5 reasons to look for help for a picky eater
You have a picky eater in the house and things aren’t great. But they are still young so you’re hoping it will improve as they age. Your partner was a fussy eater as a child, and they eat well now so they should grow out of it.
Most parents I speak to have been limping for a long time before they get in touch. That makes sense as often just when we feel we should get help our child suddenly eats something new and we think it’s going to be okay. Or we read about a new strategy that we’re sure will help so defer getting help for a while.
When we know 100% it’s time to get help that often seems insurmountably hard too. There isn’t really a lot of choice. We are worried that it will be too expensive/time consuming/difficult. We are also secretly concerned our child will be too extreme to benefit.
I would be rich if I had a dollar for every parent who tells me either “I wish I’d found you sooner” or “I wish I’d done something when I first knew things were going wrong”.
5 reasons to seek help for our picky eater
1. We have given up – we have had a picky eater in the house for what seems like an eternity and we have tried everything to get them to eat more widely and nothing has worked.
In fact, some of the things we tried made things worse/caused drama or upset. So we stopped as we were concerned that in doing things maybe we were making the situation worse, not better.
I speak to many parents in this position, and they have stopped trying.
Unfortunately, doing nothing means things rarely improve and if we have a pretty selective eater, can even get worse.
2. We are stuck – we have tried so many different things and yet nothing works. When we try a new recipe, our child just refuses to eat it, or worse, refuses to eat at all. We are confused as to what to do.
Most parents of a picky eater find themselves in this space and it’s a really difficult place to be. Generally, we make compromises – as we have to to keep the wheels on – and find a list of foods our child eats and serve those.
Having a child eat is of course critical. Having them eat happily is also important. But, feeding favourites on repeat burns patterns into the brain and makes it more and more difficult over time for a child to accept anything new.
They can also get bored or have a bad experience with a favourite and so drop it.
3. We don’t believe it’s possible – because we have tried a range of things and nothing has really made a difference, we start to worry that nothing will work for our child.
Many of the parents I speak to believe their child is the most challenged around food.
Virtually every parent I speak to describes their child as stubborn. This makes sense. If food is not your comfy place, then you are more likely to be very rigid about what is acceptable and what is not. Not eating new foods is logical for a picky eater as foods are different and therefore difficult.
4. Perspective – when we are stuck in the middle of ongoing frustration and often worry, we lose sight of what’s happening. It’s easy to make compromises without even realizing it. It’s challenging to recognize progress, and we find evaluating strategies effectively difficult to do.
5. Easy meals – and the number one reason we look for help, is of course so we can have relaxed, simple, and nourishing meals with our family without drama or worry.
Naturally, we want things to be easier for us, so we don’t have to constantly think about what to serve our child and so we are never going to prepare multiple meals.
But we also want it for them. Being a picky eater is not easy for a child, and especially as they get older. Most social occasions revolve around food so everything from sleepovers to parties to camps become a minefield.
5 ways help helps!
1. Getting going – when we stop trying to move forwards, we don’t!
Consistently supporting our child to eat more widely is important as it’s the only way they will progress. This is especially true if they haven’t been able to move forwards for ages.
Knowing what to do is of course key, and particularly knowing that what you are doing is helping. I feel this is one of the most important reasons for finding help, knowing that we are doing everything in our power to help our child.
Being privy to the most up to date feeding advice and knowing we are supporting our child in every way we can, is very calming.
2. Making changes – getting stuck as to what to do happens to everyone! We try something, it fails, so we try something else and that doesn’t work either, so after a while we are totally confused as to what to do.
Working with someone else can be so exciting. Having some new strategies – or new ways to do old strategies enables us to start making changes (see point 1).
The best way to do this is 1) have a plan and 2) don’t reinvent the wheel! Often, we look for big changes to get us from where we are to where we want to be.
I always recommend the opposite, that we make tiny changes that are okay for us and acceptable to our child, but that slowly get us moving forwards again.
3. Believe it’s possible – I know experience tells you that your child is super stubborn and is not going to want to do things like other children. But you’ll be really surprised. There are lots of ways to draw a child into food experiences in a positive way.
Building comfort around food organically starts to work on the stubbornness. If we feel less anxious around eating, we become more open to trying things and it gets easier to move forwards.
4. A new perspective – it’s very easy to see things that are happening around food when we look in from the outside. When I talk to parents I can see where compromises have been made, where we can make little changes for a big impact, and how to gently look for new ways to do things for a better result.
Often, it’s impossible to see things clearly when we are caught up in the middle but when someone else lays it all out it becomes obvious.
5. Easy meals – we all want food and feeding to be a lovely, natural, and organic process.
Realistically, if we have a super selective eater, that may be quite a way off, but getting started is important.
One of the core goals of any feeding expert is to make mealtimes as easy and relaxed as possible. That shouldn’t be a long-term hurdle, but something that can be achieved fairly effectively early on.
Fixing picky eating is frequently not going to be a quick and easy process, but, like anything else, the sooner we get started, the sooner we get there. We also have to bear in mind that leaving things as they are is not only difficult for the whole family but could also mean things are harder later on.
If you’d like a complimentary chat about your situation and what we can do to help, please get in touch.
Hopefully too, your situation is not as bad as you’re thinking and there is a fix that is relatively easy and cost-effective.
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/