This is a piece I have written about what a day is like in my life as somebody with ARFID. If you have ARFID or if you’re a parent/carer of somebody with ARFID and you’re happy to share your experiences for a book I am working on, please head to https://samlayton.co.uk/my-arfid-diaries/
With my alarm clock blaring for the fifth time in the last half an hour, I get out of bed and slowly get dressed. Looking around my bedroom, it dawns on me that I have run out of food. I head into the kitchen to see if there’s any food I can eat. Living with 4 others, we have a huge kitchen filled to the brim of food. Salad, left over pasta from yesterday, crisps and some chocolate. Sadly, none of those foods are foods I eat. I decide to head down to my local fast food restaurant to buy food. Before approaching the till, I ponder whether I should just get a burger or also buy nuggets. I’m feeling like nuggets, considering they’re more filling and I haven’t eaten them for a while, but I don’t want the stress. Whenever I order nuggets, I need them cooked fresh. I eat them cold and, if they’re not fresh, they go crunchy when they’re cold. If they’re fresh, on the other hand, they go soggy.
I decide to take the risk of buying nuggets and specifically request them to be cooked fresh. I ask for 3 plain beef burgers only cheese; no problem. I then ask for fresh nuggets. Explaining to the cashier that I need them cooked fresh, she appears very reluctant to want to cook them fresh, explaining that all the food is fresh. I question if I should ask to speak to a manager, so that I can explain to them that I need it cooked fresh but I don’t want to be that annoying customer.
I decide against it and instead try to explain to her that I’m unable to eat them if they’ve been in the holding cabinet and she finally agrees that she will get them cooked fresh. I thank her but I am not fully convinced.
Whilst waiting for my food, I am constantly looking into the kitchen to see if they’re cooked fresh. In the past, when they say they will cook them fresh, they end up not being fresh and I either struggle to eat them or throw them in the bin.
The anxious wait makes me question why I bothered ordering the nuggets in the first place. It reminds me of why I hardly ever purchase them, despite my love for them.
My number is called to collect my food and I leave the restaurant. I eat one of the burgers on my way to a work conference. Throughout the commute, I’m pondering whether the nuggets will be edible and, if they’re not, what alternatives I can do for lunch.
A few hours into the conference we have a break. I decide to look at what refreshments are on offer in the foyer; biscuits, crisps, fruit sticks and a variety of pastries. None of these are foods I eat. With the venue not allowing you to eat any food on the premises aside from what’s provided by their catering company, I question where I should eat.
On the one hand I can go outside but then I will spend my entire break alone. I decide to head back into the conference room where I continue conversation with a few attendees I was speaking to and eat one of the remaining burger.
Once lunch arrives, I decide to look at what foods are on offer. Seeing a table full of sandwiches, I decide to head over to see if there are any sandwiches that I am able to eat; cheese, ham, tuna or chicken sandwiches. None of these are available so I head back inside to eat my remaining burger and nuggets.
Whilst eating the burger, one of the attendees questions why I am not eating any of the food on offer and I briefly explain how I have a very limited diet.
I nervously reach into my bag to start eating the nuggets. As I reach in for my first bite, I am skeptical as to whether or not they will be nice.
I’m reminded of the occasion a few weeks ago where they weren’t fresh and I ended up putting the whole box of 20 in the bin. On this occasion, I ended up having to walk to the shops to buy some food as I hadn’t eaten anything for the entire day.
After eating a few nuggets, I realise they’re sadly a bit crunchy on one side. This means they were put in the holding unit, but not for very long. Thankfully, they’re not bad enough that I’m not able to eat them but they’re sadly not how I like them. Whilst I’m eating the nuggets, there are some nuggets I’m unable to eat the whole nugget. This is due to one side of them being too crunchy.
I begin to notice how others on my table are seeing that I’m not eating the entire nugget and feel like I’m being silently judged.
When the conference is over, I head to the supermarket to buy some food. Walking into a large supermarket, I head to the sandwich section to see if there’s anything I can eat. Being unable to find a sandwich that I eat, I decide to buy 5 croissants with chocolate in them and head out. On the way to the train station, I go past a smaller supermarket and decide to try my luck. I managed to find a Tuna sandwich and decide to purchase it.
The only foods that I feel fill me up are unhealthy ones. With my frequent hunger, I end up consuming far more unhealthy foods than I do healthy foods. Whilst huffing and puffing down a flight of stairs to get into the train station, I am reminded about how unfit I am.
After eating three croissants on the train, it dawns on me that some of the croissants I bought were vanilla and chocolate, as opposed to just vanilla. Despite eating two without even realising, I can’t bring myself to eat any of the other croissants. Having been born with no sense of smell, food is mainly about texture as opposed to taste. Everything about the croissants are identical for me but, just because one says vanilla, I feel like I’m repulsed by it. When I try to eat one, I lose my appetite.
Later that evening, I decided to pop into my place of work to speak to my colleague. Working in a restaurant as a delivery isn’t without it’s problems. Today was just yet another reminder of this. Whilst speaking to my colleague about my rota, he asks me to try a pastry that they sell. I explain that I don’t want it but he insists. I see little point trying it because I know from the get-go that I won’t like it. I end up reluctantly agreeing to try it and, whilst eating it, my facial reactions said it all; I hated it. The outside of it was very crunchy with a soft inside. My colleague just laughs. Thankfully, my other colleagues didn’t see me trying it because I’m sure at least one of them would’ve criticised me for not liking their food; a reaction I commonly get. With people not understanding that, whilst no I am unable to taste much, I am still able to judge foods, it’s exhausting having to explain myself.
Whilst heading home, I choose to buy another sandwich from a local supermarket and eat it on the bus ride home. Overhearing a family speaking about how delicious their dinner was, I am reminded yet again at how different my experiences with food are from that of everyone else in the world.