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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...

NewYearsEvelyn Sun 13-Jan-13 09:28:27

I think it's easy to roll eyes at kids eating habits til you get one of your own that starts being fussy. Like anything else...we are sometimes smug about things til we realise that it was not our parenting or genetic strength that made our children clever, well behaved, fabulous eaters, kind, pretty, etc. It was just dumb luck :D And show me the perfect child and I will show you the most deluded parents ever! (Disclaimer: All our children are perfect to us, sometimes, but I guarantee someone will be able to find fault with them. DD has hair that's too perfect; skin that's too creamy; legs that are too long ;) )

Mayisout Sun 13-Jan-13 09:02:08

Having posted slightly scathingly of my DNephew's food fads I remembered that throughout primary school I threw out my lunch, I wouldn't draw attention to myself by telling the dinner ladies not to give me much and creating a fuss in the queue, but threw out most of the main course, especially the meat, almost every day, except for soup which was prob a once a month winter thing.
I hated gristley meat, which was common in those days, but just didn't really feel hungry, I don't think I liked the noisy communal eating. Tried sandwiches but didn't care for them much either.
I wasn't skinnier than normal. Just fussy.

NewYearsEvelyn Sun 13-Jan-13 08:48:57

Just to add, on the eating disorder front, DD has a really positive body image. She's willowy, but has curves in the right places, iykwim. She doesn't fit into some skinny jeans, even though she has no body fat, because she has hips. We've talked about this and she's happy with her shape, on the whole. She has a friend who is overweight and when said friend moans about it, dd is always able to turn things into a positive for her. They went clothes shopping together and when her friend got fed up because some stuff didn't fit, dd told her it was only because that clothes company were rubbish, making stuff in weird sizes, and dragged her to the next shop. She highlighted that some stuff didn't fit her either and it didn't matter. I was walking several paces behind during this process and loved watching them shop together.

She takes criticism from others well. She's never been touchy about what people say to her. I sometimes think she's made of teflon when she talks about what girls have said to her and how she's dealt with it. One girl called her a lesbian and she laughed it off, saying so what if I am? The problem is???? Another said they really didn't like her and she laughed and said 'and your view matters because?'. The same girl threatened to hit her and dd just said, 'yeah, right...when you grow another foot or two, come back and see me'. I always thought she was meek and mild, but the strength she shows when refusing food clearly is brought to bear in other circumstances too.

She's a popular girl, but she chooses her own path. She rarely goes with the crowd. The issues above are the sum total of problems she's had at school, other than a couple of spats with friends which have blown over in days. I am really lucky to have her as a daughter and perhaps that's where I need to focus my attentions.

NewYearsEvelyn Sun 13-Jan-13 08:32:42

Wow...I thought this thread was finished when I went to bed last night but I am so grateful for your continued input! I do think DD has some quirks in terms of her approach to food and life in general. I think I phrased it wrongly in some ways. It's not exactly a power struggle or a battle now, but I do get over-emotional when talking about it to others and phrase it that way. I am convinced that in many ways it is my problem. I'm the one battling, not her.

DD's issue is sensitivity to textures and tastes. She really does struggle. In terms of shopping and meal planning we have tried so much to get her to engage, but she isn't interested. When added to the battles we used to have when she was young, I gave up with that kind of thing.

For the last 2 or 3 years I have generally given her mostly the food she likes with, occasionally, a dollop of something new on the side. I've always said to her, it would be nice if you tried it, but it's your choice. If she leaves food, I don't nag her. The only times we have altercations really is when I highlight a stressful situation we've had with food, ie going to a cafe, being hungry, and not being able to choose anything to eat at all, and I've asked her to think about it, which makes her defensive and me angry. I know I'm in the wrong with that and I really am trying to control it. It is my issue you're right but I challenge any parent to be perfect and I accept I am far from it!

I do think she has sensory issues. She does not like the texture of many, many things. She took ages to change her brand of toothpaste. She would only wear one brand of knickers (thank you fashion branding for getting her out of that one!). She still likes some fabrics and not others.

She shows fear when faced with new foods and she becomes anxious when we are out. I want to figure out a way of helping her with that stress and, thanks to input from here, I have new ideas to help with that. We are away next weekend and I'm going to say to her, the night before, we're going to be eating out. Let's choose somewhere her friend is comfy and see if the place we go to does chips or toast or chicken breast for her. I'll be positive and say that we can go anywhere, we just have to look for the lemonade in the lemon.

The situation is hampered by the fact that she is a pre-teen and likely to explode at the drop of a hat right now. Treading on eggshells is a way of life for me at the moment, but then, I guess it's the same for any pre-teen parent.

DH and I have just sat and discussed strategy. We are eating more healthily this year, so we are going to put more healthy food on the table. We are going to reintroduce foods she has dropped from her list, no pressure, and see if she'll go for it. We'll make sure there is plenty of stuff on her plate she likes too, like yorkie puds and carrots. The cookbooks are out and from here on in it's up to her if she goes for it. Again, thanks for the input. This is me, walking away from my 12 year old and trying to get a grip of MY eating problems smile

stleger Sat 12-Jan-13 22:18:58

My dd1 is 19 and has quite an odd diet - but it does work as a 'food pyramid' in its own way. It does make eating out hard for her, especially with her boyfriend's family as they like a nice French restaurant. One way of getting her to try new ideas is to take her round the supermarket, and letting her put stuff in the trolley with no comment. Sometimes we hit the jackpot, mostly we don't.
She had a class on ASD recently, in which students discussed 'weird things my mum do', and concluded we are all on that spectrum!

Portofino Sat 12-Jan-13 21:29:16

She even went away on a Cooking holiday for a week at the seaside last year. She came home and was able to put together a lovely dish of tomatoes hollowed out and stuffed with prawn cocktail. DH and I ate them - lovely. She would not touch a prawn if her life depended.....

Portofino Sat 12-Jan-13 21:26:11

Walk away is right.

Portofino Sat 12-Jan-13 21:24:09

With mine, I have bought cook books, I get her cooking - she really enjoys it, but she will not eat the food if she does not like it. I get cross sometimes, say - what if such and such has a Pizza birthday party. What would you do? She has never EATEN pizza, so can't genuinely claim to dislike it.

Kiriwawa Sat 12-Jan-13 21:07:35

Two things I want to say here:
1) there are a lot of other types of SEN that can contribute to restrictive diets which are nothing to do with ASD. Children with sensory issues (dyspraxia, sensory processing disorder) can also have real issues with food but not be 'on the spectrum'
2) having a visceral, intense reaction to food stuffs is not about a power struggle as one poster has said.

Evelyn's DD is, like my DS, not very interested in food. It's not about power. It's about not being interested. So trying to get them interested is key. Giving them a load of food they don't like day after day is not going to break the power struggle, because there isn't one. If Evelyn's DD is anything like my DS, she will just walk away.

Bigpants1 Sat 12-Jan-13 20:55:00

Your dd does have some sensory issues, one of them food.(that is not the same as saying she is on the Spectrum).
My dd is 7yrs. She has a restrictive diet, though she has been at least willing to try a few new tastes over the last year. She hates her foods touching, does not like sauces etc. But, she is healthy & has plenty of energy. I will not make food an issue for her, she either likes something or she doesn't.
If someone has sensory issues, not liking something is beyond their control. They don't need cajoling, or nagging, or made to cry.
From reading your posts, the food issues are yours, the control issues are yours. Your dd will be fine, & as she gets older, she will devise her own strategies for eating out. Please back off, let her eat what she wants, & she will be happier. If her eating stresses you, eat separately from her & ignore, ignore, ignore.

Mayisout Sat 12-Jan-13 20:53:21

My nephew was like this - had this stupid thing about not eating anything with sauce or gravy (but would eat any amount of sugary crap). Would eat a plate of mashed potatoes and a lump of cheese when we had stew or meat and gravy.

He snapped out of it in his late teens when he was old enough for meals/drinks out with his mates, he didn't want to look an prat and started eating everything.

louschmoo Sat 12-Jan-13 20:40:22

Hi newyear. I haven't read the whole thread, just first page, and i'm sure you've had some great advice. Just to say, i was exactly the same as a child and teenager, including the control-freak tendencies. In fact your description could have been me! I almost completely reversed my general fussiness when i left home and went to university. Basically as soon as i was totally in control of what i could eat (and as soon as my weirdness about food became apparent to my peers on a daily basis) i started to relax around food. I am still relatively fussy compared to many people (i would be very uncomfortable even having beetroot in the house for example, which i know is extreme!). But i do now eat a normal range of foods and have no anxiety issues around it at all except for beetroot which is clearly evil.

For me my issues - which went as far as being incapable of eating foods from a plate which had TOUCHED a plate with food i didn't like (i would vomit if forced) - were very much about control and anxiety. My parents didn't really know how to deal with it when i first started being 'fussy' aged 2. And over the years it became very deep rooted in my mind that i couldn't eat certain things or under certain conditions.

Looking back, i probably would have benefited in some way from CBT or similar therapy. BUT i totally grew out of it all by myself and am fine!

I would definitely say that the more of an issue you make of it, the more stubborn she may be. That's how i was anyway smile.

Portofino Sat 12-Jan-13 20:35:09

No - that is fair enough I think. I am not offended. smile

PretzelTime Sat 12-Jan-13 20:32:53

Btw I don't want to offend when I suggest that other's children may have special needs, because if there is a possibility I think it will be helpful see if it's true. Because if it's true, there may be helpful resources where you could learn how to handle certain problems that is tough for your child too (like eating problems)

Portofino Sat 12-Jan-13 20:27:24

She does not like it when food is presented "differently"

Portofino Sat 12-Jan-13 20:26:12

Well no. Her cousin has a statement for AS, but she does not seem to have any other strong "symptoms" I have thought about this, and after discussion about family "traits", I scored very highly on an online test for example. It made a lot of things fall into place.

PretzelTime Sat 12-Jan-13 20:09:27

Does your DD have AS Portofino? I recognize the sensitivity and only wanting to eat certain foods from other girls with AS. Sometimes the AS behaviour can be mistaken for eating disorders, or lead to them. Don't have any advice on how to handle it, though, sorry.

Abitwobblynow Sat 12-Jan-13 20:08:37

Can I make a suggestion?

To stop food becoming a power struggle, make her meal. Put it down in front of her, without comment or eye contact.

Leave the room.

I bet you, if you did this, she will try and engage the old dynamic and criticise the meal, with a list of why she didn't eat it.

Try it, and report back.

Portofino Sat 12-Jan-13 20:00:54

I read the OP thinking this is my dd to a T. She ate everything as a baby, but eats less and less - she is nearly 9. Nothing with a sauce, plain pasta, rice, potatos etc. She will eat chicken and tiny amount of other meat. It is a nightmare for me as we mostly eat salads in the summer, and stews/chillis/spag bol etc in the winter. She eats carrots and fruit. She had school lunches from aged 2.5 (we are in Belgium) until 7, without issue, then they changed the provider. She would no longer eat them and now has a packed lunch - where one type of ham only is acceptable in a sandwich.

She is also extremely sensitive to changes in temperature and labels in clothes. I try to persuade her try stuff, but she would rather go hungry than eat something she does not fancy.

LaCiccolina Sat 12-Jan-13 20:00:18

On iPhone, soz about spellings!

LaCiccolina Sat 12-Jan-13 19:59:24

I have read the thread. I actually think you are doing a very good job of dealing with this. Ur posts are measured, fair and genuine. I'm sure their are moments of angst or pain but its done with love I feel from ur words not negativity.

If you saw an article about a food disorder in a magazine? Would you discuss it together? Do you discuss magazines? Body image? Anything? I just wonder if that's a way to ascertain her opinions on topics which may give u additional insight to how she sees things. She's a young lady now, less ur baby and maybe a bit of reconnection to her burgeoning opinions could be helpful?

lljkk Sat 12-Jan-13 19:46:49

I totally get you wanting to tackle it. That part YANBU.
But to actually tackle it, it's so blooomin' tricky. That's why I think your DH's perspective is better bet, for now.

crashdoll Sat 12-Jan-13 18:59:39

I'm read the whole thread and one thing I wanted to add is that parents cannot 'give their child an eating disorder'. hmm Certain things/actions/behaviours can contribute but eating disorders are far more complex than that. They are serious psychiatric conditions and placing guilt on parents is unnecessary and inappropriate.

DoodlesNoodles Sat 12-Jan-13 18:44:29

CailinDana I have reread the thread and I do see where you are coming from now. Altough I still think it is inappropriate to suggest a posters DC's may be on the spectrum I now understand the context in which you did this. As I mentioned earlier I believe that you have given lots of good advice and I didn't want my earlier post to be combative.

NewYearsEvelyn Sat 12-Jan-13 10:45:24

I don't take any offence about anyone saying dd is on the spectrum. I work with children who have SEN and have worked quite extensively with children who are autistic or have Aspbergers. She does have tendencies, I have considered the possibility, but have to say that DD shows only the signs mentioned.

On the many indicators there are, she has no significant difficulties. She's supportive and encouraging of others and shows quite sophisticated social skills at times. That makes me think that her tendencies may brush up against the spectrum, without it being a life affecting thing.

She's a member of jazz club at school and wanted to go on the venture week at Easter. That's not typical of a spectrum child. She is an only child and, though able to mix well, she likes getting her own way when she can. That can perhaps emphasise her tendencies.

I see no signs of an eating disorder right now. She has a great body image. She's confident, socially and at home. I love the way one or two people are painting me into a monster based on a couple of comments made on an internet forum...someone who is creating an eating disorder in a child who has eating difficulties. It could happen, but I'll bet my bottom dollar it doesn't because DD has a great self image. She has issues with food, I am undoubtedly responsible for those, but I can't turn the clock back and make it perfect. Faced with a relentless, daily battle about food for years where Mumsnet advice ranged from starve her, to encourage her, to reward her, to bake with her, cook with her, etc, all of which we attempted, we arrive here...today. And yes, I take responsibility for this, but don't shoot me down for trying to address it, even now.

I wouldn't have posted on here at all if I wasn't giving thought to what I do with her and what I say...I'd just get on with it and not care. As it is, I have taken advice from people who have been like my dd, and people who have coped with children like dd and I have taken heart from this. Blame at this stage is not really constructive and, I have come to see, neither is bringing this issue up with her. So...on we go. I have some more strategies to teach her and to use myself and they will help immensely, so thank you.

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