Its not until you have problems with food that you understand how big a part food plays in your life and social activities. Food is everywhere. Going out for a celebratory meal with friends and family or even on a date? Yeah sure as long as its at McDonalds, Burger King or the Harvester! Fancy going for a Chinese? Erm no thank you I am busy, (much better than "I don't like that!"). Lets go out for coffee. Fine as long as I can have normal tea with normal milk. Why don't you come round for dinner, I am cooking! Depends on what your planning to cook and how you are going to cook it? Actually I think I am busy that night!! I am having a dinner party and your invited! Great, let me get back to you on that one! The summer is here, lets have a barbecue. Possibly depending on what you are going to cook and cook with it. In short food features in most social activities. For most people food is an enjoyable, social experience. For me it is a nightmare, filled with problems and the need to think of suitable excuses. Its pressurised situations that have a huge risk of being embarrassing! Add to this some fierce food allergies to tomatoes, cucumbers and certain oils such as Nut Oil, Corn Oil and certain brands of Olive Oil and eating out is a living nightmare for me!
Even if I find somewhere that does serve food I eat, I always have to order off menu which some restaurants find awkward. They all have a habit of putting salad with things as dressing, or serving junk food with a portion of peas or a roast dinner with three different vegetables, or steak with a sauce on etc. Its embarrassing having to send food back asking them to remove the offending items. Another side of Food Neophobia is not being able to cope with new food or different food being prepared or placed on your plate next to food you do eat. In recent years I have got a bit better with this, but less than three years ago if I had ordered a burger and chips and it happened to come with peas, if I didn't send it back or if a friend didn't put them on their plate I wouldn't be able to eat any of the burger or chips that had been next to and TOUCHING the offending peas.I probably would have struggled to eat anything at all. However as I said I am much better with this now with dry foods although I still prefer to have the offending items off my plate. But if the offending food is wet, such as the dreaded tomato or something with sauce or juice then the original problems kick in. So while my friends and family are enjoying lavish meals I am stuck with a plain cheese sandwich, bread roll or plain burger and chips, ideally with no added extras or garnish!
I could create a very long list of all the foods I don't eat but it would be easier to tell you what I do eat even though the list would come with a lot of details on specifics! You see another problem with being a Food Neophobic is your not just restricted by food types. The brand or make of food is also vitally important. Just because you eat white bread, doesn't mean you will eat any white bread - I personally will eat Hovis or fresh crusty white bread. Cereal has to be the Kellogs version and not the cheaper supermarket brand; milk chocolate must be Cadburys or it will not be eaten; burgers must be Birds Eye, Diet Coke must be Diet Coke and not cheaper diet cola and definitely not Diet Pepsi! The list does go on and is different for every Food Neophobic. However with certain foods I have got better in recent years. For example I will now eat crisps by various brands whereas in the past it was only Walkers, and I will now eat baked beans by a few other brands whereas it use to be Heinz only. As I hope you are beginning to understand this disorder is very limiting and creates many problems on a daily basis.
Aside from the social implications there are also the health problems. Most Food Neophobics are either underweight and malnourished or overweight and malnourished. I fall into the latter category. We don't eat a varied and balanced diet, and healthy eating (lots of vegetables and fruit!) is not a reality for Food Neophobics. These are usually the foods we have the most problems with. Most Food Neophobics eat junk food and if they are lucky the odd vegetable or fruit (I am lucky as I do eat bananas, apples and carrots). Its not that we don't understand about healthy eating or realise what we are eating is wrong for us its just we physically cannot get past the panic attacks to try and eat different foods. We get endless lectures from people about how we should try to eat more healthy and what we should be eating to improve our diets, like thanks but we do know that, we are not morons and you are not helping!! I would love to be able to go on a diet! To have a wide range of foods to choose from would be amazing! To look forward to your dinner or get excited by food would be fantastic! A healthy balanced diet would offer such a wide variety of foods compared to what I eat now that if I could wave a magic wand and be cured I would do it!!
I know I am unhealthy and I know I need to lose weight. I know that a lot of the health issues I have are linked to my eating disorder. But its not something you can overcome in a few months. Its a long process if you can overcome it in the first place. So when judgemental people see a fat person eating junk food and assume their fat because they eat too much and live on junk food its upsetting and insulting. Yes there are people out there that are overweight because of those reasons. They have a choice and do nothing about it. I wish I could say to them please don't judge me by their standards. I do not have a choice. I do not over-eat and apart from the odd girlie night snacks I do not snack between meals. I eat three meals a day that's all. The only problem is the meal is not very healthy. Sadly certain people do not consider this and see only an overweight person and choose to make nasty comments and giggle between their friends. Its not nice being judged by your weight and not who you are. Yet another aspect of living with this disorder to overcome! As I said earlier, it affects every aspect of your life!!
I will write more about this disorder soon. Its difficult to talk about it so openly where anyone can read it after so many years of keeping quiet. When I am ready for the next bit I will write another post. In the meantime I will try to tell you about the current attempts to overcome this disorder that a close friend is helping with.