Most people haven’t heard of adult picky eating. Many don’t have much patience with it. For adults who are picky, it can seem like you’re the only person in the world who is like this. It can be very isolating, and the responses of others can be very painful.
Some picky eaters have been punished, teased, ridiculed, or judged badly for their picky eating, which is painful because it is not something we can help, it’s just the way we are. Many feel ashamed of their pickiness, and go to great lengths to hide it, often limiting their social lives, contact with family, and romantic relationships for fear of being found out, and not understood or accepted. Picky eaters often dread social or work-related eating situations – Will there be anything I can eat? What if there isn’t? Will the host be offended? It can be embarrassing to not be able to eat what others eat, enjoy what others enjoy, like what others like. People know about pickiness in children, but in adults it is much rarer - for adults suffering something typically associated with children, this can be difficult and embarrassing.
It can often feel as if there is a stigma around our food habits. For many picky eaters, the few foods that they can eat tend to be “unhealthy” things, like junk food, or else very plain things – the “sophisticated” and the exotic are not for the most part things we can eat. I worry that people think I eat what I eat because that’s what I prefer out of all the vast range of things I “could” be eating. But the reality is that the majority of foods are things I can’t eat, much as I would like to. I eat what I eat not out of choice, but because that’s all I’ve can eat.
And eating is a very social thing in our culture. People like to cook for others and share meals. So many social encounters revolve around food to some extent. It seems other people can feel rejected, or distanced from us by our inability to eat with them.
If you’d like to share what picky eating has been like for you, and how it’s made you feel, do post a comment.