Confessions of a Former Picky Eater

“You have such will power.” 

An office worker in my elementary school said to me when I turned down a fancy chocolate in a fancy box. I laughed, understanding what she meant, even at 9 years old (which hello that’s fucked up), but knowing deep down inside the real reason is that I was nervous about the taste. That I wouldn’t like it and I’d have to show another adult just how picky of an eater I was. 

Picky enough to turn down free chocolate in the 4th grade. 

If you’re not a close friend or family member, you may not know about my complicated relationship with food. For the first two decades of my life I would only eat a handful of things and I would not try anything else no matter how hard the adults around me forced it.

Thanks to peer pressure and essentially being too broke to refuse free food of any kind, I’ve long since changed my ways. I vowed to always try something new if it’s presented. Also because I still harbor a little left over shame from all those years of saying, “no,” to everything that the anxiety of facing pushback or teasing drives me to at least have a taste. 

I’m sure a lot of your reading this can relate to being a picky eater as a child. But I’m guessing most of you probably outgrew it through parental force a lot sooner than 20 years old. My mom took a very liberal approach with me and just let me eat what I wanted (which was primarily, cheese, bread, fruit, and peanut butter). Plus the typical kid friendly snacks like pop tarts, pringles, and the occasional piece of candy. My pediatrician told her I’d eat like normal eventually. Which is true, I eventually did; but in my opinion that was bad advice.

I would eat cheese burgers ONLY from McDonald’s and only if it didn’t have pickles. Never off a grill. Never from Burger King or Wendy’s.

I would only eat one kind of deli ham but not the delicious glazed ham my mom would make at the holidays. 

I missed out on basically all of my grandmother’s turkey dinners and turkey pies and shepherd’s pies. 

Memories of holidays are all a little tainted by some adult making a comment about what I wasn’t eating that day. 

Looking back, I admire my determination not to cave to pressure from adults who weren’t my mom. 

It wasn’t until I was around fellow young adults in college that I started to expand my horizons. I was lucky to find myself in a friend group with people who were from all over the world or who had travelled all over the world (holy moly I was way out of my socio-economic class). And for the most part they were kind in introducing me to new foods. Further, admitting that I was so particular about what I would and would not eat was increasingly becoming more embarrassing. For all the determination I had as a child, facing adults head on about my eating habits, I felt it completely deflate the first time I had to eat in the cafeteria in college and confront my friends about my limited diet.

My mom deserves a lot of credit for sticking up for me and letting me just eat how I wanted to. Even if it did lead to a monstrosity of a sandwich one afternoon at a lake in which she didn’t bring the mayonnaise (probably because of a no glass rule at the park) for my cheese sandwich and didn’t bring jelly for my pb and j. When I wouldn’t eat either alone, she improvised and slapped the cheese on a peanut butter sandwich and a disgusting secret favorite was born. 

Guess it’s not a secret anymore.

I think it was very bold of her to do what everyone told her not to do. She trusted her gut. Food was not a fight worth having with her kids (and luckily, she only had to have that fight with me; my brother would eat whatever was in front of him). It’s not like I was stuffing my face with candy.  

However, if I could go back in time and tell my mom, “I’m your daughter from the future, make me eat like normal, please,” I would. 

It’s not like I was necessarily unhealthy. I was chubby and soft, but that had more to do with the fact that I’d rather lay on a blanket in the grass and read and make art all day than run around the neighborhood than the food choices I would make. 

Like sorry I don’t like stinky cooked vegetables ok? I still don’t. I’ve learned that I prefer my veggies fresh. But good luck getting me to learn that when I was a kid.

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