10 reasons to get help for your fussy or picky eater?
Whether to get help is a question that frequently buzzes around in the head of a parent with a fussy eater. “Should I look for help?” or “should we just wait”.”Maybe they will grow out of it, it will get better when they go to school or let’s try this one last thing”.
You will probably also be bombarded with advice. Much of it revolving around the “it will get better theme”.
You are probably also – secretly – reluctant to get help because you are concerned it will be too difficult, time consuming, disruptive, draining and/or expensive.
Or, you may have been looking for help for a while and not been able to find anything that ticks boxes. This is certainly not unusual as there are so few viable options available!
So, let’s look at reasons why it can be helpful:
10 reasons to get help for a fussy/picky eater
1. Expert help helps! If we have a leak in the pipes we call a plumber. Or if our child struggles to hit milestones for walking, talking, or reading we look for help.
Why is it that eating is not treated in the same way?
Feeding and eating is often imagined to be this lovely, organic process that anyone can do and that unfolds lovingly. The reality is often the opposite.
Engaging an expert for feeding is no different to getting the mechanic to advise about the car engine, or the reading recovery teacher to work with the literacy skills.
2. Losing confidence. Frequently parents have been working to resolve picky eating for a while. They have tried multiple strategies and do not seem to be making headway.
Because what they have tried is either ineffectual or has some negative side-effects, like a lot of food wastage, they reduce or stop testing new things. This again is very common.
Unfortunately, if we stop making changes frequently our child stops making any progress and can even start to go backwards.
3. Dropping foods. Going backwards rather than forwards is very common among either super selective eaters or children who have been uncomfortable about food for a long time.
Dropping foods is rarely discussed and yet makes sense. For children who are stuck with a limited diet, boredom is a big risk. Or sometimes a child has a less than great experience with a food so then avoids it.
Engaging outside help is a way to kick start progress, to introduce some new ideas, to give you back your confidence and to provide a road map forwards.
It also guards against increasing rigidity.
4. Increasing rigidity. An unfortunate side-effect of a narrow diet is that rigidity around accepted foods often increases. Children become hyper-focused on the few foods that are served repeatedly.
This means that now it is no longer just “I only want toast” but “I only want toast if it’s x brand, if it’s not too brown, if it’s cut like this and if daddy makes it!”.
Over time rigidity often creeps in and then can also snowball, which is another reason to consider intervention.
5. Picky eating is exhausting. Fussy eating is particularly difficult to side-line mentally or emotionally. We cannot avoid food and feeding. It is something that has to happen and multiple times per day.
When things go wrong with food it is draining, stressful, frustrating, and possibly embarrassing. Even if our child does grow out of it organically, how many years is it okay for you to live with these negative emotions?
Mothers often get very emotional when speaking to me about their child. It is a really triggering topic. One of the phrases that sticks with me was in relation to a 9, year old, girl. The mum said to me “it’s affecting my relationship with my daughter”.
This is something that I have since heard quite a few times. Having a good relationship with our children is an ongoing challenge – I know, I have 2 teens – and so anything that impacts upon that is can be really difficult.
6. Fussy eating is restrictive. It affects parents but it also impacts on the child who is selective. The ripple effects can be felt in eating out, holidays, camps, sleep overs and many social occasions.
Selective eating can also impact upon siblings. This is particularly true when it’s the older child who is uncomfortable around food. Watching the food challenges go down the line is particularly tough.
7. Picky eating can affect our eating. Many parents have lost enthusiasm for their own food because they’ve dumbed down what they eat.
Or mealtimes have become fraught and stressful and so they no longer look forward to meals or enjoy what’s on offer.
Showing pleasure when eating is essential for long-term success. Our children follow our examples (good or bad!).
Changing the atmosphere at the table, returning pleasure to eating for everyone and ensuring we can all eat the foods we enjoy is one of the first things that should be put into place when you bring in outside support. It’s also usually easy to achieve!
8. The wood for the trees. Evaluating what is happening from the outside is so much easier than it is for a you if you are caught up in the middle.
Looking at a situation with an objective and dispassionate eye can make all the difference. When we’re enmeshed in the daily struggles, it can be really challenging to see where compromises have crept in or unhelpful habits bedded down, for example.
9. What piece is missing? I frequently speak to parents who have ‘tried everything’. They have put their heart and soul into resolving fussy eating for their child.
However, I often think of fixing challenged eating like a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. It doesn’t matter how much time you invest or how good you are at jigsaws, if there are 3 pieces missing, it’s just not going to work properly.
I have supported parents who have worked really hard to put everything that is supportive into place around the eating, and yet still don’t seem to get the results.
Sometimes it’s small things that are missing that make a difference, or tweaks to how we’re doing things, or just more consistency that finally helps progress.
Looking in from the outside makes missing pieces easier to spot.
10. Following accepted practice. One of the most challenging parts of resolving fussy eating is knowing what to do. There is so much conflicting advice, it’s hard to know what is appropriate for our child, and if things aren’t working should we continue or not?
One of the biggest advantages I see in working with outside experts is the peace of mind that brings. Knowing that you are doing the best you can each day is very comforting.
Being able to ask questions and clarify confusion is a massive relief.
If you’d like a free mini-evaluation to dip your toes in around support, please book in: https://calendly.com/judith-23/bookatimewithjudith?month=2022-01
Imagine knowing exactly what to do and having a plan around it!
Judith is an AOTA accredited picky eating advisor and internationally certified nutritional therapist. She works with 100+ families every year resolving fussy eating and returning pleasure and joy to the meal table.
She is also mum to two boys and the author of Creating Confident Eaters and Winner Winner I Eat Dinner. Her dream is that every child is able to approach food from a place of safety and joy, not fear.
Learn more about Judith here: https://theconfidenteater.com/about/