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Picky Eaters Vs. Resistant Eaters

Posted by on Oct. 22, 2013 at 11:27 AM
  • 20 Replies
1 mom liked this

I came across this article and I thought it was interesting... so I wanted to share.

“Picky Eaters” Will Not Starve Themselves But Problem or Resistant Eaters Might

Approximately two-thirds of children on the autistic spectrum have severe food aversions which can impact their growth and development. While this population of children often has feeding aversions it is in no way limited to them.

Children with medical conditions that have caused pain when eating often have severe food aversions as do children with sensory integration dysfunction. Children with oral motor impairments may also have a severe fear of eating due to their inability to move food around in their mouth and safely chew and swallow.

Children with these severe food aversions are often referred to as resistant eaters or problem eaters.

The Wrong Advice Is Dangerous

As a feeding therapist who has worked with many children with severe food aversions it is scary to me to read information with no disclaimer that says children will eat when they are hungry and they will not starve themselves .

While typically developing children who are “picky eaters” will not starve themselves or make themselves ill, problem or resistant eaters might.

If there is any doubt whether a child is a picky eater or a resistant eat I always recommend seeking professional guidance from a feeding therapist.

Some Characteristics of Resistant Eaters

One of the characteristics of a resistant eater is the limited acceptance of food items. This is often the same with picky eaters but more pronounced and severe in the resistant eater. I have seen children with as few as 2 different foods in their repertoire. Often these children will start with more foods and begin to eliminate them over time.

They may suddenly eliminate a favorite food or bring back an old favorite. These children are also very aware of imperfections in foods, even their favorites such as dark spots, cracks, bumps etc. Some children will also eliminate whole food groups such as fruit and vegetables, or meats. However some resistant eaters will only eat from one food group they have chosen which is often carbohydrates, but can even be meat.

Children with oral motor impairments may only accept pureed foods that do not require chewing. These types of behaviors cause fear and frustration in parents and caregivers. It also causes judgment from extended family members and friends who have never dealt with a resistant eater.

Children who are resistant eaters may also gag and/or vomit when presented with new or disliked food. They may also exhibit extreme behavioral reactions which impacts everyone around them. For these children and their families any situation which food is involved can be scary causing avoidance and isolation.

Feelings Of Isolation

Parents have told me stories of feeling isolated in social situations when they are unable to explain their child’s food aversions to other parents. This often leads them to stop making these social plans in hopes of avoiding these awkward situations. They also express fear of leaving their child in a situation where food may be offered which can lead to social isolation for the child. And in many cases these children need the social experiences the most.

Just like picky eating, problem eating can be improved. However, the process is more complicated, ongoing and most often requires professional intervention with a feeding therapist. Children with severe food aversions will likely struggle with these aversions through adulthood.

However they can become healthier eaters with guidance. When parents begin to see early signs of picky eating and food aversions there are tips that will keep the problem from growing larger and out of hand. Often the best of intentions can unknowingly make a problem worse.

There is No Better Feeling

Just recently when in the company of a good friend and his child, watching his 2 year old eat broccoli and chicken, he exclaimed “There is no better feeling than watching your child eat a healthy meal.”

As I have said before, feeding disorders are all consuming to everyone involved. For those of you who have not had the experience of having a child with a feeding disorder, be supportive to those families you may come across in the future.

And for those of you living with food aversions in your family, change is always possible.

by on Oct. 22, 2013 at 11:27 AM
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Replies (1-10):
by on Oct. 22, 2013 at 12:17 PM
My son was a resistant eater. When we removed lactose and soy from his diet he started eating!!! Lots of stuff! He can still be hesitant but his world of food has opened up so much.
by Bronze Member on Oct. 22, 2013 at 12:42 PM

My son is a very resistant eater. He will not touch 99% of fruits and vegitables and most meats. If the food has the wrong texture or has touched a vegitable he doesn't like, he will not touch the food and gag if we try to get him to eat it. Trying to change his diet is also next to impossible. He will litterly starve himself if he does not have access to the foods he will eat. No form of substiuting will work either (I can not replace a favorite item for a gluten free, even if he never knew it was a different brand/type, once he smells or touches it, he knows). I can not change the kind of milk, bread, etc that he eats or it is a huge blow up. Which is really hard when we move or when a favorite brand goes out of buisness. 

by on Oct. 22, 2013 at 12:54 PM
My friends son is a resistant eater. He only eats fruit snacks cookies candy shredded cheese fried chicken breast from like KFC chicken nuggets and chili spaghetti from a local chili place. He won't eat the chicken or chili if its homemade. He is 10 and only weighs a little more than my 4 year old. The endocrine doctor told my friend to keep him on a 1900 calorie diet and let him eat as much as he wants and he lost 5 pounds in just a couple of weeks.
by Nicole on Oct. 22, 2013 at 12:59 PM
My son is a resistant eater. It is hard everyday. We have been with a feeding specialist since he has been 18 months. He will be 4 next month. I hate when someone tells me that you have to make him eat and that when he gets hungry, he will eat. No my son won't!
by Platinum Member on Oct. 22, 2013 at 1:14 PM
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Its IS hard. 

My son too is resistant.. (I THOUGHT picky, until I read this!). I too hate those people who make those comments.. Cause they DONT know what it is. My hubbys cousin at holidays gets pissed that we have pizza for our little guy... And she makes her kids eat what is served. BELIEVE me, IF he WOULDT eat it- begrudgingly, I would let him.. But he will starve.. And then be an a$$ cause he is hungry! Lol just eat the pizza, right? Lol

Quoting Nickmom1118:

My son is a resistant eater. It is hard everyday. We have been with a feeding specialist since he has been 18 months. He will be 4 next month. I hate when someone tells me that you have to make him eat and that when he gets hungry, he will eat. No my son won't!

by on Oct. 22, 2013 at 4:47 PM

 Ds is a resistant eater..

by on Oct. 22, 2013 at 9:38 PM
Max is a resistant eater. It's very interesting how it describes them starting with more foods and eliminating them, because it has become worse for us as time goes on. He gags and breaks into hives when we try to force food so we learned to stop. Only problem was the things we were forcing were VERY important for him.
Right now his diet consists of yogurt, fruit/veggie pouches (has to be a variety or he will stop eating them). And anything beige and crunchy. Which should make the GF DIET real fun when we decide to try it out.

And that's it. Oh did I mention i still have to nurse him as well which I did not intend to do for 18 plus months but due to his emotional an feeding issues I can't stop. He won't even drink pediasure because its a diff color. It's hard.

I too have hear more times then I can count that I need to force him to eat other food and I am the parent and he is the child and blah blah blah.
by Silver Member on Oct. 23, 2013 at 2:30 AM

My son's eating has bothered me the most. I feel sad for him. I wonder whether he will ever eat food cooked for the family. I carry tiffins everywhere, when we go on a vacation we carry our kitchen along. People tell me "try this, all kids love this".I dont tell anybody that he doesnt eat chocolates or cake or anything cause they will never understand why. People also get surprised when he rejects candy. Others say I give him unhealthy food(more sugar), if only I had the choice.

by on Oct. 23, 2013 at 12:55 PM

Thank you so much for sharing this. My son is definitely a picky eater or at least thats what I chalked it up to. Now after reading this I'm extremely concerned about my son and his eating habits. He will only eat certain foods but will attempt to try new things sometimes. He has also stopped eating some of his favorites. It's frustrating at times because I'm constantly worried about his health. My husband thinks its normal but now I'm going to look into this further. Thank you for this info :-) 

by on Oct. 23, 2013 at 12:58 PM

Mine will starve himself sick.  I used to as well, if I didnt like a meal.  Waiting htem out doesnt work.  

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