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Selective Eating

Selective Eating / Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

At Uniquely Created U, we understand first-hand the complexity of Selective Eating disorders (SED) especially within the neurodiverse. Both UCU co-founders have a lived experience of being neurodiverse. Dr Nicholas Peat has Asperger’s Syndrome and Vanessa Peat has dyslexia, dyspraxia and visual stress.

SED sometimes also referred to as Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder or ARFID is a condition that still goes largely unrecognised even by medical professionals. SED sufferers are often dismissed or mislabelled as ‘fussy’ or ‘picky’ eaters. At UCU, we recognise the key difference: while fussy eaters choose not to eat certain foods, SED sufferers feel they do not have a choice.

What is SED?

SED in one aspect can loosely be described as a food phobia. Unlike other eating disorders, SED sufferers are not limiting or making bad food choices of what they eat because of weight, they may be omitting or limiting foods because they feel that they are ‘unsafe” or are sensitive to the texture or appearance. This sensitivity may also trigger a physical response in sufferers.

SED may also manifest in a particular attraction to certain food groups. Suffers may be more prone to choosing ultra-processed foods and binge eating to trigger a chemical response.

SED sufferers can be at risk of serious health problems due to not getting the correct nutrients. This condition can also have detrimental effects on a sufferer’s mental health causing them distress, anxiety or even leading to depression.

Selective eating in neurodivergence and early years

Often starting in childhood, what may first appear as ‘picky eating’, Selective Eating Disorders can gradually evolve into a daily struggle for families. There has been a noted prevalence in children who identify as neurodivergent. It is a narrative that is not unfamiliar to our co-founders, who have first-hand experience raising children with neurodivergence.

ADHD - A child with ADHD is more likely to choose ultra-processed foods and to binge eat due to them having lower levels of dopamine. These children may reach out for these types of foods as a subconscious response to combat that feeling.

ASD - Children with ASD may present with hyperfixation due to their comfort in repetitive patterns of behaviour, and hyperfixation may become a problem over time when they will only eat certain foods.

Evidence shows there is a disproportionate amount of people on the autistic spectrum that are diagnosed with eating disorders, such as avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, due to their sensory responses or dislike of certain food textures.

While this condition may first appear in early years, it is also important to realise that SED can affect all age groups. Adults with SED tend to have experienced symptoms over a long period of time. For this reason, symptoms can often be more severe the longer this condition has gone undiagnosed.

How we can help with Selective Eating Disorders

If you are concerned that you, a friend, or a family member is suffering from a Selective Eating Disorder the great news is that it is a manageable condition. At UCU, drawing on our own personal insights and years of professional expertise, we approach Selective Eating with a unique blend of empathy and science.

Through personalised support, we aim to help guide you to a better understanding of the condition and address the underlying, deeper sensory issues at heart. We do not believe in the forceful introduction of new foods or creating stressful mealtime dynamics. Instead, we focus on creating positive experiences with food, and empowering sufferers and their families through a framework of support that aligns with their unique needs.

Ready to transform the narrative around selective eating?

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13-22%

Children reported for picky eating

5%

Eating disorders are ARFID

18-40%

Sufferers continue into adolescence

  • Behavioural change
family coaching
  • Education and support
for selective eating
  • Movement
to support neurodiversity