Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID- previously referred to as Selective Eating Disorder) is believed by some to be one of the most common eating disorders.
Whilst I do question if that many experience the eating disorder, it is a serious eating disorder and one I feel isn’t spoken about enough.
I initially found out about ARFID through social media and have been interested in it ever since.
For reasons explained at the end of this post, I question if I have ARFID.
ARFID is more than just picky eating. It is a condition that effects both children and adults. People with ARFID can experience large amounts of anxiety eating food that isn’t one of their ‘safe foods’.
Some would say, especially for kids, they should simply just not have access to their safe foods and they’ll end up eating. This is not the case. Many would starve themselves if they didn’t have access to their safe foods. If they don’t have safe foods, they won’t eat for days.
A common misconception I see is that people think all with ARFID are underweight. This is not true. People with ARFID can be of any weight. There are so many factors that come into their weight- what are their safe foods? How much exercise do they do? Their genetics etc. In other words, just like anyone else in society.
ARFID, like any eating disorder, is not a choice and nor is it attention seeking. It causes people a large amount of distress and can control their entire life’s.
For some, they can be born with ARFID. For others it could occur later in their life. If it’s developed later in their life, this could be due to a trauma they experience (e.g. choking) or due to a phobia, to only name 2 possibilities.
Many think the parents are at fault for their children having a restrictive diet. This is far from true. If a child has ARFID, nothing the parents can do will make the child eat a varied diet. Like any eating disorder, professional help is needed. Another misconception is that it’s for attention. It’s anything but that.
People with ARFID struggle to eat any ‘non-safe’ foods. For some, it could be as extreme as eating a standard food (eg salad/a burger) causing the same distress as poison.
I’m sure everyone with ARFID would wish for it to be cured overnight if they could.
My situation with food is rather complicated, which is why I question whether or not I have ARFID. As a child I’d say I definitely had all the signs but, as I’ve got older, I feel it’s got more complicated.
I was born with no sense of smell, which makes my ability to judge food complicated. I can tell the difference between coke and Pepsi yet I can’t experience or explain basic tastes. With food, the majority of my judgement is texture. Sadly, this isn’t as great as it sounds.
As a child, I’d definitely say I had ARFID as I can remember I’d refuse to eat anything that weren’t ‘safe foods’. If I had no safe foods, I simply wouldn’t eat anything all day (I’m even like that now as an adult). As an adult though, my issue is with food is more complicated.
I’d definitely say I have anxiety of trying new foods. The anxiety in itself makes me subconsciously not like the food. Alongside this, many people around me are not understanding so their comments if I say I don’t like a food make things worse.
They think, if I can’t taste, I can eat anything. That is far from true. Firstly I can taste certain foods and secondly not being able to taste makes it harder as textures are very off putting.
This means, either the fear of their comments and/or what they actually say just puts me off the food even more. The third and final issue I feel with myself is I have never tried to change.
This is both due to my personal circumstances but also but also the anxiety of eating ‘non-safe’ foods.
If you have lived experience of ARFID, or care for somebody that does, please have a look at my new book that I am working on.
I am currently collecting testimonies of those with lived experience.