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...

SashaSashays Fri 11-Jan-13 15:59:03

I think everyone is right in saying let her get on with it. You said food is her favourite weapon and I imagine this is because it is the biggest topic of anxiety for you and provokes the biggest reaction.

I personally would go with telling her that you will no longer be interfering with her food and what she eats. I don't know how your meal set-up works but that she can tell you what she wants for a meal or cook it herself but that you will not be fussing round trying to get her to have what you're having etc. I wouldn't be spending time trying to find somewhere to eat that fitted her or trying to sort something on the menu. Most places have chips or bread, she will have to learn to cope.

I'm saying this as a parent of 5 DC, all who were massive eaters except for one. My DS (who never had any issues with digestions or was made to eat dinners etc because I did think of that) lived on a diet of chips, white crustless bread occasionally white rolls, mild cheddar type cheese (had to be yellow and sliced never grated), white grapes, bourbon biscuits, milk chocolate, bbq sauce, yorkshire puddings, white rice, soy sauce and nesquik cereal with warm milk for over 16 years. No meat, no veg, no fruit other than grapes, no sauces, no fresh juice, no christmas dinners. I spent about a year trying to change it and gave up, when he wanted to add new foods he did, when he didn't there was no way to make him. We went out to eat he had chips or some bread or nothing. I always told him it was his choice to eat like this and I wouldn't inconvenience others for him. Eventually got to teens, started going out with friends he would just have chips which are available nearly everywhere or a drink. He started to try new things at his own pace, is now 22 and eats a much more varied diet, still quite fussy but I'd say in 5 years that will be gone.

Just make sure she takes vitamins and otherwise let her get on with it. If its ever making her unhappy I'm sure she'll tell you or seek help.

Acekicker Fri 11-Jan-13 16:08:21

The 'little milk' and not having parmesan rings a bell with me - I was allergic to milk from being a kid until I got pregnant. Not full on anaphylactic shock but it always made me feel very sick and as I got older I would be sick and get hives. I hated milk and everything that had it in (to the extent I wouldn't eat processed chicken slices even though I loved chicken - you can imagine how much that drove my mum crazy). I was also vehemently against most sauces (as unsurprisingly a lot contained milk or butter). Ditto never really liking pizza much either due to the cheese. I was considered freaky as a 5 year old as I would only eat Bournville choc not milky bar or anything, the same went for cake: fruit cake only (relatively little butter) and I loathed fairy cakes etc.

Is there a possibility of something like that perhaps?

To be honest what she's eating is ok, the foods she eats are all pretty healthy ones. I'd be inclined to let it ride for a while...

EuroShagmore Fri 11-Jan-13 16:10:47

As a former fussy eater, I agree with the advice not to make an issue of it.

Like Thingiebob, I had issues with certain textures and just no interest in food. Eating was something that got in the way of things I liked doing, like playing and reading. I just wasn't interested. I stopped eating meat when I was 12. It was partly all the animal rights campaigns that were around then (this was when the battery chicken conditions were publicised and the Body Shop was campaigning for all sorts of things) but also because I just didn't like it very much. I eat meat now but fat will still make me gag (my husband looks very bemused when I try to cut the fat off streaky bacon if served it in a hotel). It is fat I really don't like, not meat, but I somehow couldn't realise and articulate that when younger.

I am now in my 30s and still have things I hate (like meat fat) but most people do. The thing is adults are allowed to have food likes and dislikes. Children are somehow not supposed to. I eat a broader range of foods than my husband and am a bit of a foodie now.

NewYearsEvelyn Fri 11-Jan-13 16:12:46

Hi educatingarti. We have tried all of this. We've done a goal plan, where we've identified the foods she's willing to try and those she's not. The main ones she won't ever try are sausages, as she feels sick just thinking about them. I said when she developed this aversion that that was fine. We all have things we won't contemplate eating and that's hers.

I have promised her Jack Wills vouchers if she tries something new every day for a week. I've put tiny portions on the side of her plate or separately, and she's not even looked at them. I think she is, perhaps, a little old for me to try it again, though perhaps it would have worked well when she was littler. Now if anyone has a magic wand on their person, I would happily wave it over her and make her into the perfect child. Sadly I don't think either thing exists (the wand nor the perfect child) smile

I wasn't a very hungry child, and didn't like many foods that my family ate. I was made to eat everything on my plate, and food became a real battle ground. Transpires that I actually have severe acid reflux and the foods I was rejecting were those I couldn't really digest. Unfortunately my parent's approach resulted in me becoming very frightened of meals, and ultimately a long battle with anorexia.

Please try not to fight about food, or force her to try foods. The very best approach is to cook and serve a meal, and not comment on who is eating (or not eating) what. It will take a while for her to relax around food, but you will be doing her a massive favour. It is so sad when children become scared of meal times.

I don't think she is using food as a weapon at all. She has become tense and stressed around food and needs to feel she can relax again. Don't try and control her, leave her alone.

NewYearsEvelyn Fri 11-Jan-13 16:22:00

I don't think there are allergies at play here Ace as she eats cheese like it's going out of fashion. Goats cheese is a favourite. She eats slices of it from those little log things that come in the plastic cases.

I think the deal about making her think about her own food and sort out her own menu is something I have to bring in. I have mentioned it tonight. She is not happy about it as she is a lazy little swine busy girl, but I have told her that DH and I are cutting down on chips and eating more healthily, so chips will only be on the menu on Fridays. The rest of the time, she'll have to eat a modified version of what we're having or she'll have to cook/help us cook her alternative meal.

I've said that we just don't want to be tempted by her crap meal choices, which often involve chips and 4 tons of cucumber. If I could buy shares in cucumbers, I'd make a fortune!

Newyears - just read your last post. I hated sausages too, especially the big chunky spicy ones my mum bought. I used to heave at the table when they were served up.

My mum did all the things you are trying, and I found it stressful and controlling. I really did dread mealtimes. Would you be willing to try a different approach?

Put all food in serving dishes and allow everyone to help themselves. Really resist the urge to comment on what she eats. Force yourself not to look at her plate, or urge her to have seconds etc. Basically just treat her as you would an adult guest. It will take time, but I can guarantee that once you genuinely stop watching and commenting she will relax and eat better.

Turniphead1 Fri 11-Jan-13 16:28:03

I wouldn't worry about her not having sausages in her diet. Sausages are fairly rubbish. Processed pork & sulphites. Even the "posh" ones.

NewYearsEvelyn Fri 11-Jan-13 16:34:46

Thanks for the advice worsetershiresauce. I have worried about the anorexia thing in the past and my DH told me to back off a few years ago. Since then, I've had few arguments with DD about food, but I am quick to criticise when it comes to .

I know I need to step back. So far, we've been lucky and DD eats way more than most of her friends who have gone from being fantastic eaters to really, really picky eaters.

NewYearsEvelyn Fri 11-Jan-13 16:44:11

Xposted worsetershiresauce. For years now we have given her the food she likes in a rota. She has roast chicken with carrots, yorky puds and one roast potato, which she eats under duress to some degree; chicken curry without the sauce (she doesn't eat the rice or the sauce, but she likes nan bread); gammon and chips; pasta and meatballs (no sauce). We might swap the gammon for lamb or we might have beef for our sunday lunch. She doesn't eat much of it, but we don't worry about that too much. If we have shepherds pie, which she hates, she has meatballs and plain pasta.

I don't think I've actively watched her eating or stressed about it for a year or two, BUT when we hit critical incidents, like going away and not being able to eat out easily or her complaining about food tech this morning, it brings everything back to me and I react badly.

I will start to put the food in bowls though, as I do totally control her food portions. I never complain if she leaves anything, unless she leaves masses of food in her haste to get a pud, but I think that's just the usual debate you have with kids....if you have enough room for pud, you have enough room for those carrots, kind of thing.

You're quite right Turniphead1 . Sausages were something that I was quite happy to see go off her eating list. Unfortunately I didn't want pasta with sauce off the menu.

I did think she maybe had that supertaste thing going on,but she eats some weird stuff like Brie, goats cheese, extra dark chocolate. I'd have thought, with intense flavours like this, she must have bog standard taste buds, surely?? I think it's one of those things...not serious enough for me to seek medical help, so one of those things that will remain unknown.

Enfyshedd Fri 11-Jan-13 16:59:23

Hi NewYears - Another fussy eater here. I drove my DM to distraction when I was younger, gradually dropping a few foods along the way as well. School dinners were a nightmare for me, and DM had to finally relent and give me packed lunches in primary school after the assistant force fed me a cooked dinner at 9/10 years old and I threw the whole lot up. DM just about managed to keep me having runner beans with Sunday roasts, but to this day I have to have food in front of it on the fork so it's not visible as it goes in my mouth. Only in recent years have I been able to not return a plate of food in a restaurant if they have included salad, peas or suchlike when I have specifically asked them not to put it on the plate.

I agree with the textural thing as well - I hate mushy food, so on the rare occasions I have cereal with milk, I put very little milk (probably 100ml or less?) and keep stirring the cereal so none of it is sitting in it for long so it doesn't go mushy. The only time I will eat mashed potato is when it's crisped on top of cottage pie. DP finally managed to get me to try porridge for the first time a few months ago and he was astonished to see me retch as I tried to swallow a couple of spoonfuls of it - at 30 years old blush. I haven't tried it since...

Getting your DD to help prepare meals is probably one of the better ideas - it worked with me. It does take time - I spent about 18 months each time helping my DM prepare spagetti bolognese and chicken tikka masala before I would even contemplate tasting the food myself (they're now 2 of my staple meals) - they were the only food with sauce that I would eat until well into my 20's (I still wouldn't go near ketchup/mayo/mustard/etc with a 10 foot bargepole). Getting used to preparing the food & cooking it means that you get used to the textures and the smells and eventually you can't resist testing your own concotions.

Basically, the only advice I can give is don't make food a battleground, and just try to gently encourage her. You'll get there eventually.

Ilovesunflowers Fri 11-Jan-13 17:01:32

I was terrible as a youngster. I still have some issues around food but will eat an awful lot of stuff I wouldn't do then. It doesn't cause me any issues. I would leave it to be honest. She will extend her diet eventually.

Lafaminute Fri 11-Jan-13 17:03:06

I heard a mother tell a child psycologist (on the topic of a difficult eater - younger than yours but maybe the principle is the same) that "she ate a yoghurt for me" and his response was she didn't eat a yoghurt FOR YOU. How did you benefit from that yoghurt? She ate it for her. I think the gist was that as long as she sees you having a vested interest in how and what she eats it is a battleground. Easier said than done I am sure.

NewYearsEvelyn Fri 11-Jan-13 17:04:10

Thank you, thank you, thank you all for stopping me from thinking my daughter is beyond weird! And for helping me to put things into perspective.

Lafaminute Fri 11-Jan-13 17:04:44

PS like Sunflowers I was a terrible eater too - boarding school cured me of that (ie restricted food supply and no choice) but I would eat ANYTHING nowadays - and plenty of it!

"I have promised her Jack Wills vouchers if she tries something new every day for a week. I've put tiny portions on the side of her plate or separately, and she's not even looked at them. I think she is, perhaps, a little old for me to try it again, though perhaps it would have worked well when she was littler."

I agree this might work better with a younger child. I think however my suggestion was a bit different as it was a total "no pressure" thing. The reward would be eg 7 tries of new food = Jack Wills voucher but no pressure as to when she did this - could earn over months if she wanted. Putting food on separate dish means she can totally ignore it if she wishes without it upsetting her or fearing it will "contaminate" the rest of her food! It would be important to resist cajoling "why don't you have a try" type comments. Totally neutral, you are perfectly fine if she doesn't try, but the option is there if she wanted to. It might take quite a while for her to believe she is really totally in control but after that she might be tempted to try. I wouldn't make a big fuss if she did try either, just a "that's cool" and hand over a token towards the voucher!

You could even just try the small bit on another plate tactic without the reward but make it absolutely fine if she didn't try it. In the end, as it is so available, once she really believes she is in control ( and that trying one thing won't lead to pressure to try anything else) she might give things a try!

OneWaySystemBlues Fri 11-Jan-13 17:43:18

My son has ASD, is 16, and has a much more restricted diet than your daughter does. He eats meat, chips, bread, cake, biscuits, ketchup, marmite, milk and orange juice. No fruit or veg at all. No pasta, no rice, nothing. And all food dry - no soggy stuff like mince or gravy. I used to fret about it a lot when he was little, but when he was around 4 I decided that I had enough to tackle and out of all things facing us, I'd rather work on his anger than his diet, so I let it go because the stress was too much. I cook the same meals for him week on week - sausages monday, chicken tuesday, steak weds, etc etc. His issues are with taste, texture and smell, as well as being very rigid about new things and a bit OCD about doing anything new too.

However, now he is 16 he has done nutrition etc so much in school and he's well aware that his diet is not ideal and he is starting to WANT to eat more healthily. Admittedly, it's still hard work because he still can't face a lot of the foods - we've just started getting him to eat tiny pieces of apple. But I feel more hopeful that he's old enough now to know how important diet is and I'd be over the moon if he could regularly eat some apple. If he managed to regularly eat one sort of veg it'd be better than winning the lottery! What I have learned is this - the more fuss you make, the more you make it an issue, the more stress it is for everyone and it won't make it any easier for your child to do what you want. It isn't about being naughty or awkward - there are real sensory issues. Bribery won't work - it doesn't with my son - because it isn't about them being deliberately awkward - they really can't do it! Gently encourage, but don't make it an issue or get into fights about it. Make sure your relationship is one where she feels she can talk to you, but the more an issue you make of it, the less she will want to talk about it when she does eventually want to start eating more variety. Good luck, it isn't easy, but I think if you hold back and be patient she will, like other on this post, make some progress as she gets older.

Greenkit Fri 11-Jan-13 17:53:38

How old is she

My DS14, has always been like this and at one point would only eat jacket potato with butter and pasta with butter, usually some sort of cereal for breakfast.

He would eat a roast dinner, but now wont eat potatoes, veg or gravy, so now its chicken and BBQ sauce. There is a long list of 'yuck' food

I don't make a fuss and he seems happy enough, I put the food on his plate and if he eats it, he does and if not well he doesn't.

I do try and get him to try a small mouth full of different things and he is pretty good at this, but mostly it ends in a nah don't like it.

Don't stress, the more you do that the more she will use it to control you.

strumpetpumpkin Fri 11-Jan-13 17:54:21

you are giving her a bloody eating disorder. Leave her alone about food. Please.

littleladyindoors Fri 11-Jan-13 18:06:28

Another fussy eater here, I still hate things in sauces and prefer things don't touch too but now I am much older I am so much better. For me it's a texture thing so that is a big important thing for me for trying things. I was like this until I was about 13-14 when I first went to a buffet and no one encouraged me to try things, I just decided that was what I wanted to do. I grew up with no pressure and that worked well for me. My mum was great as she just allowed me my fuss and never apologised for me in restaurants. If I asked for something without X Y or Z she just went along with it. My MIL used to apologise for me when she first met me, drove me nuts because I was entitled to order what I wanted and eat without sauce or whatever. The support was the thing that gave me the confidence to try more.
I did have an eating disorder later on, but I must stress that this had nothing to do with the fussy. It was a self esteem thing mixed with control. Food was the only thing I had control over, and it was more about portion than what I was eating.

frogspoon Fri 11-Jan-13 18:39:18

As long as she is eating enough to keep her healthy, let her be. She will introduce foods in herself when she is ready

I used to be an extremely fussy eater. As soon as I moved away from home (at university) my eating patterns branched out a lot more (although I am still a little fussy!)

I think part of the problem was that my parents made such a fuss about what I did and didn't eat, always commenting, that it put me off wanting to try new foods due to their reaction. They also never gave me the opportunity to try a food I had previously refused, but simply made me an alternative.

NewYearsEvelyn Fri 11-Jan-13 20:09:18

Thanks strumpet. It's easier said than done when it's a constant factor in your life. And I don't have a go at her every day. We have had one fight about it today. Before that it caused issues whilst we were away. Apart from that we've tried to feed her different things without adding too much pressure and we've tried to reward her for trying new things. It didn't work. We have talked about different strategies because she needs strategies. I am nowhere near giving her a food disorder...

PretzelTime Fri 11-Jan-13 20:23:29

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.

Really sounds like she has Asperger's.

Primadonnagirl Fri 11-Jan-13 20:34:04

I agree it's not worth making an issue re her tastes.. They'll probably change over time but I do agree with you about..gently but firmly..tackling the way she deals with it. By that I mean she needs to understand not everyone can cater to her preferences, that if she goes out or a meal she can't complain there's nothing she likes etc... Have had loads of experience of this and really feel people shouldn't be made to feel bad about their preferences but equally shouldn't expect everyone else to fit around them

strumpetpumpkin Fri 11-Jan-13 22:11:08

eating disorders are nearly always passed on by well meaning parents, with clumsy tactics.

Please, just stop letting it be an issue. She eats a decent variety of foods.

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