Thursday, April 26, 2007

The World's Pickiest Eater.

Nearly everyone who knows me personally (meaning, those of you who read my blog because I told you to, instead of happening upon it in a Google image search for "world's largest dog," which, by the way, is happening really frequently lately - was there just a decision made in the large dog debate? Seriously, MASTIFFS OR GREAT DANES?! I MUST KNOW!) (Sorry, I rambled again, I'm starting over.)

Uh. NEARLY EVERYONE WHO KNOWS ME PERSONALLY KNOWS that I'm a really picky eater. I always have been. My eating habits seem to be without pattern or reason; there are a LOT of foods that I don't like, and a few that I like a lot. For most of my life I've been able to live off of hamburgers, pizza (pepperoni only, please), pasta, and, for the most part, chicken. There are plenty of "normal" foods I absolutely won't eat: most fruits, cooked vegetables, cheesy foods, etc. I've tried to come up with why I have this problem, and most of it comes down to the consistency and texture of foods, and how they feel in my mouth.

I've become pretty self-conscious about this issue in the last couple of years. When I went to college I had to learn to eat a lot of new things, and it was pretty miserable. I'd go to D-Hall with friends and get a slice of pizza and a waffle while they stacked their trays with plates of food. Because the cafeteria was a new experience, I wasn't willing to try most of the foods I'd normally eat on my own. For example, I'm picky about how my hamburgers are cooked - I only like them grilled, which would infuriate my mother during the winter because I'd refuse to eat a burger she would cook on the stove.

I started to try new things in college, which was a big deal for me, even though everyone thought it was silly that I was trying new SHAPES of pasta or finally eating turkey sandwiches. My parents thought that my eating habits were finally becoming stable, that I'd be able to enjoy holiday dinners like the rest of the family. While I was able to open up a little bit, I still had the same issues: the way things felt in my mouth really bugged me, and it was keeping me from actually enjoying food. All I can focus on when I eat a turkey sandwich is how chewy the meat is. I love the taste of turkey, but the feeling of it on my tongue makes me want to gag. I experience the same thing with fruit: I love the taste of cherries, strawberries, blueberries, etc, but I can't eat them.

Moving to Chicago was a lot like starting over again at college. There were thousands of restaurants I wanted to try, but the menus were terrifying. I'd finally become comfortable going to restaurant with friends in college, and suddenly I had to start over. I had to examine menus, ask waiters what came on sandwiches and what came on the side, and had to, again, go out to eat and drink a glass of wine and eat bread while my friends had dinner. It gets pretty miserable sometimes because I don't want to make people always eat where I want to, but I do want to be able to just get a hamburger if I'm not comfortable with anything else on the menu.

Because my eating habits were brought up as an issue in the recent break up (I know, I'm sorry. LAST TIME I BRING IT UP, I promise), I've been thinking about this a lot. I started doing some online research on adults with these eating issues and, as I expected, there's not a lot of information. I did find one website* that had some information, but it was mostly a support site where people could vent about their eating disorders. It's not a great resource, but when I read some of the stories, I did find that I could relate a little bit to these people. I was also very fortunate to find that there are a lot of people with CRAZIER habits than I have, but I definitely find myself having the same apprehension about attending dinner parties, or going to weddings, or visiting my friends' parents' homes (that was a major thing when I was a kid, because I knew that my pickiness would be misconstrued as rudeness, as if I just didn't like someone's cooking). It also made me remember how frustrating it was to have dinner with my parents, how I would stress myself out and try to down a spoonful of peas or one cooked carrot.

I really wish I didn't have this problem. I've tried very hard to get over this (my methods, of course, aren't necessarily recognized as having much effort; people scoff at the idea that trying an orange or Chinese food at twenty-three is a "big deal" for me). There really aren't many resources offering help for this disorder. Unfortunately, my overwhelming self-consciousness has reached a peak because all of a sudden I feel like it's a bigger problem for other people than it is for me, as if suddenly it's impacting socialization. For the first time in my life, I'm considering getting therapy or something, calling it a "disorder" instead of just a idiosyncrasy. I agree that I should be able to eat the normal foods that everyone else enjoys, but I can't figure out exactly how to overcome the trepidation I have toward food.

*There's also a great article from the Washington Post.


joshua, the art nerd said...

I totally understand what you are talking about. I get made fun of ALL the time for not liking bananas (or banana-like products) and it is all about the texture. I cannot even eat smoothies or banana flavored things because that taste is so fixed to a nasty texture. I do not see it as a disorder, it is a just a quirk. And honestly, is forcing yourself to eat foods you do not like going to help anything? As long as you are healthy you are fine. Besides everyone has their list of favorite restaurants/foods, yours is just more selective. so I feel like I have rambled on for a bit too long....

Lisa said...

One of my best friends in the world follows the same exact "diet" that you do. Seriously. My sister is on an even stricter "diet." Another friend can't eat any food with a weird consistency, so she, too, is on a similar diet. I certainly don't want to dissuade you from something you think is good for your well-being, but whereas I thought my best friend was pretty much out of her mind, I'm coming to the realization that there really isn't a "normal." As long as you're OK with what you eat, and remain relatively healthy, I think you're A-OK. :)

Aethlos said...

wow. yeah, this is really scary. i think it's couch-time. bravo on the honesty though... scary thing to have.. and even scarier to admit.