June 20, 2009
When you think of phobias, usually heights, spiders or snakes come to mind. But food? How could someone be afraid of food? Call it stubborn, call it ignorance, or even childish. I am here to tell you, it’s no laughing matter (…that’s a lie, it can get pretty hilarious).
Food neophobia is the fear of trying new foods. I had no idea this phobia existed, or that I even fell into this category until a few days ago. I was at the beach with my boyfriend Gardner and his family, feeling super anxious about what we would be eating for dinner. The more I discussed it with Gardner, the more we realized this was not a case of picky eating. I give a whole new meaning to picky eating. We decided to do some research, and this is what I found. Never had I felt so much relief. To think–I’m not the only one in the universe who has never let rice touch her tongue, or put sushi in her mouth. That’s right. Never eaten rice. I can imagine the look on your face right now. I see it ten times a day it feels like. “This is Kendyl…she’s never had rice. Can you believe that?!” Anyways, how do I fall into the category of “food neophobia?” Let me explain my “condition” a little better.
I have a very limited list of things I eat. To give you a better idea, I get chicken tenders when I go to El Porton. Most of what I eat now, I ate when I was a kid. I’m pretty positive that my list has slimmed down since then, too. Like plain ol’ milk…that’s off the list. I’m alright when I’m in control of what I like to call food situations. I learned to cook specifically for this reason. Thinking about what I am going to eat later on in the day makes me extremely anxious, especially if I’ll be eating with other people. I cook so I can make sure I’ll be eating dinner at night.
I’d say the worst part is the self-consciousness that comes along with food neophobia. I am constantly worrying about being selfish, so I try not to make a big deal about where I eat or what will be served. That, in turn, makes my nerves skyrocket. The funny thing is, I never paid attention to where those feelings were coming from until this past week. Gardner said, “So that’s why you’re always quiet at the dinner table…” It’s because I’m freaking out about the food in front of me and everything that is connected to it. Who will have their feelings hurt if I don’t eat this? What am I going to eat later on? They probably think I’m some diva, and I don’t think their food is good enough for me. This is why I avoid eating at other people’s houses as often as possible. If I get cornered into a meal, I try to use the old I’ve already eaten trick.
I freak out when other people’s food touches mine. I can’t eat foods that are mixed together, such as soups or casseroles or salads. I don’t eat sandwiches because I don’t like 90% of what is on any of them. The texture of most foods, including seafood, freaks me out beyond belief. The thought of putting a new food in my mouth is enough to make me nauseated. I can eat at a restaurant if the serve chicken tenders. I’m very good at making my plate look almost empty, even if none of the food has entered my stomach.
I hope someone out there can relate to these feelings. It’s almost like a trap that you can’t get out of. Or at least you think you can’t. Just know…you aren’t alone. I am so thankful that you and I are not alone. And for those of you who think it’s just stubborn stupidity, or immaturity, or whatever comes to your mind, just remember that it really is a phobia. As real as any other.
In the article that I linked above, they give some tips on how to break out of food neophobia. Make a list of foods that you could never see yourself trying. Then make another of foods that may be similar to ones you already eat, that you may be willing to try. And work slowly. This is my plan. And I want to record my progress here, in hopes that some others will gain the push they need to try that first new food, that could lead to some new loves. Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can. I have no doubt.
And who knows? One day we may end up eating from the “off limits” list.