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Picky Eating: Its not just for kids

As an example of a picky eater who would not be classified as having an eating disorder, Marcus referenced a woman who spoke on a radio program recently. The woman declared herself “the pickiest eater I've ever met” and explained that the thought of eating any cooked vegetable made her sick, though she didn't mind them raw.

“That is not a disorder,” said Marcus. “She has plenty of other foods to choose from and it's not affecting her health or well-being.”

In her practice at Western Psych, Marcus doesn't see many adults that she would classify as having such a disorder. “I think people don't identify themselves as having an eating disorder and it hasn't been considered an eating disorder,” she said. “They don't come to us.”

At Duke, Zucker encounters adult picky eaters mainly as the parents of children that she is treating for picky eating or other eating disorders.

Adults who are picky tend to like bland foods that are comfortable and colorless, said Marcus, such as plain pasta or french fries.

In both children and adults, picky eating can be caused by “food neophobia,” otherwise known as the fear of new foods, by sensory sensitivity to particular textures, or by traumatic experiences such as forced eating.

Still, the vast universe of picky eaters is poorly defined, Zucker said.

“It's been a pretty poorly operationalized construct — what it means to be a picky eater,” she said. “There's a lot of different definitions floating around. What we'll find is a huge continuum — we all have food quirks.”

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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