ARE YOU A FUSSY EATER?
Parents often consult Occupational Therapists when trying to address their children’s picky eating habits. The parents’ most common concerns typically include:
- refusal to eat yoghurt with whole fruit pieces
- gagging when they attempt to eat fruit with pips
- avoiding unpeeled fruit
- not tolerating different foods on their plate touching
- strong dislike for any lumps in food
Their reaction to this seemingly bizarre behaviour is often accompanied by eye rolling, deep sighs, and a hopeful…”Surely, they’ll grow out of it, right?” Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Many people carry these picky eating habits into adulthood. Their behaviour doesn’t disappear, they don’t learn to cope with it and they surely don’t grow out of it. They often need to explain why they are “so full of nonsense” when it comes to food choices.
If you are one of them, you are not alone. There are many more picky eaters out there, even famous ones… http://pickyeatingadults.com/index.php/famous-picky-eaters/
The reason for this fussiness, can possibly be a low threshold for tactile input, especially in and around the oral area. The sense of touch is one of our first senses to develop and plays a big role in how we react to the world. For a person with a low threshold, the inside of their mouth gets bombarded with various textures at the same time (imagine a mixed fruit salad). The message from their brain is:
- I’m being overloaded with sensory input,
- I’m struggling to filter through and process all the information being received at once,
- Something drastically needs to happen to restore balance and harmony in the nervous system!
Their body’s reaction: gagging, spitting or simply refusing any more input… they become FUSSY! It is difficult to logically explain this to others, because it is not a logical decision being made, but a subconscious reaction from their nervous system. And their bodies have no option but to obey what the brain demands of it.
So how do we address these picky eating habits?
Luckily as an adult, you can be in charge of your life (and food choices). The key is to know which foods are triggers for you and replace them with alternatives. Examples of preferred alternatives to the norm might be:
Apple → Peeled apple
Fresh mango and pawpaw → Dried mango and pawpaw
Grapes → Seedless grapes
Fruit salad → One fruit at a time
Fresh figs → Fig jam
Nartjies → Seedless nartjies
Kiwi → Kiwi juice
Life is about choices, so use your food choices to your advantage. First we eat, then we do everything else.
Isn’t it time you find out what your senses are trying to tell you?
- If you would like to learn more about your own sensory profile, do our short FREE Sensory Quiz.
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Written by Marieta du Toit, a qualified Occupational Therapist with an interest in sensory integration, neurology and human behaviour in the modern world. She is based in St Francis Bay, where she manages her school-based practice dealing with children, parents, teachers, principals and health profession colleagues. Marieta is also a regular blogger and is our Eastern Cape Events Co-ordinator.