Extremely picky eating could be signs of a bigger problem

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NORTH CAROLINA -- Most parents have encountered kids who like a certain food one day and then decide they hate it the next.

Those are very typical picky eaters. They are not who this piece is about.

"Ever since I can remember, I've always had problems eating things," Corey Fader said.

There is a small percentage of kids like Corey Fader, who literally only ate four of five foods growing up.

Even now, as a business student at the University of Pennsylvania, Corey experiences intense anxiety when he has to eat anything other than specific kinds of pizza, pasta, or chicken fingers.

"A lot of people say just eat it, you know, and they make it sound simple, why don't you just pick something up and eat it. But it's like, if I could just eat it, I can promise you I would have done it by now," Fader said.

Corey's anxiety is illustrated in a new study of "selective eating" from Duke Medicine.

Researchers found kids who were extremely restricted in their diets were also more likely to be diagnosed with depression or social anxiety.

"These are just sensitive kids. They see things more intently, they feel things more deeply, and that's both in their own internal experience and the world around them," Nancy Zucker, Ph.D. from Duke Center for Eating Disorders, said.

Duke's Dr. Nancy Zucker suggests the kids are sensitive, not only to external world, but also what's going into their bodies - like food.

Corety says he's trying multiple forms of therapy to get past his food aversions.

"My goal is to be able to get to a point where I can fit in socially, I can go out with my friends, I can go out on dates and really not have any problems with it," Fader said.

Early intervention could be key, so kids can get the most effective therapies possible.

Experts also say the take-home message for parents is that extreme picky eating is not your fault.

Here are some tips for parents of picky eaters:

  • Make family meal time a priority
  • Don't argue over food at the dinner table -- make it a calm environment
  • Practice trying new foods at other times of the day, when kids are less likely to put up a fight over food


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