People often think of picky eating as something children will outgrow, but for many adults picky eating results in major stress, and affects their work and social life in major ways.
For many years, Bob Krause, who lives in the US, thought he was alone in his extreme eating habits, but after setting up a Picky Eating Adults website in 2003 he discovered there were many people in similar situations.
“Since it was started there have been more than 7000 people come to the website,” he said. “In almost every case the first reaction is. “Oh my god I thought I was the only one.
“It seems when we take our picky eating from child to adulthood we also take our little eating disorder into hiding. It is such a shame for many that they won't even discuss it with their doctors. Thus, up until recently the medical community did not think there was a picky eating problem in adults. We all just hid it from view.”
He said that when he started the site there was very little information available online about adults who are picky eaters, and he wanted to help those with this problem.
Some people are so relieved to find out that they are not the only ones struggling with picky eating that they cry with relief.
Krause, like most picky eaters, has a diet of fairly bland foods such as toast, crackers, peanuts and peanut butter, chips and grilled cheese sandwiches. He does take vitamins daily.
Like most picky eaters, he also find the texture of food significant enough to determine whether he can eat it.
“During my early years about the only thing I remember eating was buttered toast, bacon, cake, ice cream, milk, and popcorn. Not much else,” he recalls. “Grilled cheese and French fries were added when I was about 10.”
He said he has a severe gag reflex that can make taking just a small bite a very unpleasant experience.
“I have had my eating contribute to broken relationships, including two marriages. Just imagine trying to date with the handicap that you can't take a date out to a nice restaurant.
“It has been a source of constant stress for most of my life, starting at five years old and through my 50s. I'm at peace with it now, but it just always seemed to be in my mind most of my waking hours, especially while serving in the US Navy for 13 years. My eating was a big consideration when I decided to leave the service in 1980.
“My eating was also responsible for me starting my own business so I would be in control of my working environment. No pot lucks or luncheons for me.”
The more complex a food is, the less likely a picky eater is to consume it.
Social events which involve food can be nightmares for picky eaters, and they often come up with excuses to avoid these events and the embarrassment that goes with them.
Many picky eaters are super tasters, who are extremely sensitive to tastes, including a substance in vegetables that makes them taste bitter. Some have sensory integration dysfunction (also known as sensory processing disorder), where people under or over respond to sensations.
Duke University Hospital and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center are now conducting the first comprehensive study of picky eating in adults.
“Almost every day we have someone join our support group who thought they were the only one,” added Krause. My website is the most important thing I have ever done in my life to help others.”