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Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Por Andrés Pérez Rangel
September 2023
Eating blended and strained soups at all my meals, giving away my slice of cake at every birthday party, ordering children's meals at McDonalds just for the toy, and having to bring a whole set of pots, rice, and vegetables on every family trip are some characteristics of my life as a person with ARFID.
Do you know someone who has been very selective or “picky” all their life with what they eat daily?  Someone who eats the same thing every day and refuses to constantly try new foods?  It is possible that you are a person with ARFID, even without knowing it, and possibly had a similar experience and habits to me, which I will explain later.

ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) is an eating disorder classified in 2013 in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and can be seen as the fear of eating certain foods or eating in general, with the great distinction of not being directly linked to one's own body image, as in other eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia.  The symptoms of ARFID can manifest in different and contrasting ways in each person, but the DSM-5 (page 334) describes its general symptomatology in three main aspects:

Lack of interest in food, causing the patient to not feel hungry very often, not enjoying or having preferences when eating, and even forgetting to eat one of the meals of the day because they are not hungry.
 Fear of adverse situations due to food ingestion, such as food poisoning, drowning, nausea or allergies, which create a situation of stress in the patient when eating in general or eating certain foods.

Sensory avoidance, disgust, even revulsion, to foods due to their taste, texture, smell and appearance.
The variety and wide range of symptoms that each individual can present greatly hinders its diagnosis, study and, in turn, causes that to this day it is not known what causes it.  Even so, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) estimates that at least 28.8 million people suffer from eating disorders at some point in their lives, with 9% to 15% being related to ARFID.

The aspect that caused me the greatest difficulty throughout my stay in my native country was sensory avoidance, which I had experienced since I was approximately 9 months old.  The repulsive response that trying almost any food caused me caused in me the characteristic fear of people with ARFID trying new foods.  This led my diet, until I was 2 years old, to consist of only two elements: baby bottles and water.  My parents were severely criticized by professionals and society for this way of eating.  My symptoms also caused me trouble socializing at social events that involve food, such as Christmas and birthday parties, so I often did not attend, as well as avoiding talking about food with my friends and telling them about my condition.

From the age of two, my parents began to implement measures such as playing baseball when eating, with a tablespoon per strike, and preparing soups, smoothies, and strains, to facilitate my ingestion process and encourage eating.
Today, I have a much larger menu, a healthy weight, and better control of my reactions to eating.  To improve my eating, some steps I would recommend for people with ARFID to try new foods would be: try the new food without seasoning, try your ingredients in a meal one by one, and prepare for a negative reaction to eating the food (such as having a glass of water nearby to reduce the bad taste in such a case, to have everything under control when trying a new food and feel more secure);  but the angular recovery point comes from family support, always being open to the person's reactions and respecting the foods with which they feel safe to eat.  My recovery process would not have been possible at all without the immense support of my family.

Although to date no cure has been achieved, there is therapeutic treatment aimed at developing a better management of the person's reactions when trying new foods.  If you have similar symptoms, or know someone who has similar symptoms, visit the National Eating Disorders Association website at

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