TAMPA - When Stephanie Schwab was a child, she would only eat white food. “Cream of wheat, cottage cheese, and noodles and anything that was bland or white. That's what I would eat and I wouldn't eat anything else."
As an adult, she's added lots of new foods to her list. But there are still entire food groups she just won't touch, which can make things difficult when ordering a meal. “I am kind of like Sally from When Harry Met Sally when I'm very specific about how I order. 'I want this and I don't want that,' and that can get a little tiring sometimes."
Now some researchers believe highly restricted diets may actually be a form of eating disorder, even though the finicky eater isn't concerned about weight.
Dietician Lisa Di Fazio says limited food choices can interfere with their social lives. "Many people avoid social interactions and dinners. They panic going to weddings."
Of course, limiting food can also interfere with health. Di Fazio says, “The main nutrients that are lacking is potassium, iron, B-12, vitamins A & C."
Nancy Zucker was a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Duke Center for Eating Disorders. She said, "They are not getting the vitamins and minerals they need. They're not getting the calcium they need, so it impacts growth."
Duke eating disorders specialist Doctor Nancy Zucker says up until now, little research has been done on adult picky eating. Now she, along with researchers at The University of Pittsburgh are hoping to change that, by launching the first ever national public registry for adult finicky eaters.
Zucker says, “What we're trying to do is to learn more about what picky eating is like for adults. What it persists of, how it impacts their functioning and so, hopefully soon, we'll have some answers in terms of the number of people it affects and how impactful it is."
In addition, they're hoping to open a dialogue for picky eaters to share coping strategies with one another. Zucker says, “A lot of people manage it incredibly successfully. So the strategies that they've probably learned to not let it get in their way can be helpful to other people."
Like finding acceptable substitutions to foods you don't eat - to make sure you're still getting proper nutrition. Di Fazio says “It's very important to supplement your diet if you're a finicky eater."
And finding a way to enjoy going out to restaurants with friends. Something Stephanie says is important for her social life even if she doesn't always love the food served. “Just to try to go with the flow. And recognize there's always going to be something on the menu that you can order or you can always accommodate yourself in your own kitchen, and, so you know, in worst case scenario you're hungry for a couple hours then you go home and eat something at home."
Researchers still don't know what drives finicky eaters and hope the registry will be able to clear up some of the mystery - and offer solutions. They invite all picky eaters over eighteen to share their experiences by taking an online survey.
If you consider yourself a picky eater, you may want to participate in the study. Find the online questionnaire at http://www.dukehealth.org/clinicaltrials/the_food_fad_study_finicky_eating_in_adults
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