There was an interesting programme on ITV2 last weekend called ‘My Child Won’t Eat’. The programme followed the treatment of three children who were being treated by a psychologist, Dr Gillian Harris. All of the children were refusing to eat ‘normal’ food along with the rest of their families. Instead they were eating the sorts of food that parents normally reserve for treats for example chocolate, biscuits, cereals and yoghurt.
Dr Harris believes that the children have phobias relating to certain foods which means that they are actually scared to eat them. The normal encouragement and cajoling just doesn’t work in this situation and can just creat tension around mealtimes.
This type of phobia can carry on into adulthood and this can have an adverse effect on nutrition, growth and healthy weight control. I have worked with weight loss clients who find it hard to eat fruit and vegetables.
So what can you do if you have a food phobia and want to increase the range of food that you eat? Dr Harris’s approach is to encourage her clients to start by identifying one need food that they are prepared to try to eat. Relax before meal times and picture yourself eating the new food in a completely calm state. Then, eat a small portion of the new food. On average you need to eat a new food about 15 times before it becomes familiar and easy to eat.
Most of all, make mealtimes enjoyable and stress free.