as if faced with a plate of something I didn't like, I would fly into a panic.

I remember being forced to eat school dinner when I was about seven and not being allowed to go and play until I finished my plate. I ate everything including the semolina for pudding and spent the remainder of break time throwing up violently. I used to check the school meal timetable each morning and my day would be wrecked with worry and fear if it was something I didn't like. I wasn't anorexic, just very restrictive with diet.

My poor mum used to battle with me at the dinner table trying to get me to eat certain foods, I think I had a problem with textures and smells. If I didn't eat it she would lose her temper and threaten to give it to me for breakfast. Alternatives were rarely offered, pudding was only available if you had eaten dinner. It was incredibly traumatic. From my parents' point of view I was just being 'awkward and fussy'. In fact I was terrified of vomiting it all up.

Finally years later my mum told me that when I was very tiny I had a weak stomach valve and nothing would stay down unless I had medication first. I used to sick everything up and I do wonder if this is where the fussiness stems from?

I am now in my thirties, eat a range of foods, love it too much actually! I get plenty of vitamins and iron so it did work out in the end.

I can't bear the thought of my daughter going through what I did when I was a child. I really can't so even though she can be a bit restrictive, I try not to let it bother me. She can have meals she likes a few times a week but then the other times she has a bit of what the rest of us have. I get her to try a little bit then if she really hates it, she can have a sandwich and fruit. This method has improved her eating vastly. She has started to eat carrots, risotto and mashed potato. When she goes to school, I will give her pack lunches.

Gentle encouragement, rewards and understanding seemed to work with her.

As for that doctor! What rubbish! I am glad you changed practices!

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