advertisement

Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Adult Picky Eating?

I've discovered that a friend, a 30-year-old woman, is a picky eater. She looks perfectly healthy but eats mainly plain pasta, cheese pizza and French fries. Is this a type of eating disorder? If so, what can be done about it?

A
Answer (Published 5/17/2011)

While not officially recognized as an eating disorder in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association's compendium of mental and emotional disorders, adult picky eating may be listed as one in the next edition of the DSM. Based on what I've read, these adults prefer the kind of bland foods they may have enjoyed as children - plain or buttered pasta, macaroni and cheese, cheese pizza, French fries, and grilled cheese sandwiches - and typically restrict their eating to a very small number of foods.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Healthy Eating - Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Nutrition - Want to change your diet? The Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging online guide is your anti-inflammatory diet headquarters. Start your free trial and get access to an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid, hundreds of recipes, eating guides, and more.

These habits have been defined as constituting a "selective eating disorder," and researchers at Duke University and the University of Pittsburgh have established an online registry in order to learn more about the problem and determine how widespread it is. As I understand it, researchers haven't been able to say whether picky eating as an adult is an extension of childhood habits, a manifestation of obsessive compulsive disorder, or a consequence of those affected being "supertasters," meaning that they have more tastebuds and an abnormally acute sense of taste that puts them off a broad array of foods. Unpleasant childhood associations with food also may play a role.

I've read that among 1,700 members of an online support group for adult picky eaters, there has only been one report of semi-successful treatment. We probably need to know a lot more about this problem and its origins in order to treat it. A combination of assertiveness training and a systematic introduction of new foods works very well for young children who are picky eaters. This is being tried on adults, but I've seen no reports on how effective it is.

Adult picky eaters are usually embarrassed about their eating habits and skilled at hiding them. They may avoid dinner parties and dining in restaurants with friends and co-workers. They also worry about being bad role models for their children. Overall, this can be a socially isolating disorder.

As for nutritional consequences, most adult picky eaters avoid fruits and vegetables (except for French fries) and have such a limited repertoire of foods that they can't possibly approximate a healthy, balanced diet. So far I've seen no reports of illness associated with this problem, perhaps because we know too little about it, but it seems clear that many years of eating only nutrient-poor foods would increase the risk of health problems.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Q
Adult Picky Eating?

I've discovered that a friend, a 30-year-old woman, is a picky eater. She looks perfectly healthy but eats mainly plain pasta, cheese pizza and French fries. Is this a type of eating disorder? If so, what can be done about it?

A
Answer (Published 5/17/2011)

While not officially recognized as an eating disorder in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association's compendium of mental and emotional disorders, adult picky eating may be listed as one in the next edition of the DSM. Based on what I've read, these adults prefer the kind of bland foods they may have enjoyed as children - plain or buttered pasta, macaroni and cheese, cheese pizza, French fries, and grilled cheese sandwiches - and typically restrict their eating to a very small number of foods.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Healthy Eating - Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Nutrition - Want to change your diet? The Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging online guide is your anti-inflammatory diet headquarters. Start your free trial and get access to an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid, hundreds of recipes, eating guides, and more.

These habits have been defined as constituting a "selective eating disorder," and researchers at Duke University and the University of Pittsburgh have established an online registry in order to learn more about the problem and determine how widespread it is. As I understand it, researchers haven't been able to say whether picky eating as an adult is an extension of childhood habits, a manifestation of obsessive compulsive disorder, or a consequence of those affected being "supertasters," meaning that they have more tastebuds and an abnormally acute sense of taste that puts them off a broad array of foods. Unpleasant childhood associations with food also may play a role.

I've read that among 1,700 members of an online support group for adult picky eaters, there has only been one report of semi-successful treatment. We probably need to know a lot more about this problem and its origins in order to treat it. A combination of assertiveness training and a systematic introduction of new foods works very well for young children who are picky eaters. This is being tried on adults, but I've seen no reports on how effective it is.

Adult picky eaters are usually embarrassed about their eating habits and skilled at hiding them. They may avoid dinner parties and dining in restaurants with friends and co-workers. They also worry about being bad role models for their children. Overall, this can be a socially isolating disorder.

As for nutritional consequences, most adult picky eaters avoid fruits and vegetables (except for French fries) and have such a limited repertoire of foods that they can't possibly approximate a healthy, balanced diet. So far I've seen no reports of illness associated with this problem, perhaps because we know too little about it, but it seems clear that many years of eating only nutrient-poor foods would increase the risk of health problems.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Follow Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet and save 30%. Start your 14-day free trial now!

Stay Connected with Dr. Weil
Promote the health of your body, mind and spirit - sign up for Dr. Weil's FREE newsletters today!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

 
Copyright © 2016 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here

  

Q & A Library



Q
Adult Picky Eating?

I've discovered that a friend, a 30-year-old woman, is a picky eater. She looks perfectly healthy but eats mainly plain pasta, cheese pizza and French fries. Is this a type of eating disorder? If so, what can be done about it?

A
Answer (Published 5/17/2011)

While not officially recognized as an eating disorder in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association's compendium of mental and emotional disorders, adult picky eating may be listed as one in the next edition of the DSM. Based on what I've read, these adults prefer the kind of bland foods they may have enjoyed as children - plain or buttered pasta, macaroni and cheese, cheese pizza, French fries, and grilled cheese sandwiches - and typically restrict their eating to a very small number of foods.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Healthy Eating - Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Nutrition - Want to change your diet? The Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging online guide is your anti-inflammatory diet headquarters. Start your free trial and get access to an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid, hundreds of recipes, eating guides, and more.

These habits have been defined as constituting a "selective eating disorder," and researchers at Duke University and the University of Pittsburgh have established an online registry in order to learn more about the problem and determine how widespread it is. As I understand it, researchers haven't been able to say whether picky eating as an adult is an extension of childhood habits, a manifestation of obsessive compulsive disorder, or a consequence of those affected being "supertasters," meaning that they have more tastebuds and an abnormally acute sense of taste that puts them off a broad array of foods. Unpleasant childhood associations with food also may play a role.

I've read that among 1,700 members of an online support group for adult picky eaters, there has only been one report of semi-successful treatment. We probably need to know a lot more about this problem and its origins in order to treat it. A combination of assertiveness training and a systematic introduction of new foods works very well for young children who are picky eaters. This is being tried on adults, but I've seen no reports on how effective it is.

Adult picky eaters are usually embarrassed about their eating habits and skilled at hiding them. They may avoid dinner parties and dining in restaurants with friends and co-workers. They also worry about being bad role models for their children. Overall, this can be a socially isolating disorder.

As for nutritional consequences, most adult picky eaters avoid fruits and vegetables (except for French fries) and have such a limited repertoire of foods that they can't possibly approximate a healthy, balanced diet. So far I've seen no reports of illness associated with this problem, perhaps because we know too little about it, but it seems clear that many years of eating only nutrient-poor foods would increase the risk of health problems.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Q
Adult Picky Eating?

I've discovered that a friend, a 30-year-old woman, is a picky eater. She looks perfectly healthy but eats mainly plain pasta, cheese pizza and French fries. Is this a type of eating disorder? If so, what can be done about it?

A
Answer (Published 5/17/2011)

While not officially recognized as an eating disorder in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association's compendium of mental and emotional disorders, adult picky eating may be listed as one in the next edition of the DSM. Based on what I've read, these adults prefer the kind of bland foods they may have enjoyed as children - plain or buttered pasta, macaroni and cheese, cheese pizza, French fries, and grilled cheese sandwiches - and typically restrict their eating to a very small number of foods.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Healthy Eating - Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Nutrition - Want to change your diet? The Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging online guide is your anti-inflammatory diet headquarters. Start your free trial and get access to an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid, hundreds of recipes, eating guides, and more.

These habits have been defined as constituting a "selective eating disorder," and researchers at Duke University and the University of Pittsburgh have established an online registry in order to learn more about the problem and determine how widespread it is. As I understand it, researchers haven't been able to say whether picky eating as an adult is an extension of childhood habits, a manifestation of obsessive compulsive disorder, or a consequence of those affected being "supertasters," meaning that they have more tastebuds and an abnormally acute sense of taste that puts them off a broad array of foods. Unpleasant childhood associations with food also may play a role.

I've read that among 1,700 members of an online support group for adult picky eaters, there has only been one report of semi-successful treatment. We probably need to know a lot more about this problem and its origins in order to treat it. A combination of assertiveness training and a systematic introduction of new foods works very well for young children who are picky eaters. This is being tried on adults, but I've seen no reports on how effective it is.

Adult picky eaters are usually embarrassed about their eating habits and skilled at hiding them. They may avoid dinner parties and dining in restaurants with friends and co-workers. They also worry about being bad role models for their children. Overall, this can be a socially isolating disorder.

As for nutritional consequences, most adult picky eaters avoid fruits and vegetables (except for French fries) and have such a limited repertoire of foods that they can't possibly approximate a healthy, balanced diet. So far I've seen no reports of illness associated with this problem, perhaps because we know too little about it, but it seems clear that many years of eating only nutrient-poor foods would increase the risk of health problems.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.