Food OCD?

So a friend of mine, who’s going to school to be a nutrition specialist of some sort, linked this article on Facebook about how picky eating in adults can be so severe that they’re doing a study to see if it’s an actual disorder. In the article they mention the site PickyEatingAdults.com, which is kind of like an online support group for people struggling with picky eating to the point where it negatively affects their lives in many different ways, usually socially, but there are also other facets, such as being afraid of passing on their maybe disorder onto their children.

After reading the article, I filled in the survey to be a part of the clinical trial they’re doing at Duke University because I’ve long suspected myself of having OCD which manifests itself primarily through food. Long story short, I have some pretty fucked up food issues. Then I went to PickyEatingAdults.com and while I didn’t sign up, I did read the stories of some of the people who run the site and could really relate to what some of them were saying.

When I brought a copy of the article to my psychiatrist, she skimmed over it and didn’t take me seriously at first, until Blake explained to her how our lives are affected by it and how he thought, as I thought but didn’t say so, that I have obsessive-compulsive tendencies to do with food. As we both explained to her some of the things I have issues with, she started taking us more seriously and began explaining the treatment process for something like this. The only two treatment options for OCD are either high doses of anti-depressants, which I can’t have because I have bipolar disorder I and they’ll make me manic, or exposure therapy, which could be problematic because one of the theories behind picky eating in adults being a disorder is exposure trauma as children. I can’t say that’s necessarily a factor with my issues, or at least I can’t remember anything significant, except an incident with a hot dog when I was about 5, but nothing on-going. My mom can’t cook for shit though, so maybe that has something to do with it? I also got in trouble for eating when I was a kid because my parents literally couldn’t afford to feed us, maybe that’s the trigger? Who knows.

All I know is that I have significant issues with food, many of which are completely irrational, and it affects our family in that it can take up to 2 hours to decide what to have for diner if we’re going to eat together so most of the time it’s just easier for me to eat separately. Or at least that’s the compromise we’ve come up with recently.

Anyway, I have no intentions of joining PickyEatingAdults.com because we’re figuring out how to work around all of this on our own (and have been for years and years) and I have a lot of support from everyone around me, but I thought I’d share with the people who read this site some of my idiosyncrasies to do with food because some of them are pretty weird and some of them are pretty common so maybe some of you will be able to relate. This will be an incomplete list that I’ll add to when I think of things because I’ve been dealing with this for most of my life so most of them I don’t even really think about anymore and Blake doesn’t even really think of most of them anymore either so he’s not much help in recounting them with me.

Having said that, here we go!

  • Soup or stew cannot be eaten in the spring or summer.
  • Salad cannot be eaten in the fall or winter, on a cold day or if it’s raining. Basically salad can only be eaten on hot, sunny days.
  • You couldn’t pay me to eat squash, beans (unless they’re green/string beans) or peas (like chickpea kinda peas, I’ll eat snow peas, sugar snap peas or frozen peas).
  • I go through food phases. My current food phase is ham sandwiches. I eat one or two a day (lunch and dinner) and have been doing so for about 2 months. The phase before that was having PLT (peameal bacon, lettuce & tomato) sandwiches every night for dinner for about a month. Another phase is eating crumpets & peanut butter for dinner for a month straight or roast beef sandwiches. The point is, I get obsessed with certain foods and literally eat them until I can’t even look at them for a few months.
  • The worst food substance I have ever had is TOFU.
  • It’s very very rare that I’ll eat chicken because I think it’s disgusting. If I do eat it, it’s white meat only. This is weird because I love turkey, which isn’t much different. I’ll eat white meat pieces from KFC maybe twice a year.
  • The only thing I eat at normal, every day restaurants are clubhouse sandwiches (with peameal bacon instead of regular bacon because regular bacon, for the most part, grosses me out), hot roast beef sandwiches (which takes forever to eat because I have to scrape off the gravy, cut off all the fat, put the gravy back on and then eat it – that’s why I usually only get this if it’s take-out), onion rings, poutine (unless they have gross gravy, there are a lot of places I won’t eat poutine), mushroom caps, peameal & eggs (sometimes I’ll have sausage but not very often) and if there is absolutely nothing else on the menu that I’ll eat, chicken fingers.
  • I will not eat anything at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway (unless I’m desperate), Arby’s, East Side Mario’s, Boston Pizza, Kelsey’s, Pizza Pizza, Papa John’s, Little Caesar’s (or most pizza chains) or most fast food places. I will eat at Mr. Sub, our local pizza place (but only sometimes), Tim Horton’s and very very rarely, KFC.
  • Up until recently I would only drink pop that came in cans because in my head a can can’t be fucked with.
  • I get my own meat for sandwiches, separate from the kids, even if we’re all eating the same kind of meat. The reason for this is because the thought of kids touching my meat is beyond disgusting considering they don’t always wash their hands and they pick their noses etc.
  • I don’t understand how in the hell people can eat chicken wings. *shudder*
  • One of my favourite foods is beef liver, which most people despise. Go figure.
  • In the fall & winter I make my own soups and stews from scratch, which, in my warped head, is the most healthy thing you can eat because all of the nutrients from every ingredient are intact and present in the soup or stew, unlike other cooking methods (microwaving you lose nutrients, boiling you dilute nutrients, steaming is okay). I also make roast beefs and whole chickens for almost the same reason, everything is roasted in the pan, the lid rarely comes off and the nutrients are collected in the drippings which I then use to make soups or stews. I will not make or eat soup or stew made out of pork.
  • I’ll eat honey spiral hams, but won’t eat porkchops or like, roasted pork. The idea of it is just too vile. I used to be able to eat the little hams that some people call “cottage rolls” but now they feel too processed and gross so I won’t eat them anymore.
  • I won’t eat anything even remotely spicy and I don’t like very much seasoning on anything.
  • If I smell something cooking too long, I’ll get sick and won’t be able to eat. A lot of the stuff Blake & the kids eat smells so gross that I can’t be in the same room as them or I’ll start gagging. (Like tacos. *barf*)
  • I will eat beef in just about all its forms, EXCEPT ground beef UNLESS it comes from our local grocery store and then it has to be the medium ground beef, not the lean or regular because the medium ground beef is ground in-house from ONE COW, whereas the other two types come from a processing plant and contain god only knows how many different cows.
  • Chili is disgusting. Especially if there’s corn in it.
  • Rice is revolting, except chicken-fried rice from a Chinese restaurant. I love Chinese food but only beef & broccoli stir-fry and the aforementioned rice. Sometimes sweet & sour chicken balls, which are apparently a Canadian thing and they have to be on a separate plate from the rest of my food so the sauce doesn’t touch anything else.
  • I cannot even fathom eating peas and carrots mixed together on a plate and I won’t eat frozen corn at all (I’ll put it in soups/stews though). I’ll eat corn on the cob and baby corn, though.
  • I won’t eat broccoli without cheese sauce or unless it’s in teriyaki/stir-fry.
  • I don’t travel to foreign countries because I’m afraid I’ll starve.
  • I’ve never had an olive and I never will.
  • I won’t eat goat cheese or drink goat milk. Goats can just fuck right off.
  • Won’t eat lamb. I’ve never had it but I’ve seen it and smelled it and it’s just not happening.
  • I won’t eat moose or bear (I’ve had both), I can choke down deer if I have to (my dad’ a hunter so sometimes you have to or you’ll starve there) and the best roast I’ve ever had was elk.
  • Omega-3 eggs have ruined me to the point where I think regular eggs are disgusting.
  • YOU CANNOT MIX MEATS. Two (or more) different meats cannot be on the same plate or cooked together. The only exception to this is the aforementioned clubhouse sandwich. My neighbours used to get sausage stuffed steak and I swear that is one of the most vile things I can even imagine. Blake & the kids sometimes get bacon wrapped chicken called “tourenados” and I can’t even be in the same room as them when they’re eating them.
  • With the rare exception of SOME breakfast sausages (they are not all created equal) SOMEtimes, I won’t touch a sausage and I only eat one type specific type of hot dog that the grocery store doesn’t have all the time and I’ll only maybe eat 3 or 4 hot dogs a year.
  • I don’t like ice cream 99% of the time but I’ll eat a Blizzard from Dairy Queen (although I can’t eat a whole one and it’ll sit in my freezer for weeks) or an ice cream cake. I’ll also eat sorbet.
  • I will eat bacon sometimes, like regular bacon, but I have to pick off all the fat and give it to the dogs. (Yes I realize bacon is mostly fat, which is why I usually don’t bother with it. And forget having it in a sandwich,  can’t pick off all the fat if it’s in a sandwich.)
  • The only hamburger I’ll eat is from South St. Burger Co.
  • I won’t eat food prepared by kids. Any kids, not just mine.
  • I wouldn’t go over to someone’s house for dinner (or lunch), like if that’s the purpose for going, because whatever they’re serving I probably won’t eat and I don’t want to be rude. I also have a hard time eating food other people have prepared unless I really trust them.
  • This one’s hard to explain…but I have a hard time(/won’t) eating in Toronto and its surrounding cities due to a bad experience where someone recognized me from the internet and I think they fucked with my food. (I think they were staff. They e-mailed me after the fact and were creepy about my food.) In smaller places or the further North you go, the less chance there is of that happening.
  • I think microwaving eggs is just vile and wrong. For MOST things, I can’t have them microwaved because I think the microwave zaps all nutritional content and flavour out of whatever it is.
  • I won’t/can’t eat the fat on any kind of meat, it has to be cut off. This sometimes really sucks because one of my favourite foods is a hot roast beef (open-faced) sandwich from restaurants but they always leave the fat on and it’s a pain in the ass to scrape off all the gravy, cut the fat off all the meat, put it back on and then spoon the gravy back onto the whole thing prior to eating it. Plus, it gets cold by the time I do all that.
  • I think using olive oil in baking (cookies, cakes, etc) is beyond gross because you’re putting a vegetable in something sweet.
  • I’ll only eat Delicious apples. All other apples are too sour for me. The exception is apple pie or apple crisp, which I’ll make sometimes using whatever apples are on sale.
  • I hate the taste and smell of bananas. I know they’re really good for you so sometimes I’ll hold my nose and eat one, like maybe once a year if I’m really hungry or I’ll make a peanut butter & banana sandwich maybe once a year, but 99% of the year I think they’re disgusting, slimy things. When my kids were babies, I would gag when feeding them mashed bananas or banana baby food.  Artificial banana flavour is pretty gross too.
  • I hate peppers. Like green or red peppers, I think they’re so nasty & I can’t understand how people eat them. Cooked or raw they’re just… *shudder*
  • I get really squicked out by processed chicken. For example, Tim Hortons has a chicken salad sandwich, which I used to get all the time years & years ago because despite it having nasty little pimentos in it that I’d have to pick out, it was pretty good. But recently they switched from using real, fresh chicken, to like, this formed, processed chicken that is just beyond gross. I’ve noticed a lot of chain restaurants do the same thing now, Boston Pizza does it, East Side Mario’s does it (they serve you boil in a bag pasta – gross), Applebee’s serves processed STEAK that is probably the nastiest thing I’ve ever not eaten at a restaurant and I’ll never go back. So many of these “big box” chains use formed, processed meat, which is why I will only eat at them if I have no other choice and even then, I’m usually just stickin’ to fries.
  • You couldn’t pay me to eat seafood. If it swims, if it has gills, I’m not eating it. Although I would like to try lobster one day and while I would never eat it, I think sushi is the most beautiful food in the world. (It’s the cold, pickled rice I have a problem with, not even so much the raw fish. *blarg*)
  • Speaking of rice, I think plain white rice is gross. Sometimes Blake’ll make stir-fry and put it over white rice and I can’t eat it, so when I’m eating stir-fry with the family, we use spaghetti noodles instead.
  • Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip (I like both) cannot be mixed with beef or pork. Only chicken, turkey, salmon or tuna.

There are a lot more but as I said in the beginning, they’re all mostly second nature to me/us now that we don’t even really think of them anymore, so it’s hard to come up with a list that contains everything. I’ll add to this list, like I said, as I think of things or as new food issues come up. For example, I recently watched Food Inc (three times) and now I’m terrified of genetically modified produce that isn’t labeled (because there’s no law that says they HAVE to be labeled, so no one does) and that kind of conflicts with some of my food issues. Like, if it’s January and I want a PLT sandwich, chances are, I’m going to have to eat a GMO tomato or something because tomatoes aren’t in season locally.  Eating locally when things are in season, or even Ontario greenhouse grown produce, reduces the risk of the produce being GM. If something’s grown in a greenhouse 20 km from my house, there’s no need for pesticides because what bugs are in a greenhouse in January? And there’s no need for herbicides because how would weeds be introduced to a greenhouse in the first place? And thus, if you don’t need those two things, you don’t need seed that is resistant to either one, THEREFORE, Ontario greenhouse produce is the safest non-GMO produce I could eat and that’s what I’m trying to eat exclusively these days: Ontario greenhouse or in-season produce. If I want a PLT in January and all the grocery store has is tomatoes from Mexico that are probably GM to have tougher skins so they don’t bruise on the truck ride over here, well too bad. I guess I’m having something else instead, aren’t I? Except this is where my food issues sort of compound; when I get a food idea in my head, suddenly thinking of any other type of food, even foods I like, makes me feel sick. So basically I can’t win, I’m probably going to have that PLT in January anyway, even knowing full well I’m probably eating a tomato that contains pig DNA or something.

So yeah…

And as a friend pointed out when I made this page live: at least I’m fortunate enough to live in a country where being THIS picky is somewhat affordable. I often wonder if people in 3rd world countries have similar OCD tendencies but have no choice but to gag down something like plain white rice because it’s all they can afford or if they don’t develop these tendencies at all because there’s just no other option.

If I knew where all of this came from within myself, perhaps I’d have some insight into those questions, but unfortunately I have no idea where this comes from so I don’t. All I know is that I’m very privileged to have such a problem to begin with and even more privileged to be able to work with and around it.

This whole turn of conversation reminds me of a picture I saw a few days ago, that I snagged from some distant corner of the internet, here it is:

And I guess I’ll leave it at that.