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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...

OxfordBags Fri 11-Jan-13 22:30:57

I am a supertaster and prefer flavours like dark choc or goat's cheese. It also gives me an aversion to textures, like anything mushy <does little vom inside mouth>

I am going to play devil's advocate here - you say she now only eats certain things she once didn't because you cajoled her into accepting them. Have you ever considered that in fact she a) would have come to like or accept these anyway but more importantly b) if you had not cajoled her in the first place, she probably wuld have had an even greater range of foods she will tolerte or even enjoy now?!

You really sound very fixated and controlling about the issue. All mums here know what it's like when your child goes off food even for a day due to a cold or similar, but - and I'm sorry to say this - this really does sound as if you made a mountain out of a molehill when she was little and have created this current situation. I love my food, but if my Dh started banging on at me at what I ate, how I ate, how much, what I should try, blahblahblah, I would not be able to eat and would want just really unthreatening, bland food I didn't have to think about, just to get the ordeal of eating over and done with to make him STFU.

You say you and your DH love food, love a wide variety of food, etc. Well, bully for you - your daughter does not (be that naturally or because you've accidentally created the situation). Why does she need to be like you? Must because you enjoy something doesn't mean she is missing out. My parents love to play tennis and I find it boring as all get out, but somehow my life is not an aching void without racket sports.

Time to let her grow up - you are not giving her space to get out of the 'I am a tot and mummy is forcing a spoonful of something strange and gross into my mouth and I can't stop her' zone. Stop with the cook books and talking about cooking at University (years away!) and what to eat when you go on trips and all that shit. It's just a constant dripdrip of reminding her she makes you anxious and disappointed. That in itself would kill anyone's appetite, never mind a prepubescent girl's. sorry to be so blunt, but there you go.

DoodlesNoodles Sat 12-Jan-13 00:05:34

It sounds like she could be on the spectrum. hmm confused. I don't think it is a good idea to make statements like this. You give loads of great advise but I think casually diagnosing DC's with Asperger/ASD is inappropriate. (sorry)

NewYearsEvelyn. I can really sympathise with you as my three teen/young adult DC's are all fussy (as is my DH confused ). My DD who is 16 eats a similar diet to your DD. Obviously, it is a bit of a worry but I think her diet is reasonably healthy even if it is somewhat restricting. My DS's and my DH are Much, much better than my DD but they would recoil in horror if you offered them something like a vegetable moussaka grin

My take on it is that it is now her problem. I provide healthy tasty meals that usually (but not always) include things that she will eat. She is perfectly capable of making something for herself if she is hungry. She takes care not to eat junk food. I know it causes her a problem when she goes for sleep overs but she knows it is her problem and would never ask for special food. Sometimes she says (politely) she is not hungry rather than have to eat something she really dislikes. I continue to offer new and tasty foods but I dont do much else.

If we were going out with friends for dinner we would not take her likes into consideration (within reason). When we are at restaurants I let her order her own food. Recently, she actually asked a waiter if she could have a child's meal as she was not feeling well. I knew she only said that as she didn't fancy any of the rather elaborate main courses on offer.

My DC's all play sport, all do well at school, all are healthy and well behaved so I don't think having a 'plain' diet is doing them any harm health wise. However, I think it can be awkward for them socially. I also think my DC's are missing out by not enjoying lots of lovely tasty food.

Gomez Sat 12-Jan-13 00:14:51

Against then flow I think you were quite correct to point out to her that how or what she choses to eat will impact as she matures and moves away from her family.
We have a friend who is a complete pain in the arse - many random, illogical and bizarre dos and donts. She has passed this onto to 2 of her 3 children.

I have coeliac my diet is restricted and I can't understand why anyone would chose to do so. So friend won't eat chicken for example but will eat hot dogs (the most foul version of mechanically reclaimed 'food' known to man), will eat some cheese not others. Madness.

Of course your cant force your daughter to eat or not but she needs to understand the implications of her choices.

lljkk Sat 12-Jan-13 09:28:52

The Girl's diet sounds pretty balanced and reasonably nutritious (especially for a teenager, let's face it). I think that her fussiness about how it's prepared is probably a much bigger problem, that would socially limit her rather than impact physical health. Hopefully she will figure out for herself that it's fun to try new things.

My 4yo barely eats any fruit or veg & always has been like that. I quietly tear my hair out about it. It will impact his health eventually if he doesn't mature into broadening his diet.

HilaryClinton Sat 12-Jan-13 09:34:16

Sounds like you both have quite entrenched positions. Would she prepare her own meals, or better a meal for the whole family?

CailinDana Sat 12-Jan-13 09:36:46

Doodles I don't have such a big head that I think people take what I write on MN as gospel - I wasn't "diagnosing" as I am not a doctor and I wasn't asked for professional input, I was speculating based on my own (extensive) experience. Saying someone is on the spectrum isn't a big deal - it's not an insult and I don't think it'll change a mother's view of or love for her child. To me it's the same as saying "I think she might be anxious" - just speculation on what might cause her behaviour. If you have an objection to ASD for some reason, that's your business. I would expect the OP to tell me herself if she had a problem with what I said.

BooCanary Sat 12-Jan-13 09:40:57

Op - I feel for you. I have been on both sides.

As a child I was incredibly picky. Hated most meat except chicken, almost all fruit and veg, and most bread products. I was skinny as a rake and my mum despaired. I still remember terrible dinner times.

Now I am the mother of a picky child (karma grin!), and I see how awful it is on the other side.

However, little will be achieved by worrying about the future and pushing the issue. I now eat most things, but still have a handful if foods that shall never pass my lips( and I am certainly not a rake, mores the pity!!).

Try to relax - she won't starve and is at an age where she needs to take some responsibility for any impact her pickiness has on social life.

sameoldlovebunny Sat 12-Jan-13 09:44:28

read up on asperger's syndrome. i think you might find things you find reassuring. or informative.

GoldenGreen Sat 12-Jan-13 10:09:32

I am an ex fussy eater too. It all sorted itself out by the time i was 18. The only thing I would add to all the advice here is to please not make it a big deal in front of your friends, family, teachers, waiters etc as it can be upsetting and might make her more stubborn - my mother would joke about it to people, roll eyes etc and it certainly didn't help. ( you sound lovely btw and it doesn't sound like you have done this - but just in case!)

DoodlesNoodles Sat 12-Jan-13 10:15:09


A far more tactful way to tell someone that you think her DD ^may be on the spectrum* (your words) would be to ask if she her DD has any other behavioural issues and to ask whether she has spoken to her DD doctor or teachers about her behaviours.

I don't object to ASD (what a peculiar thing to suggest)

I do think saying someone is on the spectrum based on brief information given in a few paragraphs online is highly inappropriate. Do you honestly think it is an OK thing to do? Professional people would never just blurt out something like that.

CailinDana Sat 12-Jan-13 10:22:19

Doodles - the OP mentioned it first, in fact in one post she said her DD "definitely has some autistic traits." I wasn't just suggesting it out of the blue. You said I should ask if her DD had any other behavioural issues - the OP had already described these behavioural issues, such as watching the same DVDs over and over, noise sensitivity etc. Perhaps you didn't read the thread?

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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

On iPhone, soz about spellings!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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 20:35:09

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

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.

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