What is ARFID?

As I said in last week’s post, I have dealt with picky eating my whole life. It went beyond pure childlike stubbornness (though I don’t doubt I was guilty of doing that once or twice in my life) and didn’t end after I got out of my parents’ home and into the adult world. This felt wrong. Being a college student with school-made meals should have pushed me to eat different foods simply because I was too hungry not to eat! I should have been more comfortable with trying new foods at this point, something that became increasingly apparent to me when I went on a trip to Europe and half my suitcase was packed with protein bars, crackers, dried fruit, and more American snack food. I was that typical American that didn’t want to try another culture’s food, and that really bothered me. But, I felt stuck, as if there was nothing that could explain my food block and that I just needed to live with it.

It took me until I was 26 to find out that there is an actual eating disorder that I can identify with, Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). The National Eating Disorders website has a great definition of ARFID that I totally relate to:

ARFID is often described as being a form of “extreme picky eating.” Dr. Kim DiRé, a trauma and eating disorder specialist, states that: “Avoidant/Restrictive Eating Disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder like no other. The fear of food and/or the consequences translates in ARFID individuals as “if I eat that, I will die.” The physiological constriction of the mouth tissues, throat, and digestive tract from the fear stops the ability to eat a variety of foods. 

From https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/what-exactly-arfid

When I discovered ARFID I immediately sent that description to my family, husband, and friends who have seen me sit through countless meals I didn’t like (shout out to Cassie!!). Their first response: well yeah, we always knew there was something more going on with you.

That was when I decided I wouldn’t be ashamed of my eating issues anymore, but instead would work to try and hopefully like new foods. Like many things in my life, if I don’t make my goals or ideas known to others then I give up after a week or two. That’s why I decided to start this blog! It is an incredibly public way for me to not only try to push my food boundaries, but hopefully help other parents of ARFIDs, kids with ARFID, and even other adults who still deal with it every day.

However, as the definition notes, this disorder is rooted in fear. Instant regret filled me as people came up with new ideas for me to try or what they think I should do first. Even worse, I made the flippant comment that if I gained 1 million followers I would try a hamburger. THAT got my roommates excited (they used my grill more than I did!). Right after I told my fiancé and roommates I’d do this, I wanted to back out. The reality of trying new foods more frequently filled me with dread. Even worse I said I’d try hamburger-of all things! Why would I want to risk ruining a good night out by trying something I don’t like? Why waste money on food I might not eat?

But this is something I’ve dealt with since I was a kid and always hated. So. Here I am almost a year after the idea of this blog came to me and I’m finally starting it. I’m committed now, whether it truly gets me to trying a hamburger or not, I will work on this blog and myself in the process. I hope this helps anyone out there who either deals with ARFID personally, has a child with ARFID, or just needs new ideas to get their picky eaters to eat.

I will be constantly researching ARFID as I go, reading any book I can find on the topic and following other food blogs.

First book on my TBR list: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: Children, Adolescents, and Adults by Jennifer J. Thomas and Kamryn T. Eddy

One note: I am not an expert in eating disorders or mental illness. I am simply a woman trying to work past this roadblock in my life and want you to follow along! I will be continually researching ARFID as I go, so stay tuned for any new tidbits I find interesting as I learn!

Second note: though I believe I meet some criteria for ARFID, I have definitely not experienced every symptom or definition. I’m lucky in that I have had family and friends come alongside me even before I found out about ARFID and have been trying to help me through my eating issues. I am starting from a very good place compared to where others are. If you believe someone in your life has a worse degree of ARFID and needs professional help, please encourage them to reach out to a professional

Feel free to comment below or email me any questions you have for me. I can’t promise to answer everything, but will do my best to help you out!

4 thoughts on “What is ARFID?

  1. I had anxiety so bad that I developed something resembling ARFID for a while. Two phases over two different months. It sucked. I stopped eating and just started living off Boost. I lost like 10-15 pounds in a month. I’m better now, but I’m afraid this anxiety-based version will come back. I couldn’t deal with food textures at all. I am glad to see a blog post about this. Thanks for writing. Few people talk about it or know what it is.

    Liked by 1 person

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