Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Picky Eating - at first cute but now embarrassing and unhealthy
This is what Heather Hill eats: French fries, pasta with butter or marinara sauce, vegetarian pizza, cooked broccoli, corn on the cob and cakes and cookies without nuts.
And what she doesn't eat? Pretty much anything else.
Heather Hill and her daughter, Sarah, grab boxes of saltines at the store. It's one food they both eat readily.
Ms. Hill is what you might call a picky eater. But she isn't a child. She's a 39-year-old mother of three who runs her own business in Raleigh, N.C. She says she is unable to eat other foods. "When I was younger it was cute," Ms. Hill says. "Now it's embarrassing."
People like Ms. Hill have long puzzled clinicians and medical experts because their behaviors don't fit the definition of a traditional eating disorder, in which people aim to achieve a certain body weight. But picky eaters' diets can be so limited that their food preferences interfere with their social and professional relationships, which is one of the hallmarks of a true disorder. Ms. Hill says she lies to her friends about what she eats and avoids parties and business lunches. And although she tries to hide her pickiness from her children, she frequently worries they will acquire her eating habits.
Doctors once thought only kids were picky eaters, and that they would grow out of it. Now, however, a taskforce studying how to categorize eating disorders for the new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, due out in 2013, is considering recognizing for the first time a disorder to be called "selective eating" that could apply to adults as well as children. The DSM, a common psychiatric reference book, would currently lump picky eaters into a classification of eating disorder "not otherwise specified," a catchall category for people who don't meet the criteria for a major disorder.
Doctors worry that over the long term such eating habits could lead to nutritional deficiencies linked to health concerns, including bone and heart problems.